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Unforgiven is a western movie made in 1992. The movie revolved around the character William Munny. He was an old outlaw that had been reformed by his wife. Munny gave up the life of an outlaw and raised crops with his two children after his wife passed away. Farm living became extremely difficult. Especially, since Will was not very good at it. Most of the time, his family was barely getting by.
One day, a young man by the name of "The Schofield Kid" arrived at William's farm and requested Will's help in killing two cowboys that had knifed a prostitute in the town of Big Whisky. There was a reward for the cowboys' deaths offered by the other prostitutes in town because they feared the sheriff's justice was not good enough or fair. At first Will declined Schofield his assistance and held that he had been reformed. Ultimately, Will realized that the money could help the survival of his own family and ease some of his personal burdens. Will sought out the help of his old partner Ned. Together, Will and Ned set out to help Schofield and seek the reward.
What exactly is a hero or what defines heroic acts? Depending on who you ask, there are many definitions of a hero. According to Merriam-Webster, a hero can be defined as: "(a) a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; (b) an illustrious warrior; or (c) a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities". (Merriam-Webster) Most people would probably hold that a hero has a variety of characteristics such as courage, generosity, selfless, and integrity. Often a hero is known or anonymous.
In my opinion, potential heroics exist within everyone. However, applying they types of characteristics and acting on them are what truly define someone as heroic. The mere fact that someone is deemed as the wrong type of person or inappropriate does not mean they do not possess some type of heroic quality. One person may perceive someone as villainous while another may view them as a personal hero. Moreover, people may choose different paths throughout life that lead them in odd or unwanted directions, but the characteristics which they have been instilled with tend to remain; even though they may be underlying at times. In Unforgiven, William Munny maintains his pride and personal composure throughout the film and can be perceived as a hero in disguise.
In the film, the story of William Munny depicts him as a hard working farmer that has been widowed and left with the responsibilities of raising his two children alone. Munny is such a hard worker, but barely survives. However, Munny views the struggles and hardships as just part of life and you cannot merely give up. At first Munny struggles with overall survival and lack of farming skills, but before long he picks up the pace. Not only does Munny begin to evolve, but so do his children. Personally, this is a superior illustration of a hero. Munny is selfless in his determination to provide for his family. His children admire and trust him. It is the prime example of a family that may not have much monetarily or possess a multitude of worldly possessions, but they have each other. Munny set the example for his children and planted some of those heroic characteristics. I can see his pride is also the kid's pride which was put to the test when "The Schofield Kid" show's up at William's farm looking for Will Munny the outlaw.
When The Schofield Kid arrived at Munny's farm seeking help to avenge the prostitute's misfortune, he was looking for William Munny the outlaw not the heroic father and farmer. It is apparent that Munny's, as well as his children's, pride is quickly put to the test. Initially, the reward offered to kill the responsible cowboys is enough to persuade Munny to jump back into his outlaw ways. With the help of his old partner, Ned he set out to achieve the tasks at hand. However, throughout the entire process, Munny never lost his sense of pride and held steadfast in refraining from returning to his old outlaw lifestyle.
After the battle with the first cowboy, Ned determines he cannot take part in the venture and headed for home. Needless to say, Scholfield was none the happy with Ned departing. In fact, he threatened to withhold Ned's portion of the reward. However, Munny assured Ned that he would personally bring him his portion of the reward. It was Munny's way of assuring Ned that it was okay for the need to retreat. After the slaying of the second cowboy, Scholfield revealed to Munny that until that point he had never killed before. Scholfield was so distraught over the killing that he sobbed and refuted both the money and his gun. Munny provides assurance to Scholfield that his feelings are justified and things will be fine. It would have been very easy for Munny to not provide any comfort or peacefulness to both Ned's and Scholfield's situations. However, Munny put their needs before his own and engaged in selfless behavior. Selflessness is a natural heroism for William Munny. Throughout the film, Munny places the needs and emotions above his own.
A critical turning point in the film emerges when Munny realizes that Ned was captured and killed by the Sheriff Little Bill of Big Whiskey. William the farmer headed down the path of Will the outlaw one last time. The manner in which Ned's body is placed on public display infuriated Munny. Sheriff Little Bill posted a sign on Ned's dead body as a warning to outlaws. Munny began a swift reign of terror in seeking revenge for Ned.
Munny immediately blasted the saloon owner with a shotgun. He emerged with a take no prisoner frame of mind. Sheriff Little Bill quickly brought out Will the outlaw when he charged that the saloon owner was an unarmed man and implied wrong doing. Munny calmly replied "Well he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend." (Unforgiven 1992) Munny proceeded by informing the town people that he had at one time murdered pretty much anything that could walk, including women and children. When leaving town Munny insisted to the town people that they must properly bury his friend Ned. He is even threatening.
Many would argue that there is a distinct lack of heroism in this film. Moreover, that it is simply a violent cowboy film. However, there are many factors that must be taken into consideration, such as the time period and lifestyle surrounding the era of the film. There are a variety of heroic acts throughout the film. Just because Munny reverted to some of his old outlaw ways did not mean that his underlying characteristics no longer existed. In fact, he was selfless throughout. His actions were never built around his needs or wants. In fact, every aspect of his actions revolved around the needs of others all the way from his family, the prostitute, and Ned. In a way, Munny was the Knight in shining armor within this tale. His selfless and fearless actions are examples of heroism.
Heroism is found in many shapes and forms. There are average everyday people that possess heroic characteristics and qualities, but there is no one definition of a hero that applies to each person or every situation. Whether an act is perceived as heroic is in the eye of the recipient. While there are publicly acknowledged heroes, there are also the unseen heroes. The extent or nature of a heroic act does not matter nor does it ultimately define the hero.