Friday, January 29, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 7

Right here in chapter seven is where this story grabs me by the shirtfront and won't let go.  Up to here, the tension is building slow and easy, and I'm just kind of ambling along, and then all of a sudden... wow.

I think this chapter is written so splendidly.  We know Shane's going to be violent, and we kind of crave that violence, don't we?  We can't wait to see just how he's going to take that braggart Chris down.  Just like some of the folks in the story, I guess.  And then the fight -- did you notice how we're getting it kind of third-hand?  Ed Howells comes and tells the Starretts, and now a grown Bob is remembering it and telling us.  But it's described so clearly -- simply, quickly, with a kind of bare-bones elegance that matches Shane's actions so perfectly.  I'm going to mark this part and come back to it whenever I have to write a fight scene, because this is how they ought to look.

So Shane wiped the floor with Chris, and Joe and the other farmers are pretty exultant about this, but Marian Starrett sees past the temporary victory to what this has cost Shane.  Sometimes I think she understands him better than anyone else in the story.  I wonder how long it's been since someone has understood him so well.

Favorite Lines:

It was crude.  It was coarse.  I thought it silly for grown men to act that way (p. 56-57).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Shane tells Chris (albeit while he's unconscious), "There's only one thing really wrong with you.  You're young.  That's the one thing time can always cure."  Why do you suppose "the thought hurt him" (p. 62)?

Shane "did not care what anyone anywhere thought of him," and yet, "he did care what they thought of father" (p. 57).  What kind of man cares more for someone else's good name more than his own?


  1. *sniff* SHANE. I have a thing for guys with tragic pasts and I think this chapter illustrates the depth of Shane's character and thoughts and feelings quite well.

    1. Eva, no wonder we're friends! (Well, that and about 6,000 other things.) Characters with tragic pasts are my gravy.

  2. Possibilities for Shane's dark and aloof moods, I mentioned before, are perhaps an encounter with a much younger& experienced (and therefore dead) gunslinger or a fatal accident involving a youngster who ran into the range of fire. Chris seems to be a situation similar to the first one, but Shane gives the kid a break -literally and figuratively- rather than killing him. Maybe the surprising word here is "tenderly." We've been shown the touches of good and bad, tenderness especially seems so unexpected, especially toward an open enemy just minutes before. Joe seems to think the fight is a glorious mano/a/mano victory, but Marian is angered that Joe is the reason Shane is on the edge the precipice falling into his oldlife.

    "the thought hurt him" Shane is past youth, which is the only road to innocence.

    1. I suspect you're right, that this scene with Shane versus a young and overeager gunfighter has played out before, with less kind consequences. A lot of what Shane does throughout the book feels like he's atoning for something(s) in his past, particularly this.

  3. What a brilliant chapter, but also extremely sad. I feel like Marian a bit. Not sad for Chris, but sad for what Shane is having to do on their behalf. Maybe Shane wanted out of the life he had before and now he's being thrown right back in, and letting it happen because he's protective of the Starrett's.

    About your "good name" question, my guess is that Shane knows he doesn't have any good reputation left to him. Anything anybody says about him can't give him a worse reputation than he already has. There is no decent respect left for him, but there is for Joe and it angers him to think of anyone disrespecting a man with so much goodness in him. Although Joe has his own set of issues, not being able to see what Marian saw all along about Shane. And we can see that there is good in Shane. An evil man would never have stayed and helped the way Shane has. It seems to me that he has a worse opinion of his own self-worth than anyone else does in the entire story. We can be our own worst enemy and Shane is proof of that.

    1. Carissa, yes. It's very sad. Shane is deliberately sacrificing himself and the peace he'd found to save the Starretts and their neighbors, people who had been complete strangers to him not long ago. Oh, that's so achingly sad. And beautiful.

      I completely agree with you on the "good name" issue.


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