“Dead Man’s Walk” by Larry McMurtry is one of the best books that depict the historical tales and myths of the West. By the use of a storytelling technique, the writer narrates to us all the happenings in this tale. He can tell and explain all that is happening while not actively engaging the audience in the happenings of the text. Through his intriguing narration and writing style, the writer protects us as the audience from the historical truths. Yet, he actively engages the readers to reason, witness, and flow with the storyline as the protagonists develop the tale’s plot.
In this essay, I am going to analyze the themes that the writer has put into the reader’s attention. In this paper, I will analyze the themes of death and loss, the place of women in society, the sense of identity and social injustice. I will do this by basing my responses on the book itself and credible scholarly sources. Though I will not sequentially discuss them, I will discuss these themes in a prose format.
One of the themes that the writer brings to our attention is the theme of death and loss. Throughout the tale, the protagonists Woodrow Call and McCrae Gus are surrounded by events of death and loss. In their romantic relations with women in their expedition, Gus is in a relationship with a shopkeeper. This shopkeeper later betrays him and marries another man leaving Gus heartbroken. On the other hand, Call associates with a prostitute who later gives birth to his child. To Call, this is a loss as he is only a teenager, and he should have married a woman of his good moral standing. In their walk through the cruel landscapes of New Mexico on their way to El Paso, many Texas Rangers group members die on the way due to diseases and other factors. As a result, the other members of the group are enraged and filled with sorrow, and as a way of searching for recovery, they engage in drinking and whoring and other immoral deeds. This is due to the feeling of loss that has engulfed their hearts.
The writer has also depicted social injustices. The writer’s vivid description of the merciless Indians, dangerous landscapes, gang rapes, human tortures, and mimings in the Texan landscapes show in detail the infringement of human rights in that society. The book depicts the lack of any human civilization (Thomas, p.54). Violence is part of society, and every man seems to be driven by his desires of thirst, starvation, lust, greed and foolish romance; this leads men to rape a young court girl. The text vividly describes the Indians to be unmistakably cruel and hostile. For example, Kicking Wolf, a Comanche horse thief, tortures a white man to death slowly by cutting his “balls” and then drags the body with his horse. He does this to enjoy the transfer of power and serenity.
The book also tells us that Apaches in the plains eat wolves and murder for sport, yet they are never seen. This indicates the loss of human dignity and value towards human life. Humans are treated like animals by their fellow humans to the point that there is more animosity amongst humans than between animals. The lack of address of this vice by society is the one that propels its operation and practice amongst and against the members of the society.
McMurtry places women as “diamond figures” in this society. They are seen to be the source of wisdom and hope for society. They are depicted as very different from men as they are perceived to be clever, strong, self-driven, and accommodating. Mattie Roberts, though a whore, becomes the central character in the expedition as she is the most enduring of the characters and has amazing fertility. Lady Carey, who was at one time an English noblewoman, is depicted by the writer as the only character who understands the harsh reality of their expedition that any of the men in her company. In this book, she emerges to be a character who has mystical powers and, in the end, becomes the most unforgettable woman character that Larry, the text writer, has ever created in this series of novels.
The last theme that I am going to discuss is the theme of the search for identity. Gus considers going with Call on his journey to Santa Fe to take it over from the Spanish. Also, they belong to Texas Rangers, a group of Texan warriors. In this, the protagonists of this book, Call and Gus, operate within this domain of identity. They worry about what group they belong to, whom to associate with, their profession, and what they are meant to do. This directs most of their decisions as youngsters. Though their expedition is filled with adversity, ill fortune and disasters, Call and Gus remain intact throughout this tale. This makes them be hardened and attached to this hostile land rather than walk away because they have a purpose and a goal they identify with.
To conclude, the writer’s understanding of the time and is intriguing. He can creatively alienate us from land and its truths. Also, he actively engages us by ingeniously showing us how strong and exciting the truth in context is. The writer uses the third person point of narration with immense access to the happenings in the tale to a point where he can explain the thoughts and questions of the characters, for example, Melville and Conrad. This text explores themes that are critical in addressing the issues affecting modern-day society. This text is relevant in understanding the historical West. The book should be a stepping stone to address modern social injustices like terrorism and rapes, and other extremist beliefs and actions.
Contemporary Novelists, St. James Press. [Detroit, MI], 2001.
Thomas, E.R. Review of the Evening Star p.54. (1992). New York Reviews of Books.