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One of the themes of the story is the difficulty of escaping one's past. In moving to the Wyoming valley, Shane hopes to put his previous life as a gunslinger behind him once and for all. He's given up on a life of violence and wants nothing more than to settle down. Yet he's unable to do so, not least because the local farmers are initially rather suspicious of him. Ironically, the only way that Shane can completely gain their trust is through acts of violence in defending them against Fletcher and his thugs. Even then, Shane still refrains from using a gun, relying solely on his fists to send Fletcher's goons packing.

It's only when a professional gunslinger by the name of Wilson arrives...

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