Film Analysis: The Man From Laramie (1955)

In the above film, the vengeance hero does not hold society in high esteem as rather than fighting for the community the individual’s interest lies in only in fulfilling his score. In such a case the society does not require him to take action on their behalf nor can they assist him in his vendetta[1]. The only time the person stop fighting is when his interests are aligned to protecting the community as the actions he is about to take can lead to an adverse outcome for the innocent people found in the present society. This is in contrast with the classical plot which the hero commences confrontation with the enemy to keep the same population away from harm.  

For a casual explanation, the film is an American Western film that has a talented cast consisting of Arthur Kennedy, Cathy O’ Donnell, Donald Crisp and James Stewart. The film is centered around will Lockhart who leaves his job and rank in the army and goes after his brother’s killer. He ends up in a small town and through carrying out investigations he learns of the trade that goes on between the Apaches and a few local residents. The story unfolds in the town center as well as the wilderness that surrounds the civilization in a flow that justifies the need for the former general to exact vengeance on the individuals responsible.  

Narrative functions

Backstory

When the motion picture begins we find Will Lockhart who at one time we are told was a captain in the army at an area known as Laramie. From how the story unfolds we learn that he resigned from active service to track and kill the individual who has been responsible for procuring weapons for the Apaches. The same Apaches used rifles which were found to have been the cause of a massacre which consisted of a cavalry patrol of which one of the individuals who were in that company included will’s younger brother[2].  It also sets the pace as to which main characters will head towards the central conflict being that we are given their background and the reason for their actions. In this case, Will is the main character who advances the storyline as we see how he takes strides in order to avenge his brother’s death.

Plot twist

After a confrontation with Dave Waggonman who burnt his wagons a shot his mules, we get to witness a second encounter at the town center whereby Lockhart gets into a brawl with the man, but they are separated before further harm takes place. At this time Lockhart is offered a job to work at the only ranch that has refused to sell to Alec Kate Canaday. Later on, as the story progresses, we get to see our hero behind bars after he is suspected of killing a drunkard and the only way for him to get out of jail is to accept the same offer of being a farmhand for him to post bail. This type of narrative function is also seen when Dave and Vic are at odds when it comes to delivering the rifles to the Apaches[3]. Vic suddenly develops a conscience as he fears the same weapons will be sued to kill everybody in the town if they were delivered to the intended buyers.    This leads to a tassel, and by the end, Vic has to shoot Dave before he starts a fires signal that would alert the Indians of the existence of the weapons.

After Alec discovers him, he pushes him off a cliff but does not perish, and when Lockhart finds him, he reveals Vic to be the gunrunner as well as the killer of Dave. Vic whose intention was to stop the Indians from getting the guns now changes his mind in a twist of fate and signals the Apaches. This twist in the plot is used to show us that the real intention of Vic was to keep Dave’s hare and blame him for the illegal transaction. Vic and Dave serve to give the plot a twist as they are not expected to be the ones conducting such deals due to their high ranking in the society that they live in[4].

Poetic Justice

In the end when Lockhart locates Vic and manages to persuade him to help him destroy the weapons. As he does this, he tries to kill Vic, but he thinks otherwise and orders him to be on his way. As he does this, we get to witness him being surrounded by the Indians at the mountain’s base, and he is killed by them giving it a twisted ending, and a justice that was finally was served to him. The Indians are introduced in this scene to create the twist in the plot and give Vic’s ending a justifiable fate.

The philosophy of religion

Through the narrative analysis of the motion picture The Man from Laramie, it is evident through Plantinga’s account of Free Will Defense that the world that we live in does not represent one side of a coin but is equally balanced in matters concerning moral conduct. For if God created a world that has the presence of moral good then to ensure a sense of equilibrium he would also include in it one that has an appearance of moral evil. With that in mind, the existence of moral evil is assured since the maker also included moral good when He was creating the world. It follows that if the maker created beings that have in their capacity to carry count actions that depict moral good, it is therefore acceptable that there is no surety that it will bear no traces of evil in the same world[5]. Thus, this essay will seek to showcase the moral composition that is depicted in The Man from Laramie and how the moral of good and that of evil are balanced in a world that free will is granted to the persons in the society.

Creatures who are granted the decision to act freely cannot be expected to do all things right.

The gift of free will has been accorded to every living creature on this planet from the fauna to the more intelligent beings that constitute humans. The lion will choose to go after sheep not because there are no antelopes in the grasslands but because it merely decided to do so. This very act in the eyes of human beings is considered a great injustice especially to the farmer whose sheep fell prey to the predator. If the lion were gifted with the ability to talk to our species, it would just state that it was the right thing to do since it was hungry and the sheep was an easy kill. In our view, we side with the farmer because we have decided that it is a moral evil for the life of a domestic animal to be taken by a lion but not in equal measure that of a zebra that falls prey to the lions. In the film, it is expected that nobody will side with the enemy let alone sell them weapons that are used to kill or harm the cavalry[6]. It is but a surprise to find out that there are individuals who not only do not hold that in mind but also want to make a fortune out of selling ammunition to the enemy.

This is after the fact that both Vic and Dave work for the most prominent rancher in that area and are not presented with a dire situation that will press them into resorting to such an unacceptable act. Such insatiable greed depicts the lengths to which individuals can go to only for the fact that they need to have more through the right channels of acquiring wealth or not. In the story, they work for Alec Wagomann who is the wealthiest rancher in town[7]. They earn an honest living and are even next in line when the old man passes on but as freely as they are to continue toiling to acquire a respectable living they are using it as a front which they use to conceal shipments of weapons that are going to the enemies.   

Moral evil vs. moral good     

               Evil in its pure form takes the form of earthquakes and natural disasters such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. While being considered as natural, they are nature’s way of letting people know that it exists and it takes instructions from nobody. On the other hand, natural human evil is considered intentional whether it be with a purpose or without one. At the beginning of the movie, we get to see Lockhart arrive in town with his mules and wagons bringing supplies to the town. While he is there, he decides to go and get a load of salt for his way back, but after traveling a short distance with his salt load, he is attacked by Dave who burns all his wagons and shoots three of his mules. This example is what is congruent with the true nature of human evil[8].

                 As seen in the scene, no evidence necessitates this action carried out by Dave. This is because the salt was not considered to be his property nor was it stolen from a particular location. His actions do not justify any point but can be said to be the evil in him which led him to carry out such an outrageous act. The only logical explanation is that the natural evil in him similar to the way nature destroys revealed its pure form and had to express itself to let others know of its presence within the man[9]. It also confirms the fact that within every person there exists a balance between good and evil as they are both forces that makes a man who he is and what character he or she portrays. There is no a hundred percent good in any man as free will enables the individual to make a shift whenever it is suitable for him.

              Near the end, we also get to see that Will is faced with a decision to kill the gunrunner but when he is faced with the task, he backs down. The sudden shift from evil intent to one of a more humane outcome also proves that the scales can fall in both directions. In this case, he had every reason to kill Vic, but all things considered, he thought against it. His actions would he have gone through with his original plan would be justified because he was providing weapons to the enemies which in turn caused a lot of danger not only for the cavalry that was massacred but for the residents of the nearby town as that was their next target.

               It is therefore clear that even though he left the army for the sole purpose of finding and killing the person responsible for his brother’s death, he still managed to change his resolution in the last minute and decide to do an act of good. By this, it confirms that God has a point in creating a world that is filled with creatures who are allowed to act freely. This is due to the fact that they are capable of committing more acts that lean towards moral good than the evil that exists. Thus, it tends to bring out positive sentiments and is more valuable than having a world where all the creatures are not free to be themselves. In the end, what you put out in the world will come back to you as Vic ultimately meets his death by the same people who he sold firearms to. Concurrently, Will’s future looks promising after a lady he fancied (Barbara) is migrating to the area where he is and ultimately something good will come out of it.  

Free will defense

 From the film above it shows that there is a form of good which cannot exist if evil is not there to create an opportunity for it to happen[10]. Good, I seen to exist where evil dwells and vice versa. It follows that God created creatures who are free in executing any actions they please, and thus in doing so he must have beings who in their capacity are capable of instigating moral evil. With this perception in mind there exist creatures who can commit moral evil then it is no guarantee that there will exist no form of evil in the world. In the motion picture, the two gunrunners chose out of their own free will to sell guns to the Indians despite them knowing that there would be consequences as well as a chain of reactions that would not have a positive impact on the society. They decided to accept the outcome for them to realize their gains. They had the chance to stop their second consignment from being delivered but even after news reached them about the dead cavalries they did not take into consideration the damage that their actions had brought about towards the protection of innocent lives. God cannot interject if the very will to do good exists in everybody and the aftermath of committing atrocious acts does not encourage us to stop and reconsider taking part in evil morals.

There is also the presence of a shift in both morals as we are exposed to how Vic is forced to stop Dave from signaling the Apaches by killing him all in the name of moral good and later on as he is discovered he chooses to finish what Dave started. This goes t show how delicate the balance is and how quickly good can overturn evil and vice versa. It takes courage to use free will to do good as well as to commit evil as they always battle each other in the hopes that one will overcome the other.  It is by this we prove that both moral evil and good co-exist beside each other and have a tendency to take charge from time to time. There is never a situation whereby one is more proactive than the other due to the circumstances as well as variables that affect the behavior and the position that surrounds a creature for either of them to take charge. It also is evident that when conditions of good or evil are neutralized a harmony exists that creates a balance between the two forces.        

Bibliography

Manchel, Frank. Film study: an analytical bibliography. London: Associated U P, 1990.

Plantinga, Alvin. “The Free Will Defence.” The Free Will Defence VI:106-20.

Wright, Will. Sixguns and society: A structural study of the Western. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977.


[1] Wright, Will. Sixguns and society: A structural study of the Western. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977, 34.

[2] Ibid

[3]  Ibid., 40

[4] Manchel, Frank. Film study: an analytical bibliography. London: Associated U P, 1990, 57.

[5] Plantinga, Alvin. “The Free Will Defence.” The Free Will Defence VI:106-20, 108.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 114

[8] Plantinga, Alvin. “The Free Will Defence.” The Free Will Defence VI:106-20, 115.

[9] Ibid., 117

[10] Plantinga, Alvin. “The Free Will Defence.” The Free Will Defence VI:106-20, 118.

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