Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Shane has sixteen chapters falling into three five-chapter parts and an epilogue. In chapter 1, Shane rides into a Wyoming valley and meets the Starretts. In chapter 6, Chris is introduced. In chapter 11, Stark Wilson enters.
Bob Starrett, the narrator, observes Shane riding one summer afternoon into the valley where the Starretts have a farm and small herd of cattle near a town dominated by Luke Fletcher and his rowdy ranch hands. Shane courteously asks for water but is persuaded by Joe Starrett, Bob’s husky father, to share supper prepared by Marian, Joe’s hospitable wife, and remain overnight. Next day, when a peddler delivers a cultivator and seeks to overcharge Joe, Shane quotes the correct price and coldly faces down the irate peddler. Joe and Shane then have an epic battle with the stump of an enormous tree. Watching fascinated, Marian lets her apple pie burn. Accepting Joe’s job offer, Shane performs many chores with fierce, smooth energy but remains apart. One day when Bob is playing with a broken pistol, Shane demonstrates his skill with his own revolver; he defines a gun as only a tool, good or bad like its owner.
Luke Fletcher returns from Washington, D.C., having wangled an Indian reservation beef contract. He spreads the word that he now requires the whole range and plans to buy the land or scare the farmers off it. Worried neighbors meet at Joe’s house for his advice. Shane takes a broken forklift to town for...
(The entire section is 648 words.)
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Shane's enduring and widespread popularity attests to the novel's compelling and exciting plot, which pits a greedy, land-hungry range baron against an embattled but valiant family of homesteaders in a fight for control of a Wyoming valley. When Shane, a mysterious gunfighter struggling to live down his violent past, joins forces with the Starrett family, the stage is set for an inevitable showdown between good and evil or, more accurately, between a new way of life and the established codes of the Old West.
Young readers easily identify with Bob Starrett, the story's narrator, who is an adolescent at the time of the action. Young Bob is drawn both to Shane and to his own father, Joe, and he grows toward manhood by emulating these two father figures. Although Shane is a self-sufficient loner, while Joe is committed to the valley's community of farmers, both men share common qualities of fortitude, courage, and a determination to stand up for what is right. Early in the novel, for example, these two very different men labor together to wrestle a monstrous tree stump out of the ground. Bob Starrett witnesses this epic struggle and begins to understand and take on the best aspects of both his "fathers." Like Bob, young readers may find admirable role models in these hardy characters of the American West.
(The entire section is 222 words.)
Chapter 1 Summary
In the summer of 1889, Bob Starrett is just a boy. He sees a horseman riding down the road toward the small town. The sight is nothing remarkable for Wyoming, but then Bob sees some cowhands stop to stare intently at the rider, and that is unusual. The man rides steadily through town until he reaches the fork in the road near the Starrett ranch. Luke Fletcher’s “big spread” is to the left, and to the right are the smaller homestead ranches all in a row up the valley. The man stops and considers before leading his horse to the right.
As the rider gets closer, the boy is impressed by the man’s clothes: dark pants tucked into tall boots, matching jacket neatly strapped to his saddle, wide leather belt, rich brown shirt, black silk handkerchief, and black hat with a brim that sweeps down to shield his face. None of it is new, yet it has “a kind of magnificence.” This man is unlike any other Bob has ever met.
Then the boy is impressed by the man himself. The stranger is short and has a rather slight build, but every move he makes is powerful and effortless. The man’s face is clean-shaven, brown, and lean; his eyes are alert, searching in all directions and not missing a single detail. That searching gaze creates a sudden chill in the boy, though he is standing in the sun. The man rides easily, relaxed in the saddle, yet there is an underlying tension as well: “It is the easiness of a coiled spring, of a trap set.”
The rider stops twenty feet from the boy. He glances at Bob, dismisses him, and then looks at the ranch. The place is not big, but it is a good, solid place thanks to Bob’s father. It has a small corral, a tightly fenced pasture, a small but solid barn, and some alfalfa and potato fields. Marian Starrett’s kitchen garden is behind the three-room house; her husband has plans to add a parlor. The wooden porch runs the length of the house and the house is painted white with green trim, which is rare for these parts but common in Marian’s native New England. Even rarer is the shingled roof. The stranger observes all of it, including the flowers and the shiny pump next to the trough.
In a quiet voice, the man asks to use the water and trough; Bob is awestruck but does not need to answer, for his father is standing behind him. After Joe Starrett gives him permission, the man refreshes himself fastidiously before picking one of Marian’s flowers and putting it in his...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Bob sleeps late and finds his father and Shane eating breakfast. Shane reveals his parents were from Mississippi but settled in Arkansas; he left home at fifteen. The Starrett home is generally “warm with good feeling,” and it is especially so this morning. A summer storm arrives as Shane prepares to leave. Marian insists he must not leave until tomorrow—after the storm has passed and the roads are fit for travel. Bob can see that Shane likes the idea but is also somewhat worried about it.
Starrett agrees with his wife and offers to stop work for the day and show Shane around the homestead. Marian will make a deep-dish apple pie and insists she wants to hear all about what city women are wearing; Shane is the type of man who would notice and be able to tell her. As soon as Shane agrees to stay, Marian begins asking him fashion questions. Starrett is not particularly interested until Shane starts talking about the annual stock show in Dodge City.
When the sun is shining again, the two men and Bob begin the tour. Starrett does most of the talking, enthusiastically sharing all of his plans. He sees that Shane has stopped listening; he is staring at a stump, the “one bad spot” on the property. It is old and jagged across the top, big enough around to seat an entire family, and roots twist out in every direction. Some roots are as big around as Bob’s waist.
Starrett has been occasionally working at the stump, but the wood is so hard that an ax will only sink in about a quarter of an inch, and fire only seems to make the wood even harder. Starrett admits this is his one defeat, but he is determined to win the battle. Once again Shane is paying attention to something else—a horse coming down the road. As he sees a horse and wagon easily navigate the passable road, he quietly accuses Starrett of being a poor liar. Starrett chuckles.
The man in the wagon is Jake Ledyard. He comes through every few months with items that cannot be bought at the general store in town. Ledyard drives a hard bargain, and Bob does not like him because he offers insincere compliments and smiles too much and without feeling. He has brought Starrett the new cultivator he wants, and it is beautiful; however, Starrett knows Ledyard will put a high price on it. Ledyard says he will give Starrett a cut-rate price of one hundred and ten dollars, but Shane says he saw the same thing in a store in Cherokee for sixty dollars....
(The entire section is 776 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
It is exciting for Bob to watch Shane and his father attack the stump together, but Bob finally leaves and runs into his mother coming around the corner of the barn. She looks as pretty as he has ever seen her, wearing her best dress and a hat adorned as Shane had described. The men are so absorbed in their task they do not even notice her arrival.
Finally she asks the men if they like her hat. Shane says she has it right, though the city women’s brims are wider. Starrett tells her she is the best-looking thing God ever created, hat or no hat—and will she please stop bothering them. Marian is outraged and says this is an odd way to spend a day of rest, but Starrett assures her this is the “best resting he’s had for about as long as he can remember.” She harrumphs at them and announces that dinner is waiting.
The meal is accompanied by Marian’s polite chatter, but it is clear that the men are eager to get back to their task. After they leave, Marian asks Bob what happened to set the men against the stump. He tries to explain about Ledyard and the cultivator, but he must have used the wrong words because she is suddenly “flushed and excited” and asks how Shane frightened him. The boy tries to explain he was mostly just afraid of “whatever it was that might happen.” Marian understands that and has felt the same way; she hopes her husband knows what he is doing.
No matter where Bob wanders, he can hear the chopping and grows tired just thinking about the exertions of his father and Shane. Later in the afternoon he discovers his mother standing on a box and peeking at them through a little stall window. Although there is something childish about the men’s actions, there is also “something splendid in the battle they are giving that old monster.”
Marian returns her hat to normal and takes the men a pan of biscuits. They stop to eat and splitting the last one with an ax to give each an equal share. Later in the afternoon, Bob realizes only one ax is working. Shane is chopping and Starrett is digging with a spade under the cut roots until he drops the spade and puts his shoulder to the stump. Sweat pours from his face and finally the stump moves just a bit. In his excitement, Bob wants to go help but knows he would be in the way.
Shane now joins Starrett and the stump angles up almost an inch. As they continue the battle, they just cannot move the stump any further than...
(The entire section is 796 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Bob had trouble getting to sleep last night, thinking about all things the adults in his world did yesterday that he did not really understand. Shane seemed closer than family in some ways, though at times he is absolutely unapproachable. Bob’s parents somehow seem more alive. Bob understands that, as he feels the same way; however, he wonders how a man “so deep and vital in his own being” is also a lone rider with a “closed and guarded past.”
Bob wakes late, suddenly afraid he might have missed Shane’s leaving. The adults are drinking coffee at the table and Bob blurts out his fear. Shane looks at the boy seriously and says he would never forget him. Shane compliments Marian on her cooking, and Starrett says they should turn their home into a boarding house. Marian is secretly pleased but threatens her husband with a life of peeling potatoes and doing dishes. Shane enjoys the banter as if he were part of the family.
Starrett asks if Shane is running from anything; Shane says he is not running from anything in the way Starrett means. Starrett says he is a farmer but wants to be a rancher, that there is too much work for him and he lost his last worker due to a skirmish with several of Fletcher’s boys in town. He asks Shane to stay a while and help him get things ready for winter. Shane understands this kind of bullying and says just a few days ago he would have laughed at the idea of being a farmer. Shane agrees to stay, and Bob can see an unspoken understanding pass between the two men.
Shane needs work clothes and Starrett tells him to go to Grafton’s store and put them on his tab; Shane says he will buy his own clothes. After he leaves, Bob’s parents talk about this decision. Marian wonders if this is a good idea, but Starrett is sure that the kind of man Shane is is much more important than what he does or does not know about farming. He is not the kind of man to back down from a fight—or to let a friend get bullied.
Though he is not a farmer, Shane is Starrett’s equal when it comes to farm work. He shirks no job and often figures out a better way to do it. Sometimes he stops and looks off to the mountains, as if he knows this is not really who he is, but he is not too good to be doing this work. There is an intensity to him, “an instinctive coordination of mind and muscle,” which simmers just below the surface of this stranger.
This “singleness of...
(The entire section is 803 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Soon it seems as if Shane has always been part of the Starrett household. The amount of work the two men accomplish is astounding, and the Starretts will be able to raise even more cattle next year because of their efforts. It is obvious that Shane has had some experience driving cattle, and he seems happy here.
It is the happiest summer of Bob’s life. The undercurrent of trouble in the valley seems to have dissipated. Fletcher has been gone most of the summer, trying to get new contracts for his cattle. While he is gone, Fletcher’s ranch hands are rowdy in town but rarely cause any real trouble. The homesteaders actually like these men, and relations are surprisingly friendly.
Bob’s hero has always been his father; one day he wants to do just what Starrett is doing, but not until after he goes on a roundup like the ranch hands and experiences that thrill and excitement. Now that Shane is here, Bob is reconsidering. He wants to be like Shane—or at least the Shane he imagines. He is a mysterious man. The Starretts do not even know whether Shane is his first or last name. This mysteriousness is intriguing and “conjures up all manner of adventures” in Bob’s mind. To him, Shane is a “slim and dark and dashing figure coolly passing through perils that would overcome a lesser man.”
As Shane and Starrett discuss (or argue about) the cattle business, it becomes clear that Shane is starting to enjoy living with them and working on the ranch. His natural tension seems to be fading, though he is still ever alert and watchful. Bob recognizes this is inherent in Shane, though the “sharp extra edge of conscious alertness, almost of expectancy of some unknown trouble always waiting” is no longer as intense as it was when Shane first arrived on the ranch.
Sometimes, though, Shane is “strange and stricken in his own bitterness.” One time Bob is pretending to be a gunslinger with an old, broken gun from Grafton’s store. When Shane sees him, Bob is afraid the more experienced man will make fun of his antics; instead, Shane looks at him seriously and asks who or what he has shot: seven Indians. Shane says Bob is doing everything wrong and shows him how to wear his holster so he can get his gun out as quickly as possible. Each man wears his gun in a particular way, and Shane shows Bob his way.
When Shane holds the gun, Bob is acutely aware of the man’s hand, sure and intelligent...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Just as summer fades, so does the spirit of friendship in the valley. Fletcher is back and needs more room for his cattle so he can fulfill his new contracts. Though he promises to pay the homesteaders a good price, the ranchers know they would be cheated and have no intention of leaving.
There is no law enforcement anywhere near, and it has never been necessary. The town began with a few miners and is now little more than a roadside settlement Grafton’s building is the biggest in town. It is half general store and half saloon, with several rooms for living quarters in the back. There are several rooms upstairs for an occasional boarder, as well. Grafton is the postmaster and serves as a kind of magistrate when needed. His daughter Jane is the town’s schoolteacher.
If there had been a sheriff, he would have been Fletcher’s man, and Fletcher is the most powerful man in the valley. He has been there the longest, and he had already “bulldozed out” the few ranchers who arrived before the current group of seven homesteaders. Now Fletcher is on the move to eradicate the small ranchers.
As soon as the homesteaders discover Fletcher’s intentions, they meet at the Starretts’. Lew Johnson hears the news in town and arrives first, followed by Harry Shipstead. These two are on the land closest to town and have been settled here the longest; they are solid, dependable men from Iowa who had come here as farmers. The others are not as steadfast. James Lewis and Ed Howells are middle-aged, disgruntled cowhands who are easily discouraged; Frank Torrey is always talking about going back to California with his wife but his stubbornness has kept him here. Ernie Wright’s land abuts Fletcher’s and he is probably the weakest of the group; he has a quick temper and spends time hunting and fishing when he should be working.
Grafton thinks that Fletcher really means to get rid of the homesteaders this time, though the homesteaders who have proved up (lived on the land for three years) now own their land. Starrett guesses Fletcher will put pressure on them all this fall and winter but will not get too forceful until spring; he is likely to begin with Starrett as he dislikes him the most. He suspects Fletcher will begin by trying to convince Shane that he should not be working with Starrett, just as he did with young Morley—by beating him up. Shane is unmoved by this news. Morley was a warning, and Starrett...
(The entire section is 814 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Starrett and Shane were right: Chris has called Shane a coward and Fletcher begins to press his advantage. Fletcher and his foreman, Morgan, keep their men poised to cause trouble at every opportunity. Fletcher’s men begin riding slowly by at every opportunity, staring insolently at each ranch. Soon they begin hurling pig farmer insults at Starrett. Though it is crude and coarse and childish, it is also effective. Everyone but Shane is insulted and has trouble hiding it. The other homesteaders are beginning to wonder if Shane really might be the coward Chris claims he is.
Contempt is growing everywhere, and the neighbors begin to resent Shane for bringing shame on them. Because of that, the other homesteaders also begin to resent Starrett; this is what finally spurs Shane into action. The only people Shane cares about are the Starretts, and he knows their faith in him is unshakable. He does, however, care very much what other people think of Starrett.
When the homesteaders next gather at the Starretts’, the others talk about what everyone is saying and their frustration at being continually insulted. In town, people are wondering why Shane has not been in for any soda pop lately, and the men are wondering why Shane backed away from a fight with Chris. The older men call for patience, but the others are growing impatient. Suddenly the men hear the wagon and realize Shane has left.
Bob hears his father quietly cursing Shane, but Starrett’s eyes are dancing and he grins when he tells the others all they can do now is wait. After twenty minutes of silent waiting, the group hears Shane return. He enters the room breathing heavily and his face is hard. He cannot hide his disgust as he tells the men that “their pigs are dead and buried.” When he looks at Starrett, Shane’s eyes soften, but he is still bitter as he tells Starrett that Chris will not be bothering anyone for some time.
Shane is in the barn when Ed Howells arrives, eager to tell everyone what happened in town. Howells saw Chris and Red Marlin, another one of Fletcher’s men, in the saloon when suddenly everything grew silent. Shane had just entered the room and everyone could sense the tension. Shane ordered two bottles of pop at the bar and, after he got them, set one down in front of Chris. Last time the two men were in the saloon, Chris bought Shane a drink; now he wanted to return the favor and buy one for Chris.
(The entire section is 800 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Shane has changed. His summer serenity is gone and he is now “restless with some far hidden desperation.” Sometimes he walks on the farm alone, seeming to find some peace in what he sees and touches there. Bob often follows him, and one night he asks Shane to teach him to fight like he fought Chris in the bar. For a long time the man does not answer, but he finally tells the boy it is something a man just knows and cannot be learned.
Suddenly Shane feels as if he has to justify what he did, asking Bob if he understands that Shane had no choice, that he gave Chris a chance to keep his self-respect without fighting. It is more than Bob can understand now, and he remains silent. Shane repeats that Chris could have called off the fight before it went too far if he had been man enough. Bob still does not comprehend, but he says he does because it is clear Shane needs him to. Bob does not understand this until he is a man, and then Shane is not there for Bob to tell.
Marian also knows things have changed. One day while she is peeling the potatoes on the porch, Bob sneaks into the kitchen to get a few cookies and hears his mother talking to Shane. She tells him she wants to talk to him without Joe around, and Shane, though he speaks to her respectfully, looks at her with a tenderness in his eyes which he has for no one else.
She knows Shane has been worrying about Fletcher. He thought all it was going to take was to show Fletcher that he could not scare the ranchers away; now he knows it is much more than that and he is worried. Even more, she thinks Shane is getting ready to move on, and that is worrying him, too. Shane tells her she is right and wonders how she knows all that. Marian tells him he should leave but she is asking him to stay. Her husband needs him far more than he will ever admit—and so does she.
Shane is grave and wonders if she understands what she is asking. She does, and Shane is the man who can do what must be done in this valley. Though it would be easier for Shane to ride away, Starrett cannot keep his farm and fight Fletcher alone. Shane is silent and Marian continues. Her husband promised her this place when they were newly married and he has worked harder than any man to make it successful. It is their home and he has invested everything he has and is into it. “Nothing else will ever be the same.”
Shane slowly exhales and then says Starrett should be proud of...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Peace settles over the valley for a short time. Since the fight with Chris, Fletcher’s men no longer ride by and taunt the ranchers; they are busy building the new corrals which they will need after Fletcher’s spring cattle drive. Despite that, Starrett is just as watchful as Shane now and the two men always work together; Starrett has even begun wearing his gun all the time. It is a beautiful autumn and it is hard to believe that violence could break out so quickly.
On Saturday evenings, the Starretts and Shane take the wagon into town, something they all look forward to each week. Marian buys her supplies for the week and visits with the other women. Starrett turns in his order to Grafton and then goes for the mail; generally he ends up discussing crops with the other men while Shane reads the newspaper. Bob explores the store and plays with Grafton’s old cat.
Tonight Marian is going to have a meeting with Jane Grafton, the schoolteacher, because Bob has skipped class two afternoons this week to go fishing. She grabs Starrett and they go to meet with the teacher. Shane heads into the saloon and Bob follows him up to the door; he is not supposed to go into that part of the building, but he observes.
Shane is at the bar and slowly savors his drink, seemingly oblivious that others have moved away from him. One elbow rests on the bar, ready to be friendly if anyone is interested but equally ready to be unfriendly if necessary. Bob sees one of the swinging doors open, and Red Marlin peeks inside. Shane sees him, but he does not see the other men gathered on the porch outside and around the buildings. Bob does see them and is so frightened he can hardly move; however, he knows he has to break his mother’s rule so he can warn Shane.
Just as he rushes to Shane and tells him there are a lot of men out front, Marlin and the others come rushing into the saloon. The broad-shouldered Morgan is there and so is a “stupid and slow-moving” cowboy named Curly. Bob tugs at Shane and tries to talk, but Shane stops him. Though he is not happy in any kind of laughing way, Shane seems to be pleased that what he has been waiting for has finally come and is ready for it. He puts his hand on Bob’s head and quietly asks if he really wants Shane to run away from this. Bob is filled with love for Shane and is so proud to be there next to him that tears come to his eyes. The boy sees the “rightness of it” and...
(The entire section is 745 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Morgan is on the ground and the saloon is silent. Shane does not look at anything or anyone except the Starretts, and it seems to Bob that it hurts Shane to see them there. Though he is “battered and bloody,” he is amazingly quiet. During the fight, everyone could see the “splendor of movement, the flowing brute beauty of line and power in action.” Now that the fight is over, everyone believes that Shane is “tireless and indestructible.” He is still and the fire of his anger has subsided; he is a man who has suffered a brutal beating.
As he starts to walk toward the Starretts, Shane sways and almost falls. When one of the other men in the room moves to help him, Shane stands erect and keeps walking; it is clear he will walk strong and unwavering for as long as he must. Fortunately that is not long, for Shane does accept help from the only man in the valley from whom Shane would take it. Starrett steps forward and, with Shane’s tacit permission, picks the beaten man up and carries Shane as he used to carry Bob when he was a boy and had to be carried to bed after he fell asleep.
With Shane in his mighty arms, Starrett tells Grafton to do him a favor and put the damages on his bill. Grafton, a man who is always careful with his money, says he intends to make Fletcher pay for this. Bob is surprised when Mr. Weir, the man who had started to help Shane, says the townspeople need to “work up a little pride” and be better neighbors to the homesteaders. He will take up a collection to cover the expenses, admitting he is ashamed that he and the others did nothing to help when Fletcher’s five men attacked Shane.
Starrett is pleased at the offer but says this is his and Shane’s fight and no one else will pay even a cent of the cost. He also assures Weir with pride that the odds of the fight were just about even, despite Starrett’s help. Marian does not speak as her husband places Shane into the wagon and their supplies are loaded and before they drive home. Silence reigns until Shane chuckles and asks Starrett what he did with the man he chose to fight. Starrett says he just “tucked him out of the way,” but Marian, eyes shining, says he picked the man up and threw him across the room.
At home, Marian gently cleans Shane’s wounds; though Shane hurts, the process appears to hurt Marian even more. Starrett sits by the stove and watches while he smokes a pipe. Shane refuses any...
(The entire section is 632 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Bob does not understand everything, but he is not worried because his father says it will be all right. Fletcher’s men never bother the homesteaders now and are rarely even seen in town; Fletcher is far away. Starrett and Shane stay even closer together and are even more wary; they stay in the house at night and Starrett’s rifle is polished and ready. Bob thinks the trouble with Fletcher is over, but Shane laughs and says it has just begun.
Starrett explains that Fletcher has to make his stand now or he will eventually be shoved out of the valley, though this is a battle Fletcher would rather not have to fight. He has made this a win-or-lose proposition, and just because things are quiet does not mean that nothing is happening. This is the time to be most careful. There is unlikely to be a repeat of the saloon fight; instead, Fletcher is probably searching for a way to forever defeat the ranchers with more finesse.
Starrett assumes Shane is referring to some kind of legal battle; Shane does not tell him any differently. It is clear that Shane has dealt with men like Fletcher before, but he does not elaborate. Starrett is impatient for something to happen, and he does not have long to wait.
It is Friday, and Lew Johnson comes to Starrett’s farm to tell him that Fletcher is back and he has brought a stranger with him. The man is tall and slim, walks with a swagger, and has cold eyes which disturb Johnson. His name is Stark Wilson and he wears two big guns in his holster, which hangs low and forward. He is a gunfighter who is as quick as anyone on the draw, adept with either hand, and has a reputation for having recently killed at least three men in the southwest territories where he used to be,
Johnson continues giving details as Henry Shipstead sits slumped in his chair. Finally Shane cuts him off, and his voice is charged with a current of authority. He is disgusted that the men arrived last night but Johnson is only now telling them the news. He asks Starrett which of the homesteaders is most likely to be goaded into a foolish fight. Starrett says Ernie Wright, and Shane orders Johnson to bring Wright, and then Torrey, here as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Johnson and Shipstead saw both men riding into town. Johnson says he warned the men about Wilson and told them to come to the Starretts’ on their way back from town.
Suddenly Frank Torrey arrives, breathless with the...
(The entire section is 792 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
It is a beautiful morning, and the Starretts and Shane eat a leisurely breakfast before the two men do their chores and go to town. After they ride off for Wright’s funeral, Bob mopes around the house, unable to settle into anything for long. Later Marian sees him standing and staring down the road and plays Parcheesi with him on the porch, squealing like a child whenever she makes a good play. After that, she brings out apples and books, reading aloud to her son until she has to hurry to fix dinner for the men.
It is almost like a holiday when Starrett and Shane come home as no one had worked all day and the adults are determined not to let the business with Fletcher ruin their day. Wright’s funeral was good. Grafton spoke and said some very nice things, Weir provided a very nice coffin, and another man is making a fine headstone without charge.
More than thirty people attended the service, and none of them had anything good to say about Fletcher. Shane tells Marian that many of those who came did so out of respect for Starrett, who also gave a fine speech. One day, Shane predicts, Starrett will be mayor.
Their mood changes when they hear horses turning into their yard. Shane does not move but tells Starrett that it has to be Fletcher. He has undoubtedly heard about the townspeople’s support for the homesteaders and knows he must act quickly. It is unlikely he will push anything here, but Starrett should be cautious. Starrett grabs his rifle and carries it barrel down as he opens the door and steps out onto the porch.
Fletcher and Wilson are followed by two other cowboys. Bob has not seen Fletcher for a year, and the once-handsome man now looks more dissolute and shrewd; he has a “kind of reckless determination” that Bob has never noticed before. Stark Wilson is rather citified but seems lean and fit. He sits comfortably in his saddle, but his guns are in sight and he seems “serene and deadly.” He displays confidence in himself as well as contempt for the homesteaders.
Fletcher is “smiling and affable,” certain he is playing a game he will win. He apologizes for Wright’s unfortunate and unnecessary death but says Wright should not have called Wilson a liar. Starrett agrees that Wright should not have spoken the truth. He tells Fletcher to say what he came for and then get off his land.
Fletcher speaks reasonably about needing more land for his cattle, and...
(The entire section is 765 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Bob asks his father what he will tell Fletcher tonight. As soon as he asks it, Bob realizes how significant the answer to that question will be for all of them. The boy is growing up, for he knows what his father will tell Fletcher and he knows his father will have to be the one to tell Fletcher in person. This knowing causes the beautiful day to turn chill and dark.
None of the adults says anything, but Bob senses they are “somehow closer in the stillness there on the porch” than they have ever been. They are all aware that Fletcher has caught Starrett in a maneuver that he cannot avoid because he will not avoid it.
Starrett finally sits and smokes a pipe, Shane settles into a chair and looks off into the distance, and Marian does the dishes with her son—all in silence. When she is finished, Marian sits next to her husband, and Bob is suddenly overwhelmed with loneliness. Nothing keeps his interest for long and finally he sits on the porch and joins the silent group.
Starrett talks to Bob quietly, assuring his son (and himself) that although he cannot outdraw Wilson, he will certainly have enough strength left to ensure that Wilson does not live. When Wilson is gone, Fletcher will “be done.” Suddenly Shane stands in agitation, “desperate with an inner torment,” before walking out to the barn. Marian runs after him for a moment and then returns to the porch and her family.
Finally Starrett stands and takes Marian by the arms. He says he is counting on her to help Shane “win again” after this is all over. It is dusk, and Bob finds Shane out by the pasture, his hands outstretched as if he were grasping for some unknown and unreachable thing. When Shane walks past him, Bob sees that his face is now untroubled and lights are inexplicably dancing in his eyes. He assures Bob that everything is going to be all right.
Bob is on the porch when he sees Shane leaving the barn and immediately calls out to his father that Shane is wearing his gun. Shane is dressed as he was when he first came to the valley, and his belt, holster, and gun are part of who Shane is rather than something he is wearing. For the first time, Shane is completely “himself in the final effects of his being.” What has seemed like iron is now steel once again. He is not their Shane, and yet he is. He is the most dangerous man and yet the safest man.
In a bantering tone, Shane tells the Starretts...
(The entire section is 783 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Bob waits until Marian is tending to his father before he slips outside and sees Shane leaving the barn. Bob’s heart sinks when he sees Shane carrying his saddle and saddle-roll. When Shane whistles softly for his horse, Bob knows he has to run or he will not get to town in time.
Bob has never run so fast but knows he cannot let Shane see him. As he approaches the boy’s hiding spot, Shane is “tall and terrible there in the road, looming up gigantic in the mystic half-light.” This is the man Bob saw on the first day Shane appeared in the valley, the “symbol of all the dim, formless imaginings of danger and terror.” Unable to help himself, Bob cries out as he stumbles, and Shane has the boy in his strong, reassuring arms almost before he hits the ground.
Shane smiles at Bob and tells him to go home, that everything will be all right. He releases the boy and tells him to hold this picture of the beautiful land in his mind, as it is a good place to be a boy and grow up straight inside, as every man should. When Bob looks out and sees what Shane sees, he is full of emotion; however, when he reaches for Shane, the man is already gone. Bob wavers for a moment but decides to follow Shane.
Red Marlin is the lookout at the saloon. Shane loops the reins over his horse’s saddle and the horse remains motionless, ready for whatever comes next. Shane steps onto Grafton’s porch and asks for Fletcher. He is inside, and Shane deliberately enters through the swinging doors of the saloon. Bob follows quickly and rushes inside. Grafton and Weir are the only ones in the store, and they do not seem to notice him. All three of them are watching the crowded saloon.
Despite the crowded room, one chair is inexplicably open at the poker table; and although the room is bustling with activity, there is no noise. Shane searches the room until he finds Stark Wilson. Shane smiles and nods imperceptibly when he sees Chris standing against one wall. Chris, his arm in a sling, smiles and nods back at Shane, as if he finally knows his own mind. Shane asks again for Fletcher.
Wilson stands and asks where Starrett is; as he speaks, both men move until they are only five yards apart and facing one another. Wilson has the advantage as he is less exposed, but Shane accepts that. Wilson looks arrogant, still not believing anyone in this valley will stand up to him.
Shane has something to say to...
(The entire section is 812 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
When Bob arrives back home, Joe and Marian Starrett are sitting in the kitchen almost exactly where he left them. Starrett looks haggard and has an ugly red mark on the side of his head. Neither Starrett gets up when Bob and Weir walk through the door; neither of them even scolds their son for following Shane. Bob crawls into his mother’s lap, something he has not done for years; Starrett just stares until Weir finally speaks. He tells Starrett all his troubles are over.
Starrett already knows Shane killed Wilson because he knows Shane, but he is surprised to learn that Shane also killed Fletcher. Starrett explains that Shane wanted to do this by himself and that waiting to hear what happened was one of the most difficult things Starrett has ever had to do. Weir assures Starrett that everyone in town knows that Starrett did not stay home by choice, and most of them are glad that Shane is the one who came to the saloon tonight.
Bob finally speaks haltingly about how beautiful Shane was in the fight and how Shane told him afterwards that Wilson would not have hit him at all if he had been in practice. Suddenly Starrett launches from his seat and grabs Weir by his coat, astounded that Shane is still alive. Weir assures Starrett that although Shane was hit, he is still alive. In fact, Weir muses that perhaps nothing will ever kill Shane.
Starrett demands to know where Shane is, and Weir explains that Shane left the valley, “alone and unfollowed as he wanted it.” No one knows where he is now. Once again Starrett slumps into his chair, absent-mindedly crushing his pipe with his hands.
The group hears footsteps on the porch and a man pushes his way into the kitchen. It is Chris, his right arm in a sling and high color in his face. His eyes are unnaturally bright and in his left hand he has a bottle of cherry soda pop. He smacks the bottle onto the table, startled at the noise he made and embarrassed that he is struggling to find his voice. Finally he is able to speak firmly.
Although he is a poor substitute for Shane, Chris would like to work for Starrett once his arm has healed. Starrett’s mouth moves but he cannot speak; it is Marian who finally says Shane would like that. Starrett still does not speak, and finally Chris and Weir leave. This is something Starrett has to wrestle with on his own. He nearly stops breathing and then paces the house before heading out to the fields....
(The entire section is 715 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Shane has been gone for a while. The people in town and the school children love to talk about Shane and his exploits. They create fantastic tales and make grand speculations about him, but Bob never does those things.
The awful night of the shootout in Grafton’s saloon is now a legend. Countless details have been added as the story spreads, just as the town has grown and spread up the river banks. Bob never bothers to correct any falsehoods he hears, no matter how strange or outrageous the stories become. Shane belongs to Bob and his parents, and no wild fabrications will ever alter that fact.
Marian is right. Shane is there on the farm and he is in each of them. Whenever Bob needs him, Shane is there. The boy sees him plainly and hears his gentle voice. Bob thinks of Shane in each of the moments when Shane was revealed to him. Most often he thinks of his friend as he whirled to shoot Fletcher that night in Grafton’s saloon; he can still see Shane’s fluidity and power, the most beautiful thing the boy has ever seen. The man and his gun, a powerful tool, were joined in “indivisible deadliness.” Both the man and the tool were good, and they worked together to do what needed to be done.
Bob still thinks about the night Shane left, about seeing him as a lone rider against the moonlight as he headed to town either to kill or be killed. He remembers Shane reaching down to help a stumbling boy and looking at the land as a place where a boy could grow up straight from the inside. When he hears men in town talking about Shane’s past, Bob just smiles to himself.
The men hear a passing traveler mention a famous gunman and gambler named Shannon who once lived in Arkansas and Texas but suddenly disappeared, and for a time they are certain this is Shane’s story. When that idea begins to fade, other stories arise, shaped by bits and pieces that random travelers share with them in passing. Bob smiles when he hears any of these tales, knowing that Shane could not have been any of these things.
Shane is the man who rode into the valley from the magnificent West, and when his work here was finished he rode back to the glorious place from which he came.
(The entire section is 407 words.)