Monday, October 16, 2006

Character Depth - Josey Wales

From Gamears (Carl):

Josey Wales (from The Outlaw Josey Wales) begins the story as a farmer, out in the field, struggling to bring life from the earth. When his family is slain by renegade Union Soldiers, Josey takes up a gun and seeks revenge. This is where the two faces of Josey are born. On one hand, he's a hardened killer. In his revenge, he kills without mercy or compassion, even those who are not directly responsible for the death of his family. On the other hand, he is a loyal friend with true compassion for his allies, as shown in his above-and-beyond treatment of his young compatriot, Jamie. He shows heroic selflessness by putting his life on the line for those around him and then drawing his gun and slaying handfuls of men in the blink of an eye. Josey makes a real turn of character when he becomes the defender of a band of rag-tag settlers. He refuses to help them yet ends up saving them. In turn, they end up saving him – spiritually. When Josey joins them in restoring a homestead that once belonged to a settler's son - he ends up restoring his soul. Josey crystallizes this revelation when he approaches Ten Bears, the chief of a local Comanche tribe and speaks words that always put a lump in my throat: "I'm just giving you life and you're giving me life. And I'm saying that men can live together without butchering one another." Ten Bears replies (in part): "There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men." Josey goes back to try and live in peace, but the sins of his past come back in the form of bounty hunters and former Union Army man-hunters. The irony strikes hot when Josey realizes that if he wants peace, he'll have to go to war. He doesn't get off the hook easy, and the ending even leaves his finality in question as his blood drips onto his boot. Josey delivers a line just before the final battle that, for me, sums up the philosophy of the character and a central theme of the story, when he says: "Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is."


Mystery Man said...

Good job! I liked this one. He's hardened, yet still capable of being compassionate.

Mim said...

Good choice, Carl. That's a classic flick because Josie Wales is such a wonderful character.

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