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Western stories

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Plots > Classic story types > Western stories

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Western stories are generally set in the 19th century American pioneer days when you could head west and claim whatever land you could protect.

Western stories are often set around the establishment of law, with a sheriff or marshall taming local wild boys (who often seem to be the sons of wealthy ranchers). Men openly wear guns and women wear demure long dresses and bonnets.

Westerns may also be about settling down and taming the land, establishing and protecting ranches and pioneer towns. Hardy folk brave the trail and generally eke a living out of a parched soil.

Example

The Big Country
The Unforgiven
True Grit

Discussion

Westerns provide the relatively lawless frame of the new frontier, where we can see the struggle in our dual nature of civilizing and base selfishness being played out. We empathize with decent people who take the law into their own hands to do what is right, even if it means killing others. Rough frontier justice is simple and direct, in stark contrast to the complexities of modern law. Living, too, is simple as decent people are happy with few possessions, often living on what they can carry on a horse.

Westerns stories were popular in the early days of the movies. This was no coincidence with the situation of Hollywood at the end of the American pioneer route west. The deserts of Southern California and nearby made for ready backdrops and the American audiences resonated with the ideal.

It was only later, from the late 1960s, that the genre faded, as the new frontier of space came to the fore and concerns about racism led to national guilt about how poorly the 'Red Indians' (now 'Native Americans') were treated.

See also

 

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