The Sea of Grass

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This article is about the novel. For the film adaptation, see The Sea of Grass (film). For the ecological zone type, see Steppe.

First edition (publ. Knopf)

The Sea of Grass is a 1936 novel by Conrad Richter. It is set in New Mexico in the late 19th century, and concerns the clash between rich ranchers, whose cattle run freely on government-owned land, a prairie "sea of grass," and the homesteaders or "nesters," who build fences and try to cultivate the soil for subsistence farming. It is an epic portrayal of the end of the cowboy era in the American Southwest on the Great Plains.

Against this background is set the triangle of cattle rancher Jim Brewton, his wife Lutie Cameron from St. Louis, and Brice Chamberlain, an ambitious local federal judge. Richter casts the story in Homeric terms, with the children caught up in the conflicts of their parents. The novel is narrated through the eyes of Hal, Colonel Brewton's nephew.

Plot summary[edit]


The book was well received and contributed to establishing his reputation as a historical novelist.


The novel was adapted in 1947 as a film of the same name, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Disappointed with production decisions, such as the use of stock footage of the Plains rather than allowing the film crew to go on location, and overly refined costuming for Hepburn, Kazan was displeased with the film. He discouraged others from seeing it.[1] But, it was popular, and the greatest moneymaker of the several Hepburn-Tracy films.


  1. ^ Kazan, Elia (2011). Elia Kazan: A Life. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 0307959341. It's the only picture I've ever made that I'm ashamed of. Don't see it.