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Free Study Guide for Shane by Jack Schaefer

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The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. The novel is named after and revolves around the protagonist and main character, Shane. He is a gunman who wanders on to Joe Starrett’s land and into his life. Shane proves his deep friendship to Joe by fighting with Fletcher and safeguarding Joe’s piece of land.


The antagonist of a story is the character that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. Shane’s antagonist is Luke Fletcher, a greedy landowner. Shane must fight him to prove his friendship and loyalty to Joe, for Fletcher is trying to seize Joe’s land.


The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. Shane confronts Fletcher and his assistant, Wilson, about their underhanded tactics in trying to take Joe’s land from him. The ensuing battle is gory and fierce with Shane first shooting and killing Wilson. When Fletcher fires at Shane, he responds by shooting and killing Fletcher. Fletcher’s death saves Joe’s land, but ends Shane’s calm and tranquil life on the Starrett farm.


The novel ends as a tragic comedy. Shane succeeds in proving his loyalty to Joe and saving his land, but he kills two men in the process. As a result, Shane knows that he cannot remain in the valley. He leaves without even saying farewell. The novel ends with his walking out into the night in search of an unknown future.


The novel opens with the entrance of a mysterious stranger into the life of Joe Starrett, a moral, hardworking Wyoming farmer. The stranger reveals little about himself except that his name is Shane. Joe, however, trusts the man and offers to let him stay on the farm. Before long, Shane becomes a part of the household. To Joe, he is a worker and friend on whom he can rely. To Joe’s son, Bob, he becomes a hero. To Joe’s wife, Marian, Shane becomes a dear companion.

While staying on the farm, Shane fights his own emotional torment. He longs to settle down as a farmer and forget his past deeds as a gunman, which haunt him. When he learns about the tensions in the village, he does not want to become involved, fearing his own reactions. He cannot, however, stand by and let Fletcher, a wealthy and greedy villager, seize the land of Joe and the other farmers who have homesteaded their farms. In the end, he decides he must use his ability as a gunman to fight for Joe and protect his farm. Although he realizes that his involvement will probably end in bloodshed, he feels his must prove his loyalty and friendship to Joe.

The duel takes place in the saloon. Shane first shoots and kills Wilson, Fletcher’s assistant. When Fletcher fires on Shane and injures him, he kills Fletcher as well. Fearing he will never again be accepted or trusted in the valley, Shane decides to leave immediately, without even saying goodbye to the Starrett family that he has come to love.

Joe and Marian are crushed that Shane departs without even saying farewell or allowing them to say thanks for saving their farm; but they know that Shane has positively touched their lives forever.


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