Riders of the Purple Sage is a novel written by Zane Grey and first published in 1912 by Harper & Brothers. Zane Grey was actually an American dentist as well as an author, and his adventure novels and Western novels are his most popular works. In all of his works, he heavily idealized the American frontier, yet it made for good reading in the Western genre. Not only were Grey’s works popular in print, they were reborn in films and television shows as they were produced widely during the twentieth century.
The protagonist of Riders of the Purple Sage is a young woman named Jane Withersteen. She is part of her Mormon fundamentalist church, which means that most of the members are polygamous. One of the leaders of her church, Elder Tull, wants to marry Jane, but Jane doesn’t want to marry him. The Mormons use the word “Gentile” to describe a non-Mormon person, and it is used frequently in the book. Even Jane’s father wants her to marry Elder Tull and stay away from Gentiles, but Jane declares that she doesn’t want to marry him and that she doesn’t love him. This causes the other Mormons to persecute her, and she starts to have a bigger internal conflict about her religion. As the story progresses, Jane is helped by some of her friends, including Bern Venters and Lassiter, who is a famous gunman who targets Mormons. Jane’s adventure is not only exciting but also critical of the evil nature of her church and its leaders.