Dances with Wolves Essay

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Here's a sample of an essay which reviews a film. It was written by Adrienne who took this class several years ago. Dances With Wolves Essay
Adrienne Redding
No matter how you choose to categorize human beings, whether by race or religion, nationality or gender, the resultant categories will display at least one immutable constant. Each group, no matter how diverse their beliefs or how dissimilar their behaviors, will contain men of honest and peaceful natures as well as men of divisive and violent natures. In the film Dances With Wolves, we are exposed to two distinct categories of people inhabiting post civil war America, the white man and the Native American. We, most likely, begin the movie with defined ideas as to which group contains honest, peaceful men and which group contains violent and savage men. We are, however, exposed to behaviors which are in opposition to the accepted stereotypes associated with these groups. As we move through the film we are taken from the comfortable starting point of our existing stereotypes into new territory, both literally and philosophically. The film accomplishes this by allowing us to journey with John Dunbar, a man who is as open minded and free of preconceived notions as the originally empty journal on which his new ideas and understandings are written. Through his experiences we are exposed to the sharp contrast between the violent and crude, as well as the peaceful and thoughtful natures of men. With every exposure we are purposefully moved further and further away from what may have been our preconceived notions regarding these groups of people. Through John's eyes we are first exposed to the world of the white man embroiled in the carnage and butchery of the Civil War. The gruesome hospital scene only emphasizes the fact that life in the "civilized" world can be anything but. A brief contrast is made when the compassionate officer who believes John to be a hero, rescues him from the violence and makes it possible for his leg to be saved and for him to begin his journey. But, compassionate, thinking white men are definitely in the minority in this film. When John begins his Westward move, the crude, maniacal white man makes his reappearance. The officer who gives John the information about getting to his new post appears to be downright insane and apparently kills himself. The guide who accompanies John to his post is also no prize. John refers to him as "the foulest man alive"(Dances with Wolves). This constant exposure to the violent and crude men who make up the white race is an effective first step in shifting our sympathies. We want to distance ourselves from these shameful characters. We don't want to identify with them. Our first exposure to Indians is a mere suggestion of the expected stereotype. We are shown a skeleton on the ground with an arrow stuck through it. So far so good. We are accustomed to that image. Dunbar's guide states that Indians are "nothin' but thieves and beggars" and that you only want to see them when they are dead (Dances with Wolves). He, of course, is such an exemplary man that it's not ironic at all to hear him degrading someone else. From the beginning of the film we are given hints that Dunbar is not like his fellow "ugly Americans." When John and his guide arrive at the deserted Fort, the guide is in a hurry to be away. He is nervous and uncomfortable and thinks nothing of leaving without accomplishing what he was sent to do. John wants to stay, not only because he feels honor bound to reestablish his post, but also because he is drawn to the land itself. He states, "The country is everything I dreamed it would be. There can be no more beautiful place on earth" (Dances with Wolves). After being forced to help unload the wagon at gunpoint, John's guide begins his return trip. At this time we see our first Indians. They are the Indians we expect, the painted, violent takers of scalps. It is interesting that these were also the kind of...
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