|Edwards homestead burnt down|
The Searchers is an iconic Western movie and contains many ideological Western traits. It therefore, includes many incredible scenes which demonstrate the myths of the American West.
This being said, I have chosen an earlier scene in the movie in which the protagonist Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), returns to the Edwards house to find it burnt to the ground by the Comanche tribe. This scene marks the beginning of the story, as it not only indicates that Debbie (Lana Wood) and her older sister Lucy (Pippa Scott) had been abducted, but also demonstrates the long hatred between the settlers and the Natives.
From this scene director John Ford makes it evident that there is a conflict between the Natives and the white settlers. By doing this, he has created the stereotypical roles of villain and hero. This formulated device has been used throughout history and The Searchers is no exception. Being a traditional Western movie, Ford depicts the Natives (or more specific Scar and the Comanche tribe) as the villainous savages that tortured and killed the innocent white settlers, also abducting the two girls. This in turn leads to Ethan gaining the role of the stereotypical hero, who will go to any extent to find his nieces and save them from the brutal Natives. This role can be linked to the ‘major theme’ of ‘a quest’ which is associated with the ‘Western hero myth’. By imposing these roles Ford has created a classic Western trait in which the Natives are the evil which needs to be destroyed and the white settlers, as the victims. Due to Ethan’s loss of his murdered family and kidnapped nieces, his feelings towards the Natives are justified, so when he goes on a quest not only to find his niece but to also avenge is family, the audience are left to support his actions. Through this use of stereotyping Natives as evil, Ford could be representing how the white people felt about the Natives in general and how they despised them.
In addition to this, Ford implements the ‘American Eve Myth’, in which a female character provides ‘motivation for male action’. This is apparent in this scene, when Ethan sees the house on fire, he starts to yell for Martha (Dorothy Jordan), demonstrating his inner feelings towards her. When seeing her blue dress on the floor it is evident to Ethan and the audience that Martha was rapes by the Indians. The emotion implications given when Ethan drops his head low after seeing the bodies of his massacred family, show the power and effect that the event has caused. From the stable manly figure at the start of the film, Ethan takes on a more manic state which can be associated with his loss of Martha more than the other family members. This loss drives his anger and obsession for vengeance and to find his nieces. Ethan follows the stereotypical role of a hero who is pushed to the limits and must save his family.
Overall in this particular scene I believe that the myths of the American West are reinforced, due to the cruelty of the Comanche tribe and the quest in which Ethan has to go on, to not only save his nieces but also to hurt the people who killed his family. In addition to this, many typical cinematic themes have been used which are used to uphold these Western myths.