Shane – Task 3, group 2, Kira, Lisbeth and Gitte
Setting1. The film takes place somewhere in the Midwest – probably in the 1870s. In a rough country, with rugged mountains and widespread prairie, we see the small homesteads scattered across the countryside and a desolate small town situated in the middle of the valley.
2.a The Starretts have built their own homestead consisting of a primitive log cabin, a vegetable garden, some cattle, horses, chickens. The place is surrounded by a wooden fence. The cabin contains several rooms apart from the kitchen. It looks modest from the outside, but extremely cosy from the inside. A long side the cabin there is a small stable for the horses. It is made clear that Joe Starrett has built up everything with his own hands and that his wife, Mariann, is a good wife who takes care of the vegetable garden, the animals and everything connected to the house keeping. The family is still in the middle of building up their home and their farm and it is tough work, but they are content with their life and they stick together and help each other. The land is a vast landscape surrounded by majestic mountains. It looks like good farming land with a stream going through it.
2.b The town only consists of a few houses built closely together on each side of one or two muddy streets. When you get into town you meet the blacksmiths workshop and the only store in the area, Grafton’s combined general store, hotel and saloon. Just outside the town there is a cemetery. There is no church, school, bank, marshal, doctor or undertaker. The homesteaders want to build up a civilized society where they can go to church and educate their children. They want to develop a law abiding society in a town and an area that can flourish and grow and prosper from the soil surrounding it. The small society is clearly ruled by a government and the law, but throughout the film it is obvious that if someone decides to do something illegal – well then it is nearly impossible to stop him. They are very much dependant on each other and the moral standards each individual person is able to maintain.
CharactersJoe and Mariann Starrett: A young, hard working couple, building up their farm and home. They have been happily married for 10 years. Mariann is beautiful and very feminine. She wants to make her world civilized. Even though she loves her husband she is also drawn to Shane as the dangerous man he is. However she is true to her husband. She knows right from wrong. Joe loves his family and he is a good man. He is also a leader for the other homesteaders. When he talks, they pay attention to him. They expect him to find a solution to their problems. He is a reliable person. He believes in his rights and wants to fight for them.
Joey Starrett : Their 7 or 8 year old son. He is a very sensitive boy. He is drawn to Shane’s skills with guns and also his strength as a man. Joey is a very intelligent, honest and caring person.
Shane : The Lone Rider who stays for a while with the Starretts and helps them out. He clearly has a background as some kind of gunman – maybe a cowboy? He is strong, mysterious and silent, he knows right from wrong. He is polite and modest and when he speaks he does it in a soft voice. He is brave and would rather die than loose his principles. He is the “good guy”, the angel coming from out of nowhere and disappearing again, when he has finished his job.
Stonewall Torrey: Another homesteader, who has a bit of a drinking problem. At the same time he seems to be hardworking and he will not accept injustice or bullying from any one.
Homesteaders: People who build up a small farm on a piece of land and then are able to call it their own.
Rufe Ryker: A rich stock breeder who wants to keep things in the real Wild West before it started to get civilized. When the land was his – free to drive his cattle wherever he chose. He tries to drive the homesteaders off the land. He cannot accept the new laws about homesteading. He is very powerful and makes his own laws. If someone goes against him, he will have him removed (killed). He likes strong people but only if they are on his side
Wilson: A hired gunman who enjoys killing and is paid for doing the dirty job, Rufe Ryker does not want to do himself, of getting rid of the homesteaders. He represents everything evil.
Chris Calloway: One of Ryker’s men. To begin with he provokes Shane and wants to get rid of the homesteaders as much as the other cowboys. Towards the end of the film he leaves Ryker and his gang because he feels things have gone too far with the killing of Stonewall Torrey.
Grafton: The owner of the general store and saloon. He wishes things were different. He wants the fighting to stop. He tries to make Ryker accept the new homesteading laws in the country. But he is quite weak and does not have the influence he would like to have.
Representative for the historical and cultural conflictJoe Starrett represents the farmers, who believe in democracy and solidarity and in sharing the land with others. They are settlers, who want to cultivate the wilderness and transform it into a civilised community. Joe believes – with Jefferson amongst others – in a country based on agriculture.
Rufe Ryker represents the first pioneers, who fought their way through the wilderness. They fought with blood, sweat and tears to defeat the unknown challenges. But Ryker also lives in the past, thinking that the land belongs to him and people like him because they were the first to conquer the new frontier. Ryker is no bad man as such, but he cannot accept sharing the land with others and perhaps to be forced to reorganize his life.
Women as representatives of civilizationIn several ways Mariann fits with the role of women as representatives of civilization. She has a vegetable garden and she reads books to her little boy. She takes care of the family and the housekeeping and is strong and feminine. In the beginning of the film she’s wearing jeans like the men, but as soon as Shane steps in and replaces her in some of the farming jobs, she starts wearing dresses again and recedes more into the background.
A prominent part in the filmLittle Joey represents the future generation. He is a representative for those, who are not yet fixed in a permanent role. He has an open mind, he is curious and he is a boy. The innate boy character is shown in his interest for guns, fights and shooting. Joey admires Shane. He likes being together with him, and he likes his being a farmhand on his father’s farm. But mostly he admires the mysterious side of Shane. The side that is very different from his father, and a side that lives more in Joey’s imagination than in his knowledge. Though Joey loves and admires his father, Shane has the qualities that Joey appreciates and which attracts him, being a lively and curious boy. Who is Shane? Shane is a trained gunman; it becomes obvious when he fights Ryker and Wilson. Why and how he became a gunman is hard to tell, because he is in a way a man without a history. The lonely rider, who enters the scene and leaves it again without letting anyone in on his secrets. He is used to living on his own, his horse being his only company. He wears buckskin clothes, which also work as a camouflage when he is riding on the open prairie. Shane has not always been like this. When he buys working clothes in the shop, he says that is a long time since he bought ready-made clothes, so he has done so earlier in his life. Furthermore he wears a ring that could signify that Shane once had a relationship to a woman. A memory from an unhappy love affair, that made him flee into loneliness. One never knows – he stays the superficial relationship. Shane dresses as the people he is living among. As long as he is staying together with the farmers, he dresses like them. At his arrival and at his departure he dresses differently. Wilson behaves differently. He is dressed the same way all the time. He is a gunman too, but unlike Shane, Wilson seeks for an opportunity to shoot and kill, whereas Shane tries to avoid shooting and fighting. But when he is forced to do so he fights to win. Wilson is an outsider, called in for one particular reason – to kill. He does not wish to be part of the local society – neither the stockbreeders nor the homesteaders.
The Western Hero When comparing with Warshow’s description of a Western hero, there is no doubt that Shane is the westerner whereas Wilson is the gangster. Shane is the gentleman who acts in accordance to his conscience. He stays relatively neutral as long as possible, but when his participation is needed, he acts on the side of law and justice.
Shane – a farmer? Shane works as a farmhand, because he understands that the Starrett family and the other homesteaders are fighting an unjust fight, and he wants to help them in their struggle to survive. But for himself to become a farmer is unlikely. He might in many ways envy Joe, especially his family, but he is a free man, tied by no bonds. And as he says himself, “A man has to be what he is. You can’t break the mould.”
Why does Shane have to leave after the showdown? Shane defends the homesteaders’ rights to their claims by shooting the local stock breeder, his brother and the hired gunman. After that he leaves. Why doesn’t he stay and collect his reward? We believe that Shane is in love with Mariann, and because he is such a noble person he can’t stay. Mariann is a married woman and Shane is too noble to try and win her. He would never steal another man’s woman. He also knows that Mariann could never accept a life with guns. He himself has tried to live without guns for a while, but it was not possible. Once a gunman – always a gunman. Another reason for leaving might be that he fought Joe’s fight. Like Shane, Joe is a proud man. It would be too hard for them to live together, knowing that Shane fought Joe’s fight.
What is the intended message? Stonewall Torrey is the weak link. He drinks and he doesn’t want to follow the group’s instructions on not going alone into town. The farmers must keep together or die!
Chris Calloway reacts to the killing of Stonewall Torrey. It is clear in the scene with the funeral that he is not on the side of Rufe Ryker any longer. He is really fighting with a bad conscience in this scene.
11. Symbolic elements The stump: For a long time Joe has been working hard to remove the Stump. Alone he couldn’t do it. When Shane arrives he helps him uproot it. This is a symbol for the fact that together Shane and Joe can overcome everything. It symbolizes the power of the team Joe and Shane make. Also it is important to Joe that he can overcome the stump – one of obstacles that are in his way when cultivating the land – with the power of his own hands. The stump also symbolises the old times; the pioneers. Joe fights Ryker’s control over the area as he is fighting the stump in his courtyard. So far he has not succeeded in any of the fights, but with the help from an outsider, Shane, he beats both of them.
Marian’s garden: A symbol of the fight for survival – you can grow your own food and survive. It is also a symbol of civilization. Cultivating the land and growing crops signify taming of the wilderness; growing a garden even more. We hear that Ryker’s cattle ruin the homesteader’s crops, but the cattle are not just ruining the crops by their own free will – they are driven by Ryker and his men. We also see Ryker’s men riding respectlessly through Marion’s garden, but the real combat with the wilderness is shown when the deer is eating the vegetables.
The Fourth of July party: The homesteaders are fighting every day to be independent and celebrating the Independence Day must be of utmost symbolic importance to them. Mariann is wearing her wedding dress, it is their 10th anniversary and Joe tells her that he doesn’t want to be anywhere else. Shane envies him but realizes that he cannot be in his place.
Torrey’s funeral: symbolizes the solidarity of the farmers. Everybody decides to help each other. They will fight for their rights.