Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Cowboy ClassicsThe Roots of the American Western in the Epic Tradition$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Kirsten Day

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474402460

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474402460.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of
date: 30 May 2020

John Ford’s The Searchers1

John Ford’s The Searchers1

Chapter:
(p.133) 4 John Ford’s The Searchers1
Source:
Cowboy Classics
Author(s):

Kirsten Day

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474402460.003.0006

John Ford’s 1956 The Searchers has attracted more scholarly attention than any other Western, including that of receptions scholars who have noted its kinship with Homeric epic. This chapter enlarges on the most important of these arguments – Martin Winkler’s study of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards as an Achilles figure and the author’s own analysis of the film as an Odyssean journey – recognizing the psychological identification between protagonist and enemy-as-alter-ego long noted by Western scholars as an important parallel with the dynamic found in ancient epic and expanding on the importance of women’s sexual fidelity to male honor and identity. This chapter then brings the Aeneid into the conversation, demonstrating that like Virgil’s epic, The Searchers is a self-questioning, multi-layered reflection on heroic achievement, offering a problematic hero and extolling the glories of empire while acknowledging the sacrifices inherent in its establishment. Finally, this chapter considers this film as a commentary on racial and Cold War tensions in 1950s America, reflecting on how this fits in with the larger comparison with ancient epic.

Keywords:   John Ford, The Searchers, John Wayne, Homeric epic, Virgil, Aeneid, Martin Winkler

University Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .