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Jack Schafer Shane


Jack Schafer. Shane.
University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
ISBN: 0803291426

In many ways, Jack Schafer's Shane is the archetypal Western novel, even though Schafer's book was published in 1949, well after the immensely popular Westerns by Owen Wister (The Virginian in 1902) and Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. But Shane was different from the heros of other Westerns. For one thing, Shane, although clearly comfortable and knowledgeable about guns, doesn't wear his.

Shane (the man with no surname) rides onto the Wyoming farm of Joe Starrett, looking for work. He finds work, but he also finds much more; he finds Starrett's young son Bob, and he finds Marion Starrett. The Starretts are in the middle of a range war; they're homesteaders, and their neighbors, especially cattle rancher Luke Fletcher, resent them as interlopers and land-grabbers.

This is a Western, so yes, there are gun fights and fist fights both, but what makes Shane the quentessential Western hero is the same sort of quiet staunchness that shaped B Western movies, and the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns.

Shane at one point, in response to Marion Starrett's negative reaction to her son Bob learning how to shoot, says "A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that." That is in a way, the crux of this novel; Shane is the Good Gunfighter archetype. He saves the Starretts' farm, and then he leaves, as nameless as he came, riding on farther West.

Shane resulted in an exceedingly well-respected movie 1954 movie starring Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur and directed by George Stevens. In 1954, the publisher quietly removed "Objectional language" from the book; I hesitate to speculate about what, specifically, was removed, but I note that the original was restored in the 1984 critical edition. In 1966, David Carradine starred in a short-lived television series Shane.

For more info: 
James C. Work. "Shane Re-Envisioned." The Nieve Roja Review. Issue 2.