Shane may be a film about what happens when our hero comes to Joe Starett’s property and ends up becoming the reluctant gunfighter, but it also places the viewer front and center between two distinct and opposing ways of life. Ryker and Starett hold two very different ideas on property and progress, and these ideas shape their behavior in accordance to their own ideology. By way of signs, the film portrays Ryker as a businessman and Joe Starrett as a man of the community.
Ryker is a businessman. If Ryker feels threatened, he will try to first solve the problem using communication, and then switch to more coercive tactics only if that fails. Ryker doesn’t use brute force to assert his power, but instead uses his money to get what he wants. Ryker’s use of money was clearly defined in the saloon scene where he first meets Shane. Upon learning that Shane could become his enemy, he asserts that he has nothing against Shane, and even offers his a well-paid job to lay off the Starett family.
Ryker is a solitary man. We never see him within a family unit, nor see him bonding with any of his crew. His lack of emotional ties is a clear sign of his shrewdness. He leads the life of a businessman without any familial interruption. Ryker will never become a part of a community, and as such, he can attack, usurp, or buy his way into it. Ryker views property only as land that can bring him monetary gains, and he views progress as net worth, like a true businessman.
Starett is a man that has given his life to the community. There are various signs to point the viewer to his idea of property and progress, such as adherence to tradition, patriotism, and the steadfast protection of one’s land. Starett is a man of tradition. He depends on the safety, bonding, and comfort that tradition brings to a community. Even Joey is a sign of his father’s adherence to tradition; Joe named his son Joey. Joe belongs to a community where cooperation is...