The Valley

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Valley” (1995) by Rick Bass. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Rick Bass (b. 1958) is an American author and an environmental activist. His works focus on the power of nature and people’s relation to it. He manages to capture nature’s beauty while also highlighting its cruel ways of dealing with human harm. Bass lived in isolation for a period of time, therefore his experience is also reflected in his work.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The theme of community is also present in the short story and is connected closely to the theme of nature. There are not many inhabitants living in the valley, which is why they seem almost like a family. The narrator, who was not born there, confesses that he loves almost all of them and refers to them as his friends. 

The inhabitants do many things together, such as going to the saloon in the summer to sing and dance. The valley is a place where almost everybody knows each other by name, and they do not seem particularly fond of outsiders.

Bass creates a community that is also untouched by the ways of capitalism. The first clue is that money does not exist, so nobody has the need to use it. At one point, when describing one of the cemeteries, the narrator mentions that cutting down trees does not even cross peoples” minds: “no one starts a chain saw within a mile of the place; it’s an unwritten rule”. It seems like the land is sacred. 

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The Valley

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