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Sixguns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western Paperback – September 30, 1977
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It breaks apart the insides of these old stories and lets you see how they work. That's the best way I can explain it. It gives countless examples. It makes me appreciate Unforgiven as a story that is a blend of several different types of Westerns from the old days.
I want to write my own Western now armed with this knowledge.
This analysis will also help you understand other genres, because it equips you with the right perspective and mental tools when watching any other film. And now I can see how non-Western movies are actually just modern Westerns. Everything you see is based off something else you saw in the past, and this book helps expose that to you.
I wish less academic-jargon was present. But this books talks about big ideas.
The author should be awarded for dissecting our American mythology.
Less psychological than Lévi-Strauss, Wright uses a tribal myths concept to explore the sociology of the Western film. He creates a typology of the western genre, emphasizing the development of four recurring plot structures that repeat themselves with variations throughout the history of the Western film: classical, vengeance, transitional, and professional. Western films have evolved through these plot structures, and Wright seeks to demonstrate a correlation between the films, their plot lines, and the larger society that embraced them. Offering short plot synopses as examples, Wright then explores the structural meaning of these films. The classical plot is represented in such films as "Shane," and emphasizes the separation of the hero from the society around him and the strength of the individual to aid that society. The vengeance plot of such films as "One Eyed Jacks," a variation of the classical plot, has similar elements but casts the hero outside of society, and never capable of living in it. The transitional plot, such as "High Noon," anticipated new social values while forcing the hero to stand against both evil and the society at large. Finally, the professional plot, such as depicted in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," suggests that companionship comes only in the banding together of skilled groups who sell their services and remain loyal to each other but no others.
Will Wright concludes: "In the sixties and seventies, the traditional conceptual conflict between the idea of society and the idea of the individual has been transformed into a conflict between society and an elite group. This is perhaps one of the most significant consequences of the emergence of capitalist technology as a social and ideological force" (p. 184).
This is an important and provocative book. It has received both praise and criticism for its attempt to place the Western film into this rigid structural analysis. There are good reasons to be skeptical of some of its ideas. There are also very good reasons to accept much of what Will Wright says in this challenging book.