Modern Library Classics

Riders of the Purple Sage

Publisher: Modern Library
Told by a master storyteller who, according to critic Russell Nye, “combined adventure, action, violence, crisis, conflict, sentimentalism, and sex in an extremely shrewd mixture,” Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic of the Western genre. It is the story of Lassiter, a gunslinging avenger in black, who shows up in a remote Utah town just in time to save the young and beautiful rancher Jane Withersteen from having to marry a Mormon elder against her will. Lassiter is on his own quest, one that ends when he discovers a secret grave on Jane’s grounds. “[Zane Grey’s] popularity was neither accidental nor undeserved,” wrote Nye. “Few popular novelists have possessed such a grasp of what the public wanted and few have developed Grey’s skill at supplying it.”



A sharp clip-clop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.

Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held...
Read More


1. 1. How does blindness, both literal and metaphorical, function in the novel?

2. 2. What is the role of the setting and landscape?

3. 3. What is the significance of the many references to the “unseen hand”?

4. 4. How is the West represented in the novel?

5. 5. Literary critic Jane...

Read More


“[Zane Grey is] an amazingly significant literary phenomenon.”—Hamlin Garland