In chapter four of Jack Schaefer's novel Shane, what does Shane mean when he says: "It's always the same. The old ways die hard"?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter three of Shane, by Jack Schaefer, Joe Starrett and the stranger named Shane spend the day in silent camaraderie as they struggle together to defeat (uproot) a giant tree stump on Starrett's farm. This singular act prompts Starrett to ask Shane to stay on the farm in chapter four. 

Starrett explains his dream of becoming a rancher rather than just a homesteading farmer; he also explains about Fletcher's boys' continual harassment of all the farmers in the area. Starrett does not have to go into much detail about Fletcher's intent to take over all the land in the valley; Shane knows Fletcher's type and readily agrees to stay through the winter. 

When Shane says "It's always the same. The old ways die hard," he is referring to Fletcher's use of force and intimidation to get what he wants. This was once the way of the "wild West," but the West is growing more civilized and law and order are beginning to prevail over sheer thuggery and violence. 

Of course, Shane knows all of this because he is a gunslinger, someone who is, ironically, used to enforcing his own sense of justice rather than letting the authorities and the courts do their jobs. Shane has to know that his outlaw way of life is also coming to an end. He stays because he knows his skill as a gunfighter will be useful for the farmers in this valley and to the Starretts in particular; he also knows his form of "enforcement" is probably the only thing which will stop Fletcher. He warns the young Bob Starrett that a "gun is as good--and as bad--as the man who carries it." Soon Shane will use his gun to stop Fletcher's bullying and violence.