Shane: The Loyal Gunman
Reflecting back on Shane, life in the West was fairly isolated compared to the way that we live now when many people will pass by our houses throughout the day. during the late 1800s many people were moving west, but there were not highly populated areas like those in the East. This isolation felt in the West plays a part in the Starretts’ acceptance of a lone stranger into their home. Not having many pass by their home the reason why the Starretts’ were welcoming to this man who may have been dangerous. However, they soon learned that he was a respectable man who was not a danger to them. Shane impressed each of the Starretts’ with his skill and charm that made him someone not to be afraid of, but to model themselves after. One of the qualities that was most respectable about Shane to the Starretts’ was his loyalty to helping them in their time of need.
Loyalty is one of the overarching topics that stood out to me while reading Shane because it played a role in his interactions with the Starrett’s. In the very beginning of the book after Shane arrives, Joe Starrett told Bob and Marian, “He’s dangerous all right. …But not to us, my dear … In fact, I don’t think you ever had a safer man in your house.”(Shaefer 10). This comment made by Joe shows that he recognizes that Shane is a respectable man who although could kill, would not harm those who were kind to him. Joe and Shane quickly become good friends as they see the man that they want to be reflected in each other. Together they are able to accomplish the difficult task of digging up the stump and confronting Fletcher who has become a menace in the town as he tries to buy out all the farmers. Their loyalty to one another is why they are able stand up to Fletcher.
In addition to Joe’s loyalty to Shane, Marian is confronted with a dilemma that challenges her loyalty to Joe as she develops feelings for Shane. When these feelings become obvious in Chapter 10 as Marian cries after dressing Shane’s wounds, Joe does not get angry with her as many would expect. Instead he says, “Don’t fret yourself, Marian. I’m man enough to know a better when his trail meets mine. Whatever happens will be all right.” (Schaefer 102). It is interesting that he would react this way since many stories dramatize any infidelity by having a character become jealous, hurt, or angry when another person is introduced. Joe’s reaction is peaceful and accepting of the situation as he too has recognized the respectable qualities in Shane that attract Marian. Marian’s tears are caused by her feelings towards Shane that conflict with being a dedicated wife to Joe.
In the end, the loyalty of the Starrett family to Shane’s memory is important to acknowledge. After Shane leaves, Joe decides that they should move on as well. Marian is against this as she says “we have roots here now that we can never tear loose.” (Schaefer 149). The roots that the Starrett family were able to create were because of Shane’s efforts to protect them from Fletcher. Marian recognizes that if they left after everything that happened, Shane’s efforts would be in vain. In order to respect Shane’s memory, they must stay on their ranch for the Starretts’ were the only ones in town who knew the real story of Shane.
The loyalty that each of these characters had to one another sets an example for Bob of how one should act. As Bob narrates, he watched his father and Shane accomplish digging out the stump that his father was unable to accomplish on his own and stand up to Fletcher. These things that Shane and Joe were able to accomplish together highlighted the respectable qualities of Joe that may have gone unappreciated by Bob in the past. Noticing respectable qualities in a parent can be difficult when the way they act becomes a norm to the child. Having Shane there with the same respectable qualities as Joe, plus his mysteriousness and heroic acts made Shane stand out as a role model for Bob. Shane’s dedicated efforts to protect the Starrett family despite having just met them is one of the reasons that Shane was a real hero to Bob and deserved the loyalty he received from Marian and Joe.
Work Cited Schaefer, Jack. Shane. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954. Print.
A Responsible Western Hero
When Shane was published in 1949, it was considered a very unusual western fiction novel. Unlike other books at the time, the book’s hero was the title character. Still more unusual was the fact that Shane himself was not a cold-blooded killer. Instead he was a brave, strong, loyal man who only fought if it was unavoidable. Shane did not show off his gun, but rather kept it out of sight although it was always handy and ready for action. Throughout the book, Shane shows good leadership and, at the same time, made everyone’s life better. Farmers looked up to him because they knew he was a good leader. Shane was a good leader because of his experience, because he did what was best for his family, and finally, because of his influence on others.Shane is a role model because he has the experience and virtue that the others are lacking. He is loyal, strong, and brave, and knows how to identify when it is time to use guns to settle an argument, unlike other cowboy heroes who constantly use their guns to settle arguments. Shane shows his experience in many ways. One time, after hearing that the hot-headed Wilson had come to town, Shane offers his valuable advice, but it comes too late and Ernie Wright is shot. A second incident occurs when Fletcher comes with a plan to hire Joe and Shane. Joe starts to grab his gun but Shane stops him. Shane knows Fletcher would have shot him and then said that it was self-defense.Shane is always thinking about what is best for the family. In the third chapter, shortly after Joe has hired him, Shane takes advantage of the fact that he is the most able and experienced man in the house. ‘When [Shane] came in to the first meal after he agreed to stay on with us, he went to the chair that had always been father’s and stood beside it waiting for the rest of us to take the other places… [Father] walked to the chair across from Shane and sat down… I could not see any reason for the shift until the first time one of our homestead neighbors knocked on the door while we were eating and came straight on in as most of them usually did. Then I suddenly realized Shane was sitting opposite the door so he could directly confront any coming through it’. We see that Shane is watchful and knows, as the most experienced man, it is his duty to protect the family from bad men and gunfighters. When Fletcher comes to the house to offer to hire Shane and Joe, and then threatens Marion, it becomes clear that Shane cares about Marion and the whole Starrett family.Shane influences many characters in the book. Bob Starrett, the narrator, perhaps feels his influence more than anybody else. Bob does not know what to think of Shane at first, but he comes to realize Shane is a better role model than his own father. Shane embraces his natural leadership by helping to uproot the stump from the ground. For Joe and Marian’s anniversary, he finishes cutting the alfalfa field as a surprise for them. He gives Bob a lot of valuable information about growing up and teaches him that not all fights should be fought with guns. Even though he is new to the town, Shane knows what is best for the town. When Shane embarks on his mission to finally kill Fletcher and Wilson, Joe says it is not Shane’s business and that he should go instead of Shane. They get into an argument and Shane does what he has to do. He knocks Joe unconscious and rides to the town, where he shoots both Wilson and Fletcher. Inspired by Shane, Chris goes to the Starrett’s house and asks to be forgiven and hired in Shane’s place.By the time Shane leaves town directly after the fight, he has made life better for everybody in the town and changed it for the better. He has freed the town from Fletcher’s tyranny, he has taught Bob and Joe valuable lessons, and converted Chris. Everyone in the town learns from Shane. His loyalty, bravery, responsibility, and leadership make him an excellent role model for even contemporary readers. Shane is a good model and a good leader, one who is experienced and assumes charge over those who are less so, influences others, and puts his positive characteristics to good use.