The conflict of the film is that of savagery vs. civilization. The term savagery may refer to untamed nature (the wilderness) as well as lawlessness. By seeking to formulate answers to the following questions, you should become aware of the ways in which several aspects of the film work together to highlight and resolve this conflict.
- 1. Where and when is the story set?
In the state of Alabama some time between 1865 and 1910
a) The homestead of the Starrets – the house, the land
Small farm out on the plains, everything is built of wood and a small stream runs near the house. The land is a mix of coniferous woodland, hardwood woodland, mountains and grass and heather plains. The vally might be located on the outscrits of a mountarin chain.
b) The town – its level of civilization? Actually, what do we understand by the concept of “civilization”?
It’s a small town, built around a general store, a saloon, a blacksmith, a hotel and maybe a couple of households. One could imagine that the town is a former mining town or trade station. In terms of civilization, the town surely lacks it; the law isn’t represented in the town, and disputes are settled by fistfights or other primitive solutions. The idea of different cultures living side by side in relative peace and harmonie is, in our opinion, not possible. The inhabitants of the town is conceit and shows non to little respects towards other members of the soiciaty they are a part of.
What does it mean to be civilized as a person. It was once difined as being educated, being rich, to wear fine clothes, attend classic concerts and move in the right circles. Today a civilized person is one who understands different cultures and classes, and understands that we are all the same, dispite of culture or/and class. A civilized person is one who treats others with respect and dignity.
3. Describe Joe Starrett and Rufe Ryker – what does each of them represent in terms of
a) The historical conflict (see Dialogues)?
Joe Starrett represents the second wave of settlers, who believed that the government should protect their “natural rights” these rights are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, as it is written in the constitution.
Rufe Ryker, is a member of the group of people who first “tamed the country”. He therefor believes that he is entitled to the land, and to do with it as he pleases.
b) The cultural conflict between savagery and civilization (see Dialogues)?
Rufe Ryker represents savagery. The manner in which he handles conflicts is a clear example of just that. Opposed to Joe Starret, who in this case is the more civilized, being pushed in to considering violent actions.
4. To what extent does the portrayal of Marian fit with the role of women as representatives of civilization (see Dialogues and Warshow p. 1)?
Marian’s plea to Joe and Shane, and her opposition towards firearms, is a clear example of her role as a representative of civilization. As she is against violent actions and therefor killing, she fits in with Robert Warshow’s explanation of woman as civilized beings.
5. The first and last person to see Shane is little Joey. Why do you think Joey plays such a prominent part in the film? What is his attitude toward and relationship with Shane?
Little Joey idolizes Shane and loves him a lot despite the fact that Shane is a stranger and has not relieved any facts about his past. Joey and Shane are two opposites; Joey is innocent and pure like a child, but Shane has an attitude which shows signs of a dark background where he probably has killed people, furthermore he also seems kind of depressed so he might have lost someone dear to him. Joey represents the innocent child in Shane therefore he decides to stay with the family and sacrifices himself to secure their happiness before his own. Shane wants to live up the expectations Joey has set for him.
Joey and his family symbolize the life Shane desire for himself and he feels a real connection with the family.
6. Describe Shane – his appearance, personality and background. Compare him to Wilson. In particular, pay attention to their clothes and to their attitude to violence.
Shane is tall and handsome. When we first meet Shane he is wearing his light brown suit with frays. We don’t know anything about his background but we can conclude out from his behavior that he has a complicated and violent history which has affected his personality. Wilson’s wear a black cowboy hat and his clothes are more expensive and polished compared to Shane. It gives him an image of being a successful assassin/cowboy and earns a lot of money on this profession. Shane only uses violence when he can’t find a solution to the conflict, where Wilson solely seeks out violence because of his profession and what seems like to his nature.
7. To what extent does Shane fit the description of the Western hero by Warshow?
In Warshow a hero is described as a lonely gangster with a gun which fits the profile and description of Shane. Furthermore Shane has a very relaxed attitude under pressure which also is the definition of Warshow’s western hero.
.8. Comment on Shane’s attempt to become a farmer. Is he convincing as a farmer? Why/why not?
Shane is a dedicated worker and he puts his heart and soul in helping the family out. We kind of have the expression that Shane wants to put his past behind him therefore he tries to settle down with this family and start a new life.
9. Why does Shane have to leave after the showdown?
The family have an idea of Shane which involves being innocent and avoiding the big conflicts so that’s probably one of the reasons for leaving after shooting Wilson. He can’t go back to the family because he might think that they won’t accept him in the same way they did before. Besides that we don’t think that Shane ever intended to stay with the family for good because he has a complicated past and he wants to move on due to the fact that he is a lonely traveler who carries his own weight which do not involve other people.
11. Explain the symbolic significance of
a) The stump
Joe had tried for years to fell down that stump without success, however with Shane’s help they succeeded in removing it. The stump represents Ryker’s persistence in gaining Joe’s land and the battles between the two of them. The fact that they could fell down the stump is a symbol of Joe’s determination. He is ready to face any hardship to protect what he holds dear and he will remove any obstacle in his way.
b) Marian’s garden
Marian’s garden symbolizes what the family has developed and built since they started their lives there. When Ryker’s henchman ruins the garden it is not only the vegetables which are destroyed but also what they have built and worked for.
c) The Fourth of July party
Even though they have all been victims of Ryker’s terrorism, they want to celebrate the fourth of July which marks the date of America’s independence. The party symbolizes hope. Hope that they one day will be free of Ryker.
d) Stonewall Torrey’s funeral.
In the beginning of the funeral there is an atmosphere of total defeat, but Joe convinces them to stand their grounds. Under the funeral one of the neighbors farm is on fire and the family is on the edge of fleeing from the area, but all the other makes a pact that they would help them rebuilt their farm. All the neighbors ‘stand together in the hope of defeating Ryker.