The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


TheMan Who Shot Liberty Valance

JohnFord’s classic western movie, TheMan Who Shot Liberty Valance,aims at promoting masculinity and democracy. The movie was releasedin 1962 by Paramount Pictures with John Wayne and James Stewart asits starring. These are big stars in the film industry and they actas differing central characters with diverse points of view regardinghandling a cruel outlaw. The profundity of the protagonistsimmeasurably stimulates the drama as they are able to build the plotto a fulfilling ending.

In2007, the Library of Congress chose the movie for preservation in theAmerican National Film Registry. It was deemed as being historically,culturally, and aesthetically important. In the current time, themovie is believed as being one of the major works of Ford, who is inturn considered as one of the United States (US) major filmmakers.Ford’s work is an extremely multifaceted classic western moviewhich pits a conventional gun-slinging background and whose outlookis that of a reformist. This results in quite thrilling andcaptivating tensions. In order to make the movie purposeful,interesting, and relay the intended message, Ford has used variousconcepts. For this essay, I will describe how TheMan Who Shot Liberty Valance usesideology and imagery function in its aspiration to push forward itsnarrative.

Useof Imagery

Themovie has used imagery function in order to create graphic andexciting presentation. This is fascinating to numerous readers andviewers who in turn perceive the scenes as being appealing. Imageryassists the viewer’s imagination to visualize the scenes as well asthe characters in the legendary piece in a clear way (Burch p. 489).Some imagery functions are drawn through the employment of figures ofspeech such a personification, metaphor, and onomatopoeia amongothers. Such imagery has the role of beautifying a legendary work.According to Dayan (p. 25) imagery signifies representing objects,ideas, and actions by using figurative language. This is done in amanner that allures to the reader’s physical sense. In most cases,imagery function is perceived to employ certain words which generatevisual depiction of thoughts in individual minds.

Amajor imagery function used in the movie is the visual movement ofthe train that is the manner in which it is coming and departing.This image is deemed to frame the movie. The filmmaker appears to putforth that the encroachment in civilization calls for such heroes asDoniphon to move away as they are regarded as being old-time leadingactors.

Thequestion of whether Doniphon killed Valance solely is of importanceand is the major problem in the film. One can read the film and arguethat Wayne sacrificed both himself together with his woman’s lovefor the betterment of civilization. To some extent, this makesStewart a false hero, all of which makes the movie to reverberate as“an elegy for the dead”. The image of the cactus flower put byHallie on Tom’s coffin symbolizes a type of saddening honor of lostlove. Hallie also admitted to her spouse that she was responsible forputting the flower and this proves the point. Nevertheless, what ifValance was killed by Stoddard? By looking at the second shootingscene, it is clear that smoke emerges from both weapons at the sametime.

Anotherimagery function is evidenced by low-key lighting and darkness. Thisis evidenced after Dutton Peabody, Stoddard’s close partner and anewspaper editor, is practically hit to demise by Valance togetherwith his henchmen. After he had gone back to his office in a state ofdrunkenness, Peabody is surrounded by the slight lighting thatinitiates from the doorway as well as framed by darkness. His shadowis captured by the shot on the walls of the office. The implicationof this is a sense of expectation without modifying positions. Asecond major use of lighting in the movie is exhibited when Stoddardstands a head of the derelict newspaper office when he was going tomeet Valance. Shadowed on the devastated and lit window, Stoddardlooks inside for some time and demonstrates the weakness that coercedhim to desert his law founded standards. Nevertheless, the simpleemployment of imagery in the movie’s last scene actually draws themovie as one. The image is evidenced when a train attendant givessurety to Stoddard that there was nothing good to the person whokilled Liberty Valance. While Stoddard dawns this proclamation in hismind, he vacillates in lighting a cigar, after which he wafts thematchbox out. This signifies the blankness regardless of attainment.It is tarnish on success and an appeal to the legend, owing to thereason that the reality standing behind them is simply imperfecthumans.

Useof Ideology

Ideologyis another aspect used in the movie. It is generally delineated as abody of thought which reflect the social desires and requirements ofa person, culture, or group (Elsaesser p. 186). The concept isusually linked with party platforms and politics. Nevertheless, itcan also imply a specific set of values which are inherent in varioushuman ventures such as filmmaking. Giving more emphasis onfilmmaking, ideology is essentially regarded as assumptions(Elsaesser p. 62). It is an all-inclusive vision or the manner inwhich individuals look at things. Ideology presents a probablemakeover of a society by pushing on previously existing conformity.The movie has used ideology in various instances as outlined herein.

Amajor use of ideology is illustrated on Stoddard. He is a lawyer whohas zealous ideas though he lacks any means to enforce them. His mainagenda is to employ the law in order to bring fairness to Valance. Incontrast, Doniphon has a less domineering and a more realisticapproach. It insensitively discloses the weakness of standards withno gun to support them. The triumph of Stoddard’s idealism isestablished upon the actions of Doniphon, but not on his own actions.By doing so, the film director is able to talk about a pessimisticoutlook of individual progressivism and eminence. This implies thatone individual triumphs at the expense of another.

Anotherinstance of the use of ideology is evidenced on Liberty Valance. Itis clear that Stoddard endeavors to push his political ideologies inShinbone community. Initially, this move brings forth a few eyebrows.The Senator employs his legal understanding as well as culture tobattle for the community’s statehood. Certainly, the communitymembers take sometimes to adjust to Stoddard’s way of life, butultimately they become accustomed to his idealistic viewpoint. Theydo this by putting into consideration his legal instructions.Nevertheless, this communicates his failure to obey the rules ofmodern civilization. Given that Stoddard endeavors to ascertaincompliance in Shinbone community all through the film, it can be saidthat his disposition eventually deceives his key ideologies. This isevidenced as he chooses violence to bring conformity rather thanusing his legal education as well as order.

Amajor theme in the movie is the idea of Ranse in his endeavor to makethe West a civilized region. However, this is impossible consideringthat the ideologies of violence, guns, as well as masculinity areevident and too strong. A case where this is evidenced is wherebyRanse is instructing his students concerning democracy as well as theDeclaration of Independence. While the teaching is proceeding, TomDonovan enters the room with a barge and informs Ranse that eventhough his idea is dignified, votes would not challenge the guns. Atthat moment, Ranse, releases the class and informs Hallie that theinformation given by Tom was true. Certainly, Ranse became confusedand started thinking that even though he tried hard he could notmodify the Western ideology.

Theideologies of democracy and education are also evidenced in the film.It is certain that both Stoddard and Doniphon are interested withHallie, an illiterate girl who lives on the western border. Stoddardendeavors teaching the girl how to write and read an action that doesnot please Doniphon. In turn, he designs a plan in which he asksStoddard to agree to his state governorship nomination, as this wouldprovide Hallie with information to write about. By reading the movie,the readers can understand that Doniphon involvement in Stoddardaffairs are essentially founded on personal matter. He recognizesthat his attraction for Hallie is surpassed by the idealistic appealof democracy and education. In this case, the fundamental ideaillustrates civilization as opposed to the wilderness.


BurchNoel. Primitivismand the avant-gardes: A dialectical approach,pp. 484-505.

DayanDaniel. Thetutor code of classical cinema,pp. 23-31.

ElsaesserThomas. Classical/postclassical narrative,pp. 27-79.

ElsaesserThomas. Talesof sound and fury: observations on the family melodrama,pp. 165-189.

FordJohn. TheMan Who Shot Liberty Valance,1962.