It’s a novel by Zane Grey. I’m about 1/2 way through. It’s a nasty piece of work so far, all about the health and wealth of the state (and the beauty of its ‘natural’ foundations in agriculture).

The novel opens around the time of the US entry into the first world war, in Washington state. The novel’s protagonist, Kurt Dorn, is a farmer in Washington. Kurt’s father is an old German farmer who has become more pro-Germany since the outbreak of the war and speaks more and more often in German and less often in English. Kurt’s father’s problems and behaviors are repeateldy chalked up to his German blood. (Kurt’s deceased mother was American, as is he, asserts repeatedly, though he is beset by doubts about the German taint in his blood.) The main antagonist in the novel is the evil, shiftless IWW. Due to his German backwardness Kurt’s father falls for a conspiracy by German agents and unscrupulous Americans which involves the IWW. Kurt’s father is happy that the IWW will embarass or even undermine the US government, thereby supporting the German cause in the war.
Duration of residence in the US and blood are two criteria by which people are assessed throughout the novel. Deficiencies in one or the other or both are used to explain involvement in the IWW.

One of Kurt’s allies, the rancher Anderson, forms a vigilante group to take care of the IWW in the northwest. The IWW are portrayed as field burners who don’t want to work but to cause havoc in order to support the cause of Germany, and they have German provided money to help them in this. “Only death changes the state of a real German”. (121.)

The novel was published in 1919 a time of recent and ongoing murder, assault, deportation, and imprisonment of IWW members through legal and extra-legal means, making the book than simply historical approval of repression but rather a call for more of it.

Kurt and his neighbor fellow farmers undertake what the novel portrays as a heroic collective act, harvesting the Dorns’ wheat and saving it from IWW field burning attempts. Kurt’s father’s heart gives out in the process, and he utters a dying renunciation of Germany and embraces America. The IWWs burn the grain warehouse, wiping out Kurt financially. He decides then to finally enlist to serve in the war, wanting “to beat with iron mace and cut with sharp bayonet and rend with hard hand – to kill and kill and kill the hideous thing that was German”, this after having to “kill something intangible within himself,” the “German blood in him, poisoning the very wells of his heart.”

Not all foreigners are irredeemably bad in the novel. Kurt’s father saves himself by dying, and “[p]robably there we millions of pioneers, emigrants, alieans, all over the country who” were redeemable like Kurt’s father, “who needed the fire of the crucible to mold them into a unity with Americans. Of such, Americans were molded!” (156.)

The novel repeatedly invokes the shaping power of the war as beneficial to America and American masculinity. The war also extends to the domestic front, that is one of the novel’s main themes. The IWW and the vigilantes are fighting the war at home, as are the good farmers who grow wheat to feed the world and the nation at war. Also fighting the war are women. Anderson attempts to keep Kurt from enlisting, because he is more use as a skilled farmer – and, as the novel develops, as a fighter against the IWW – than he is as on the foreign front against German soldiers. Anderson enlists his daughter Lenore, urging her to more quickly move along her and Kurt’s growing romantic interest in each other:

“[W]omen are in this war up to their eyes. You’ll be doin’ more [for the war effort] to keep him home than if you let him go. (…) You can make him stay.” (226.)

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