Heroes in Western Film Essay

Heroes in Western Film Essay

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Heroes in Western Film

In the genre of western films, the hero plays a key role. Humanity portrays civilization overcoming the hostile country (Miller 66). In many films the American civil war is over, and people have turned their attention to more constructive pursuits. Battling nature to progress America's future, rather than each other. In between this wild country, fraught with danger and corruption lies the role of the hero. A hero is an individual with exceptional skills and through his abilities is able to rid a stricken town of the corrupt elements within. In many cases however, the hero's skills are not enough. His relationship with the community can define how successful his help can be.
In the films Shane and Dodge City we are presented with heroes who have attempted to integrate themselves into their respective communities. This gives them someway to identify with the community, giving them incentive to defend it from the malicious elements than threaten them.
In Shane, we see an attempt by the film's hero to subtly integrate himself into the community. Instead of riding into town, Shane (Alan Ladd) is introduced to us through the eyes and imagination of a little boy. By having Shane first meet Joey Starret (Brandon de Wilde) he is introduced in a very personal manner that sets the tone for the whole film. Shane's motives are personal; he wishes to escape his life as a gunman by becoming a settler. The lifestyle of the Starret family and the other settlers amplifies the notions of a simpler life that Shane finds appealing. The town where they live is very simple and has none of the more lavish comforts of Dodge City. It offers a way for Shane to escape his past by working to create a simple yet honest community...

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...with being a social outcast. He may be a heroic figure, but society does not fully except him, and may even look down on him because he kills without any authority. Wade enjoys the popularity of being the people's hero, while Shane has to live in the shadows, doing the more distasteful jobs, because even though he may do the same job as Hatton, he does not have a tin star that dictates the approval of society.


1: "Abel",Dodge City, Variety, 12 April 1939.
2: Miller, Gabriel. 'Shane Redux: The Shootist and the Western Dilemma', The Journal of Popular Film and Television, Vol.11, No.2, Summer 1983.
3: Morse, David. 'Under Western Eyes: Variations on a Genre', Monogram, No.6, October 1975.
4: Solomon, Stanley. Beyond Formula: American Film Genres. San Diego: Hardcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976

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