Butcher’s Crossing (John Williams)

Butcher’s Crossing follows Will Andrews, a Harvard student who seeks adventure and heads to the Kansas frontier in the 1870s. There, he joins a buffalo hunting expedition led by the enigmatic Miller. As they face the challenges of the wilderness, their journey takes a dangerous turn, testing their physical and emotional limits.

Author: John Williams
Year of publication: 1960
Pages: 274





Plot Complexity: moderate
Language Complexity: moderate
Ideas Complexity: moderate

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams can be categorized as a Green Label novel in terms of language, ideas, and plot complexity. The language used in the book strikes a balance between simplicity and intricacy, employing varied vocabulary and sentence structures. The novel explores moderately complex ideas, delving into themes such as adventure, nature, and the human condition. Its plot offers a satisfying level of complexity with interwoven story lines, captivating readers with its exploration of dreams, the harshness of nature, and the consequences of desires.


With Butcher’s Crossing, his fiercely intelligent, beautifully written western, Williams dismantles the myths of modern America.

It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek “an original relation to nature,” drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher’s Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher’s Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down. The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher’s Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been. 


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