Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Dr. Samuel J. Sackett
Frank Harris spent five years on the frontier, from 1871 to 1875. During this period he clerked in a Chicago hotel, worked as a cowboy on two cattle drives from Mexico to Kansas City, and spent three years in Lawrence at the University of Kansas. It was while he was in Lawrence that he came under the influence of Byron Caldwell Smith, Professor of Greek and an ardent socialist. The socialism which is expressed in Harris' fiction is an unusual blend of elements from Marx, Hegel, Spencer, and Marlo--a combination which is also found in the socialism of Byron Caldwell Smith, demonstrating the extent of Smith's influence on him. Representative literary works demonstrating these socialistic ideas are The Bomb, "Sonia," and Pantopia. A frequent theme in Harris' fiction is initiation-- a boy reaches manhood by exposure to maturing experiences. His literary treatment of this theme reflects his own initiation on the frontier. Representative literary works developing this theme are The Bomb, "The Sheriff and His partner," Great Days, "Elder Conklin," and "The Ugly Duckling." Another frequent theme in Harris' fiction is the “guru”, an older man accepts a younger one as a disciple. His treatment of this theme reflects his relationship with Byron Caldwell Smith. Representative literary works embodying this theme are The Bomb, Pantopia, and Great Days. Harris' use of the themes of socialism, initiation, and the guru demonstrate that his experiences on the frontier provided him with the substance for several of his most important literary works and consequently were a shaping influence on him as a writer.
Copyright 1967 Estella M. Easterly
Easterly, Estella M., "The Frontier Years and Their Effect Upon Frank Harris' Fiction" (1967). Master's Theses. 1048.