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SHANE SUMMARY NOTES ANALYSIS
The major theme of the novel is the difficulty of escaping one’s past.
Throughout the book, Shane intensely struggles to forget his past and
live a normal, civilized life. Although the mystery behind Shane is never
revealed fully, the words that slip out of his mouth, in moments of intense
emotion, reveal the gunman’s inner torment. He is fighting a losing battle
against his own history. In the end, his past succeeds in resurfacing
and leaving Shane to accept it with resignation.
A minor theme of the novel is the innocence of childhood. Although Joe
and Marian Starrett accept and care about Shane, they are somewhat suspicious
and uncomfortable about his past. Bob, their young son, however, idolizes
the gunman without question. In the boy’s eyes, Shane is perfect - incapable
of doing wrong. The youth’s idealism and beliefs do not lessen in the
novel, and in the end, he is convinced that Shane is the strongest and
best man in the entire world.
The predominant mood of the novel is somber as Shane broods in silence
over his past wrongs as a gunman. When he develops a friendship with the
Starretts, there are some lighter moments. Although he is a man of few
words, Shane sometimes banters with Marian, breaking the sober mood. When
the conflict with Fletcher flares up, the mood intensifies. As he frets
over the problem with Fletcher and how to handle it, he is filled with
torture and agony. Marian notices the change in her friend and worries
deeply for him. The dark mood continues until the end of the book, when
Shane feels he must leave the town without even saying a word of good-bye
to the Starretts.
Jack Schaefer - BIOGRAPHY
Jack Warner Schaefer was born on November 19, 1907, in Cleveland Ohio,
to Carl Walter and Minnie Luella Schaefer. He attended public schools,
where he was a good student. After high school graduation, Schaefer attended
Oberlin College, from where he graduated in 1929. For the next year, he
did graduate studies at Columbia University. He married Eugenia Hammond
Ives in August of 1931. They had three sons and one daughter before they
divorced in December of 1948.
Schaefer’s career was devoted to working for various newspapers. His
first position was as a reporter for United Press, where he worked from
1930 - 1931. He next worked as an editor for the New Haven Journal-Courier
from 1931 - 1942; simultaneously, he served as the assistant director
of education for the Connecticut State Reformatory. From 1942 until 1949,
he served in editorial positions at the Baltimore Sun, the Norfolk
Virginian, and the Shoreliner. He left newspaper work in 1949
to pursue a full-time career in fiction writing. In 1949, he also married
Louise Wilhide Deans.
Schaefer’s first and most successful novel, Shane, was published
in 1949; four years later it was made into a successful movie. First
Blood, his second novel, and a book of short stories entitled The
Big Range were published in 1953. The next year Schaefer published
The Canyon and another book of stories entitled The Pioneers.
In 1955, he published Out West: An Anthology of Stories, followed
by Company of Cowards in 1957. In the 1960’s, Schaefer published
Old Ramon, The Plainsmen, Monte Walsh, The Great Endurance Horse Race,
Stubby Pringle’s Christmas, Heroes without Glory, Collected Stories, Adolphe
Francis Alphonse Bandelier, Short Novels, Mavericks, and Hal West:
Western Gallery. His work from the 1970’s included An American
Bestiary and Conversations with a Pocket Gopher and Other Outspoken
He died on January 24, 1991 in Santa Fe, New Mexico of heart failure.
LITERARY / HISTORICAL INFORMATION
Although written in 1949, Shane is set in the very early twentieth
century and belongs to the genre of literature known as the Western novel.
Set in Wyoming, on the far reaches of the frontier, it portrays a small,
rough Western town and a group of hard-working farmers who have homesteaded
their land. They are portrayed in the typical western fashion, riding
horses, toting guns, and possessing fierce pride. They do not trust outsiders,
and when Shane arrives in town, all the townsfolk but the Starretts are
suspicious of him. In fact, he must beat up a man to prove his worth to
them. In the end, he wins their admiration by starting a gunfight and
killing two men, who are the nemesis of the farmers. In typical Western
fashion, the novel is filled with adventure.
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