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Free Study Guide for Shane by Jack Schaefer

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The plot of Shane is developed in a straightforward manner through sixteen chapters. Since the narrator is a young boy, it is simple in its presentation. The novel moves systematically from the entrance of the protagonist, through his stay at the Starrett farm, and finally to his departure from the valley.

The first two chapters are largely expository, introducing Marian, Joe, Bob, and Shane, presenting the conflict, and developing the setting. It is obvious from the beginning that Shane is trying to flee from his past. He eagerly accepts Joe’s offer to remain at the Starretts as a farmhand. He enjoys the peaceful life that he establishes for himself and feels a part of the household. His life, however, is upset by the return of Fletcher, who is trying to buy up all the land in the valley from the homesteading farmers. Shane’s conflict in the book really begins when he feels that the Starretts are threatened by Fletcher and his men.

The rising action of the plot comprises most of the novel. Shane fights and defeats Chris and Morgan, two of Fletcher’s men. These small conflicts foreshadow the eventual gun battle that Shane feels he must fight. When Fletcher threatens Joe, Shane accepts the fact that he must again use his gun, which he had hoped to never do again. He was willing, however, to go against his own emotions in order to protect the Starretts, the family he had grown to love.

The climax occurs in the saloon. When Shane enters, Wilson is waiting for him. Shots are fired and Wilson is quickly killed. Then Fletcher fires at Shane from the balcony. Shane swiftly turns and kills Fletcher as well. The plot thus ends in a tragic comedy. Although Shane has succeeded in killing Fletcher, he must now leave the valley and his comfortable life at the farm. The falling action of the novel reveals the departing Shane silhouetted against the moonlight and the emotions of Joe, Marian, and Bob over his departure.

The novel is unified by time, place, character, plot, theme, and mood.

The entire novel is set in the Wyoming valley, with all of the action taking place at the Starrett farm and the local saloon. Only a few months pass from the time Shane arrives in town until he kills Fletcher and departs once again. All of the attention in the story is focused on the protagonist, Shane, and few other characters appear within the pages of the novel. From the time of his arrival, Shane is troubled by his past life as a gunslinger. When problems develop with Fletcher, he struggles with the right course of action to follow, for he does not want to fight or use a gun again, preferring to live a quiet, peaceful life on the Starrett farm. A sense of duty and rightness, however, are more important to Shane than his own comfort. He feels it is the correct thing to do to fight Chris, Morgan, Wilson, and Fletcher in order to insure that Joe can keep his land and provide a place for Marian and Bob. The entire plot and the main theme of the novel center on Shane’s struggle to do what is right. As a result, the plot is easy to follow, and the novel is tightly unified, having a somber mood throughout


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