Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story draws a careful comparison between a significant genre of American films and early seventeenth century English drama by envisaging what the famous director John Ford, who created a series of classic Westerns from Stagecoach (1939) to Cheyenne Autumn (1964), might have made of the most famous work by the English playwright John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore. The playwright Ford was a key contributor to Jacobean tragedy, a melodramatic form of tragedy that flourished after the death of William Shakespeare in 1616. Although James I died in 1625, Jacobean tragedy continued to be produced—or at least published—during the reign of Charles I.

Carter’s supposition is fanciful, but by no means absurd. Although director John Ford never adapted plots in this fashion, other directors of Westerns did. Director William Wellman’s 1948 Yellow Sky transfigured Shakespeare’s The Tempest: Or, The Enchanted Island (1674) long before John Sturges created The Magnificent Seven (1960) using Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954). Although such adaptations encourage the notion that certain plot forms express universal features of human existence, the emphasis of Carter’s story is on the crucial differences that would inevitably arise out of the transplantation of the story’s setting from the stage version of Italy that many seventeenth century English dramatists portrayed as a society of hot-blooded vendetta-pursuers to the American Midwest mythologized by filmmakers as a land of bold pioneers and gunslingers.

Although the Hollywood censors would not readily have condoned the use of incest as...

(The entire section is 697 words.)