Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Jack Schaefer had a versatile career before writing Shane, his first novel. Born in Cleveland, he majored in English literature at Oberlin College and attended Columbia University, but he soon regarded graduate work as arid. He became a reporter, an editor, and a Connecticut reformatory administrator. He published a three-part serial entitled Rider from Nowhere in Argosy in 1946 and revised it as Shane. It has enjoyed more than seventy editions and has been translated into more than thirty languages. The 1953 movie Shane, scripted by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., the author of The Big Sky (1947), and starring Alan Ladd as Shane and Jack Palance as Wilson, popularized the story. In 1977, the Western Writers of America voted Shane the third-best Western ever written, after Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) and Walter Van Tilberg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1940); in 1985, the group acclaimed Shane as number one.

Schaefer followed Shane with two novels and two collections of short stories. In 1955, he settled in New Mexico. His later works demonstrate both versatility and a steady desire to reconcile his love of individualism with the need for humankind to band together in tolerance, resistance to techological “progress,” and love of nature.