Book Review: The Ox-Bow Incident

The Ox-Bow Incident is a painful but deep and meaningful book by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. When Art and Gil are unjustly suspected of cattle rustling, they feel their only protection lies in going along with the group. Although the mob are presented with compelling arguments for why they should wait for the law to handle the problem, ultimately they choose to take the law into their own hands. As the reader watches the choices of the group play out and silently “pulls” for those who are striving to dissuade them, he can learn much about his own small choices, how to better listen to his conscience and the effect of his decisions on others. If you’re like me, you’ll love and hate it and probably want desperately to discuss it with a friend!

Themes: law; natural rights; mobs; justice

Read with: The Virginian; “The Law”; A History of the American People; Lonesome Gods; “The Proper Role of Government”; Alas Babylon

Discussion Questions:
1-Why didn’t the arguments presented to the men persuade them to disband? How could these arguments have been more influential?
2-How did Tetley become the kind of man and father we meet here?
3-Why did Davies still feel guilty after all his efforts to stop the men? What should he have done differently?

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