The Urban Cowboy

Gender, the Frontier (Ethni)City and the Myth of the West in Mario Puzo’s “The Fortunate Pilgrim”

  • Eva Pelayo Sañudo
Keywords: gender, frontier, western, west, Mario Puzo


The article addresses how the mythical Western imaginary goes beyond its geopolitical borders, examining its influence on other urban landscapes such as New York. The city that never sleeps also captured a paradigmatic fascination for the concept of the West. This has been shown in Italian American culture and literature since the times of this ethnic settlement, although as part of the US cultural imagination at large the notion of the West is rarely bound to a concrete physical space. The article analyzes not only Italian or Italian American positions within transnational Western literature, but also the crucial interplay of gender representation in configuring old and new myths. To this end, the analysis concentrates on two central elements of the classical West(ern): the cowboy and the frontier, although reconceptualized in the context of US twentieth century immigration and urbanization. These two elemental features serve to identify the impact of US Westerns on Italian American culture in general and literature in particular through Mario Puzo’s novel The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965). As a result of shifting the critical attention about the West(ern) to the understudied space of the city, this article aims at providing an innovative insight to recover a figure which is both historical and legendary, that of the so-called urban cowboy.