The prairie seems to roll on forever, holding only its own peace. The cowboy, alone with his horse, rides across the flat plane possessing nothing but himself and his gun. The film Shane, based upon the novel written by Jack Schaeffer, tells the story of just such a lonely drifter, the title character being a gunfighter. With no last name, no past, his horse and his six-shooter gun, he drifts into a tiny settlement in Wyoming inhabited by a small group of farmers and their enemies, the big cattle barons. Actually, Shane is about a larger issue, a very American one; it is about the struggle between the community, Ryker's men, and the individual, Shane. Even when the "land of the free" was first settled, America was governed by a majority, yet it promised freedom for all. However, not all Americans felt that they had their promised total freedom.
Communities are groups of people which all work together for themselves. There can be two types of communities, good communities can help prosper one another and can be benefiting to all. Bad communities are those in which trouble is started and continues until the match has been met. These two groups, (or communities), are both found in Shane. The first is the settlers, or the farmers who work for their land and everything they own, the minority. The second group is Ryker's men, the majority. These men take matters into their own hands. They are fighters and spend most of their time in the saloon. Shane is the loner, the sole individual. He is a single man who rides through the open plain searching for somethinghimself, for his place in this world. When he rides onto Joe and Marion Start's land, he gives them the impression that he is a gunfighter and is therefore asked to leave their property. When Ryker's men then show up, Shane comes back and defends Start. This tells us that even though Shane and Joe Start are strangers, Shane is willing to help out a fellow American who is trying to do the right thing. To Shane, it was only right to help out these people who seemed to have a problem with this group of men.
Joe Start is a good example of a leader, one who pushes for what is right and helps encourage his fellow farmers. He reassures the other farmers that things will improve, and he almost begs them to stay on their own land, to defend themselves and their homes. Even after Ryker sets one man's home on fire, Start keeps asking his friend to stay, and tells him that "all of us [farmers] will help build your house back, even better than it was before. I'll get the lumber, and we'll build it back up." The man agrees and they all work together to put out the fire. The other farmers who are a part of this community come together to discuss a way to defend themselves. They stay together and are willing to help each other out in any possible way. Even Shane, the unknown individual who rode into this conflicting settlement, is willing to help these people.
Shane is, to the Starts, a good friend, an honest person, and a strong worker. The trust held by these people is true, and they believe that there is mostly good in all people. Even with Ryker's men, all the farmers are wanting is a little understanding from them, Ryker is not very reasonable to the farmers and this creates even more problems. This struggle is between Ryker's men, and the people who are stopping them from getting what they want, the farmers. Ryker wants their land, and he will stop at nothing to acquire that. Each time the farmers refuse to give up their property, Ryker and his men find a way to destroy the homeland. These men open their fences for the farmer's own cattle to trample their gardens, they ride through their crops, and make the farmers feel belittled and useless. The quest for the ownership, though, is somewhat deeper. Ryker, in his younger days, was a cattle baron. He and the men he had been with at that time had "founded the land, and had worked to prepare it for the farmers that were to come." Ryker never understands that the land is not his anymore, and that the farmers have now claimed it for themselves. Ryker continues to confront Joe Start about his land and asks him to come and work for him. Still, Start refuses to leave. The power that Ryker seems to have over the settlers is unbearable. Nothing can be done to punish him, so he and his men continue to destroy the farmer's land and their possessions. Shane continues to fight for the farmers' and after the first fight in the saloon when Ryker realizes that his men are no match for Shane, he calls in one of the best gunfighters from Cheyenne, a man named Wilson.
Shane and Wilson have a conflict of their own. They are the individuals, the lone gunfighters fighting for themselves. Yet with this reason Shane is different; he fights for others, his friends, and he defends them. Shane and Wilson almost represent the good and evil of this world, or in other words, Jesus and Satan. Shane is dressed in old, dusty, worn clothes. His taste is plain and his life is simple. He has a pleasant attitude and is fairly quiet when he is first introduced. He always wants to help people and has motivation to help where he is needed. He does not want any trouble, yet he will fight for what he believes in. Wilson, however, is feared by all, even by Ryker's men. He is nicely dressed in black attire and always carries his gun. He is quiet, yet his attitude is deceiving. Wilson has a reputation as being swift and for being the fastest gun man in the west.
The idea that an individual can change a community seems sometimes unlikely. In this story, the single individual is strong enough and has the will to fight
off the evil to help save the settlement from destruction. These communities at times can be weak, but with will and help from each other, they can protect themselves and what they cherish. In this story, the farmers, along with shane, come together to fight for their own freedom, even though they would rather not fight. They are willing to do whatever it takes to defend themselfves. All they want is peaceful land and the comfort of safety. However, the individual does not help these people just to be recognized as the "hero". Therefore he leaves quietly, and unnoticed, such as Shane does, as he rides off into the sunset when his business is finished.