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MonkeyNotes-The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
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Notes

The second section of the novel deals with the conflict among the men as to whether the formation of the posse is good or bad, legal or illegal. Farnley, who has been Kinkaid's good friend, is the most anxious to form the posse and get started; he even threatens to ride out alone. Smith, Moore, and Bartlett are also big supporters of the posse; they argue that if the rustlers are not caught, no one will have any cattle left in Bridger's Pass. Even Gil, the aggressive outsider, seems anxious to join the posse and catch the murderers; he ridicules the attitudes of Osgood, calling him a "gran'ma."

Another group of men is strongly opposed to the posse. Osgood, the Baptist minister, talks of reason and justice; he tells the men that the formation of the posse is illegal and reminds them that a lynching is murder. Canby, the owner of the saloon, also tries to reason with Farnley and the others. Davies, however, is the most outspoken and persistent. He says that a lynching would be a sin against society and insists that both Judge Tyler and Sheriff Risley must be brought to the gathering to lead and legalize the posse. Art is somewhat opposed to the posse, knowing it is illegal. When Davies asks him to go and bring the judge, he agrees and goes with Joyce.

The gathered crowd does not respect the judge. They argue that if they wait for Judge Tyler to dispense his form of fair justice, it will take forever. They are also too impatient to wait for the arrival of Sheriff Risley. Instead, they go home to get their guns and ropes, planning to take justice into their own hands. Smith even makes hanging motions with his rope and tells Davies he should rest up for the funeral of the rustlers. Bartlett talks about the great losses of cattle and the rights of landowners. He says that if they wait for law and justice, they will all become beggars. He goes to bring his two sons to join the posse. Bartlett's words and actions further stir the men.


When Bill Winder, the stagecoach driver, arrives and hears about the rustlers, he immediately supports the formation of the posse, fearing for his own safety. He encourages the men to get started quickly. When Davies talks of waiting for the sheriff and officially forming a posse, Winder reminds him that Risley has been present in the town the whole summer and did nothing to stop the cattle rustling; therefore, the posse needs to take matters into its own hands. After all the valley is big, and Risley is the only sheriff. As a result, he cannot possibly control the whole territory. If the posse waits on him, it will only give the murderers more time to get away and cover up their crimes.

Davies reminds the gathered men that lynching is murder, and that if the rustlers are lynched, the men in the posse may be hanged themselves. The men in the posses argue that it is wrong for lawmen to decide what is right and what is wrong, for they are no better people than the men in the posse. Davies reminds him that the law is supported by precedent and majority opinion, while a lynching is a sin against society.

The change in the weather is very appropriate. During most of the day, the sky has been clear. Suddenly, as the posse gathers, clouds begin to cover the sky, and a damp, chilly wind indicates the approach of a storm. The gloomy weather foreshadows the gloomy events that are soon to occur in the novel. The mood of the town also changes in the chapter. When Art and Joyce go towards Judge Tyler's house, few people are out in the streets, for they have not heard about Kinkaid's murder or the posse. When they depart from the judge's house later in the day, the whole village, including the women, seems to be in a state of excitement. Everyone is stirred up about the murder and the formation of the posse.

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