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The movie Shane is about a former gunslinger, named Shane. Shane comes into the homestead of a simple family, the Starretts, who are being bullied by Ryker, a cattle rancher, to move off of what he sees as his land. Shane stays with the Starretts as a farmhand. He encounters resistance from some of Ryker’s men when he goes into town to buy new clothes and soda for Joey, the Starrett’s young son. Shane is accepted as a quiet presence in the settler community and is adored by Joey and Marion, the Starrett matriarch. Joe, the patriarch, becomes an ally to Shane, and helps him fight off Ryker’s men on a trip to the general store. When a settler is killed by a dangerous gunslinger, Jack Wilson, Shane goes and saves the settlers from the gunslinger. After the battle, in which he is hurt, Shane moves on from the town, against the wishes of the Starrett family. Shane contains a classic hero’s story and archetypes typically found in hero’s journeys.
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Shane is the reluctant-loner hero. It is never revealed in Shane where Shane comes from, only that he was a former gunslinger, looking to put his past behind him. He rides into the Starrett farm alone. He doesn’t come to the Starrett family expecting to encounter any trouble. Shane was looking to settle down peacefully with them. The symbolism in the movie that indicates this is Shane’s trading his frontier clothing for jeans and a button up shirt at the general store, and his help in removing the stump from the Starrett’s homestead. When Shane learns of the conflict between Ryker and the settlers, he at first tries to shy away from getting involved. When Shane buys Joey some soda pop, Shane is confronted by Ryker’s men for not ordering a manly drink. He is mocked, and even has whiskey thrown on his new shirt in an attempt to provoke him, yet Shane, even though he is embarrassed, leaves without a confrontation. Shane doesn’t want to fight. When all the homesteaders return to the store in a united stand against Ryker, Shane is once again confronted by Ryker’s men. Shane this time starts a fight, after being provoked about Marion, in which Joe also joins in, and ends up defeating the men. During the end of the film, in which Shane has to face up against Jack Wilson to create peace for the homesteaders, Shane goes alone. Before going to the fight he again trades in his clothes, from the work clothes to his former frontier outfit that he came to the Starretts in. After the gunfight, in which he is injured, Shane rides off alone; his fate is left up to the imagination. Since he is injured, and there is no help anywhere close in the frontier, it is possible that he rode off to die alone. He is a solitary figure and a solitary fighter. When he reverts back to his old gun fighting ways, he doesn’t want to involve anyone else, not even Joe.
Joe, Marion, Joey, Chris Calloway, and Jack Wilson play roles as classic archetypes present in the Hero’s journey. Joe Starrett plays the mentor. The mentor is there to help the hero. They guide the hero and help to encourage the hero to the right path. (Campbell) Joe is there to teach Shane the ways of the homesteader, their first act together is to remove the giant tree stump from his yard. He also acts as the boss to Shane. Joe is what Shane wants to be, he is a successful settler with his own land and family. Shane learns from Joe how to be a successful man in the community, by attending meetings with the settlers, and how to take care of a piece of the land, by becoming his farmhand. Marion plays the shape shifter and the threshold guardian in Shane. The shape shifter misleads and creates doubt in the hero and the threshold guardian tests the hero’s readiness and commitments. (Campbell) It is obvious in the looks and body language of Marion that she has come to idolize Shane in a way that is nothing short of love and adoration. She dresses up for the July fourth picnic in her wedding dress, it is her tenth wedding anniversary, yet she ends up dancing with Shane, while her husband looks on. Also, when Shane is going to confront Jack Wilson, Marion asks if he is going to do it for her. He responds that he is going to fight for the entire family, not just Marion, therefore proving that he had overcome her tests of female sexuality. While he may dance and interact with Marion, he is never anything but polite and doesn’t encourage a furthering of their relationship beyond friendship. Joey acts as the herald. The herald is the news bringer, and often acts at the beginning of the hero’s journey, initiating the journey. Joey is the first person to spot Shane and tells his parents about his arrival. He is also there at the fight between Joe, Shane and Ryker’s men. He informs his father that Shane is in a fight, and Joe comes to step into the fight after hearing the news. Joey is consistently close to Shane, which is not surprising, since he idolizes him. This makes him the perfect person to bring news to the rest of the settlers. The trickster archetype, the one who pokes fun at the hero, is Chris Calloway. Calloway is the man who is in the bar both times that exclaims that Shane is just another Sodbuster, and when Shane is ordering a Soda pop, he is wheedling him into ordering a ‘more manly drink.’ Calloway is very much a bully, but he is portrayed not as a great villain, but as a drunken, misguided man. The shadow, or the representation of Shane’s darkest desires, is Jack Wilson. Wilson is everything that Shane once was, everything that Shane is trying to get away from. Shane knows that he could be feared like Wilson, but has since put this lifestyle behind him. During the last showdown between Shane and Wilson, Shane is fighting a representation of his past self.
The whole film is the Hero’s journey. Shane’s journey starts as soon as Joey spots him coming through the Starrett’s land. He sacrifices his own needs, his desire to become a settler and not be ruled by guns and violence. This makes him reluctant to stand up against Ryker and his men. He also saves Joe Starrett’s life. At the end of the movie, when Joe is determined to save his land from Ryker and Jack Wilson, Shane fights Joe, his mentor, to save his life. In this way, Shane not only saves Joe’s life, by not allowing him to fight what should be his fight, he also saves the life of Marion and Joey. Without Joe, Joey and Marion would be left alone in the wilderness with no one to provide for them.
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Shane takes the challenging route in the end of the movie. He is sacrificing everything for the Starretts. He fights for those who have become important in his life; even though he knows that he will be giving them up after the fight. His interaction with the classic hero archetypes helps him become the hero and while he leaves right after the big fight is over, he is sure to become a myth among the settlers, who will take the story that Joey tells them and make it in to one of legend.
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