The Gunslinger Hero

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Somewhere out in the Old West wind kicks up dust off a lone road through a lawless town, a road once dominated by men with gun belts attached at the hip, boots upon their feet and spurs that clanged as they traversed the dusty road. The gunslinger hero, a man with a violent past and present, a man who eventually would succumb to the progress of the frontier, he is the embodiment of the values of freedom and the land the he defends with his gun. Inseparable is the iconography of the West in the imagination of Americans, the figure of the gunslinger is part of this iconography, his law was through the gun and his boots with spurs signaled his arrival, commanding order by way of violent intentions. The Western also had other iconic figures that populated the Old West, the lawman, in contrast to the gunslinger, had a different weapon to yield, the law. In the frontier, his belief in law and order as well as knowledge and education, brought civility to the untamed frontier. The Western was and still is the “essential American film genre, the cornerstone of American identity.” (Holtz p. 111) There is a strong link between America’s past and the Western film genre, documenting and reflecting the nations changes through conflict in the construction of an expanding nation. Taking the genres classical conventions, such as the gunslinger, and interpret them into the ideology of America. Thus The Western’s classical gunslinger, the personification of America’s violent past to protect the freedoms of a nation, the Modernist takes the familiar convention and buries him to signify that societies attitude has change towards the use of diplomacy, by way of outmoding the gunslinger in favor of the lawman, taming the frontier with civility.

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...uggles between the savagery and civility, he and Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), are men threatening, as well as standing, in the way of the progress and later the stability of the soon to be established “recognized territory.” There are two very different characteristics of these men though, Tom is full aware what is happing to in the New West and eventually succumbs. Meanwhile Liberty knows this is happing too, but he will do, as he must to keep the frontier open, for purely selfish reasons. This is the swan song of the boots, the gun belt and the spurs, the inevitable end of freedom that was once known since its inception at the establishment of the United States of America, but the Western was and still is today, a vast frontier of compelling stories, classic American narratives and themes that will continue to capture the imagination of all freedom loving people.

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