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Sally Dows   By: (1836-1902)

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In this captivating novella by Bret Harte, readers are transported to the American West during the mid-19th century. Set in the small mining town of Red Gulch, the story revolves around the enigmatic Sally Dows, a beautiful and independent young woman who captivates the attention of every man in town.

Harte's mastery lies in his ability to paint vivid scenes and evoke emotions through his eloquent prose. From the very first page, one is instantly immersed in the dusty streets and saloons of Red Gulch, surrounded by a motley crew of characters, each with their unique quirks and ambitions. By skillfully weaving their stories and experiences, Harte paints a rich tapestry of life in a frontier town.

Despite its relatively short length, the novella delves deep into the complexities of human nature. Sally Dows herself is an intriguing character, torn between her need for independence and the desires imposed upon her by society. Her inner struggle becomes the focal point of the narrative, captivating readers as they journey alongside her in search of her own identity.

Harte's portrayal of gender dynamics during this time period is nuanced and thought-provoking. Through secondary characters, such as Judge Boompointer and Colonel Starbottle, the author explores the limited options available to women and the societal pressures that often confine them. By juxtaposing these rigid social norms with Sally's defiance and strength of character, Harte raises important questions about the possibilities and limitations faced by women in a patriarchal society.

Moreover, the novella offers a commentary on love and its transformative power. As Sally finds herself torn between two suitors, Harte subtly explores the vulnerabilities that love exposes within us all. It is through these romantic entanglements that the characters' true natures are revealed, adding another layer of complexity to the narrative.

Bret Harte's Sally Dows is a masterclass in storytelling. Through his rich descriptions of time, place, and character, he transports readers to a bygone era while challenging them to reflect on universal themes of identity, independence, and love. This novella serves as a testament to Harte's skill as a writer and remains a timeless piece of American literature.

First Page:


By Bret Harte









What had been in the cool gray of that summer morning a dewy country lane, marked only by a few wagon tracks that never encroached upon its grassy border, and indented only by the faint footprints of a crossing fox or coon, was now, before high noon, already crushed, beaten down, and trampled out of all semblance of its former graciousness. The heavy springless jolt of gun carriage and caisson had cut deeply through the middle track; the hoofs of crowding cavalry had struck down and shredded the wayside vines and bushes to bury them under a cloud of following dust, and the short, plunging double quick of infantry had trodden out this hideous ruin into one dusty level chaos. Along that rudely widened highway useless muskets, torn accoutrements, knapsacks, caps, and articles of clothing were scattered, with here and there the larger wrecks of broken down wagons, roughly thrown aside into the ditch to make way for the living current. For two hours the greater part of an army corps had passed and repassed that way, but, coming or going, always with faces turned eagerly towards an open slope on the right which ran parallel to the lane... Continue reading book >>

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