The Searchers' Narrative Structure

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From Boy to Man: The Searchers Through the Eyes of Martin Pawley The narrative structure of John Ford’s The Searchers is centered primarily around the actions and knowledge of men. Throughout the movie, men are the figures of action, they are out scouring the land for lost loved ones while the women stay home and wait with hope. In The Searchers, just as with any search, the limiting factor involved is knowledge. Ethan, the main character, begins the movie as the leader of the searchers. His assumed role as leader is due to his past excursions as a Texas Ranger. These past experiences enable Ethan to lead most effectively because they provide him with knowledge. Ethan has the knowledge to survive on the frontier, but most importantly his previous campaigns in the wild have allowed Ethan to learn about the Comanche and their ways; thus, Ethan is best equipped to find a specific tribe in the middle of nowhere. Martin Pawley, Ethan’s partner in the search for Debbie fills an apprentice role throughout most of the film, he takes note of Ethan’s moves and effectively learns a great deal from Ethan. Marty’s continually growing knowledge base, along with the fact that Ethan’s judgment is oftentimes clouded by his racism towards the Comanche, allow Marty to emerge as the voice of reason that the narrative structure eventually revolves around.

It is first predicted that Martin will be a noteworthy character in the film when a crew of men is being assembled to go investigate the theft of Lars Jorgenson’s cattle. Sam Clayton, Ethan’s former superior officer, chooses Marty to ride on with the Rangers. This comes to the dismay of Ethan because Marty is part Native American. Ethan’s racism here also causes him to disregard Marty’s concerns about the trail. Marty’s perceptiveness in this situation displays that he has some fundamental skills as a searcher in the wild and insinuates that this will not be the last time that Marty voices his opinion. Additionally, by showing...
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