Introduction: Shane by Jack Schaefer, Book Review
I saw Shane by Jack Schaefer on my brother’s bookshelf and I decided to take it to remember him. Published in 1949, this book is a western classic read in schools, but I had never heard of it before. The story is narrated by a young boy, Robert MacPherson Starrett, affectionately known as Bob, and you get to see the spirit of the west, what life was like in the Wyoming Valley in the 1890s, through the eyes of this young lad.
What is Shane by Jack Schaefer About?
In the summer of 1899, Shane rides to the Wyoming Valley, weary, and needing water for both himself and his horse. The cowboy stops at a ranch and asks permission to get some water. Bob spots him a long distance away, and when the cowboy comes to his parent’s homestead, the first thing the lad notices is that the cowboy is dressed differently from others who live in the Valley. After drinking the water and washing his face, he thanks the farmer and his family and is ready to move on.
Bob’s parents, Joe and Marian Starrett invite the cowboy for a meal and to spend the night. The cowboy introduces himself as Shane. Of course the family is curious about this man, so they ask a lot of questions in many different ways, but Shane sidesteps them, yet he does so in a nice and polite manner. There is something hard and cold in Shane’s eyes, yet the Starrett family knows that they will be very safe around him, and they have nothing to fear. He assures them that he isn’t running from the law, but the reader knows that he is running from something, perhaps himself.
The next morning, Marian prepares a hearty breakfast, which includes pancakes, and Shane is very grateful for the meal, heartily devouring it. She is very interested in the high fashion in places that Shane rode through, and he describes the latest hat to her. His detailed description shows us that he pays attention to detail. Joe shows him around the farm, telling him about his plans. He asks Shane to stick around to help him work on the farm.
Additionally, homesteaders have been having problems with Fletcher, a wealthy and powerful rancher, who doesn’t want to share the land with others. Shane and Joe work well together, getting a lot accomplished. In no time, the Starrett family adjusts to Shane’s presence on the farm. While Shane is staying with them, Fletcher exerts more pressure on the farmers to grab more land to expand his ranch. Many of the homesteaders view Joe as their leader, so they follow what he does.
As you are reading the book, you get a sense that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Shane. You realize that he is trying to change, and also that he is working hard to tame the beast that’s inside of him. One day when Shane rides into town to get a pitchfork fixed, he meets Chris, one of Fletcher’s men, and although the young man eggs him on, Shane is the bigger person, and walks away from the confrontation. But Chris misinterprets Shane’s reason for walking away, and brags to all who will listen, and in no time, Shane and Joe become the laughing stock in the area.
Shane attempts to rectify situation with Chris, but the young man begins a fight in the bar and the cowboy beats him quite badly. Joe and Shane become more vigilant because they know that Fletcher will amplify his aggression. One Saturday, while Shane and the Starrett family are in town, four of Fletcher’s men attack Shane, while Joe and Marian are talking to Bob’s teacher. Shane is holding his own until they hold him down while one of the men starts to beat him mercilessly. Joe comes in time, frees Shane, and both of them are able to beat Fletcher’s men.
Fletcher is quite upset with the way things are going, so he goes away for a short time, accompanied by the hired gun, Stark Wilson. Stark creates a situation where he kills Ernie, one of the homesteaders, who refuses to sell his land to Fletcher. Fletcher goes out to the Starrett farm to make an offer to Joe for his farm, as well as to ask him to become his employee, and as can be expected, Joe turns him down. But the wealthy rancher gives him time to think it over.
Shane knows that Joe is unable to beat Stark in a gunfight, so he does what any friend would do, and that is to knock Joe out and go into town to talk to Fletcher, and take on Stark if he has to. Shane retrieves his gun, which he hasn’t used in ages, then rides into town. Bob follows him, and sees the whole event. Stark is over confident, believing that he can gun down Shane – it never occurs to him, that someone is better and faster at drawing a gun.
There is a surprised look on Stark’s face when Shane draws first, killing him. Shane also kills Fletcher, so the town has nothing to fear now. Because the beast is released, Shane realizes that he has to leave the Wyoming Valley, since he isn’t able to change – he is who he is, and cannot escape his past, whatever it is. He rides away, and one of the neighbors takes Bob home.
Final Thoughts: Shane by Jack Schaefer
Shane by Jack Schaefer is about courage, the importance of family, loyalty and doing the right thing. I recommend Shane by Jack Schaefer.
ShaneFour Great Novels of the West: Shane / Bugles in the Afternoon / The Searchers / WarhorseMonte WalshThe Canyon (Zia Books)The Big RangeThe PioneersThe Kean Land and Other StoriesFirst Blood and Other StoriesOld RamonHeroes without Glory: Some Good Men of the Old WestStubby Pringle’s Christmas
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