John Ford's "Tis Pity She's a Whore" Analysis

Angela Carter

Style and Technique

Carter’s text intersperses expository narrative with excerpts from the hypothetical shooting script with which the director might be working. Occasional quotations from the script of the original play are inserted for comparative purposes. The narrative sections are lightly spiced with discreet references to the titles of classic Westerns, including—in addition to such Ford vehicles as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)—the 1970’s TV series The Little House on the Prairie, exemplary of a less violent subspecies of Western, whose scenario is reproduced and subverted in the story. The fact that so many characters remain unnamed encourages the reader to think of the story as an example of a capacious set of texts rather than a self-enclosed and self-sufficient entity.

The narrative passages include a good deal of judicious authorial commentary on both versions of the story, drawing comparisons between them, but their main focus is on the way in which the story might be visualized and supported by incidental movement. Carter puts a very heavy emphasis on the landscape of the scenario, crediting it with a powerful causative force, as when she holds the pressure of the sky responsible for the death of the rancher’s wife. This reflects the fact that in all the great Western films—and Ford’s in particular—the landscape is a key feature, described so lovingly by the panoramic vision of the camera that it often seems overwhelming....

(The entire section is 464 words.)