Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Introduction

Welcome to Stuart Fernie’s Blog




Please scroll down or find on the right links to articles, pages of reflections on films, books, TV series (including "Dunkirk", “Dances With Wolves”, “Inherit The Wind” and “The Prisoner”), and occasional pieces of flash fiction. These are additions to similar pages which may be found at www.stuartfernie.org .


link to my YouTube channel with video presentations of a number of my pages.

Having retired from teaching fairly recently, I thought I’d write my memoirs, “What have I done?”, and present them online. Please find links to the various chapters on the right, though chunks of the text (but perhaps not all) may also appear below. If you suffer from insomnia, this may help!

Click on the arrows to access links to 2016 and then December.


I can be contacted through the comments sections or at stuartfernie@yahoo.co.uk




All intellectual property rights reserved

Reflections on the use of humour in drama




Reflections on the use of humour in drama



As a general rule, people don’t like to be laughed at (unless, of course, they set out to produce that effect). Humour degrades its target and may threaten the position of that target as the perpetrator of humour points out weaknesses and insecurities in character or may reveal underlying purposes, objectives or ruses behind the manner and style of others.

A humourist may adopt a certain position of (moral) superiority as he/she reveals truths and takes up a stance that offers perspective and overview, and certainly does not bow to automatic or expected respect.



A humourist will frequently display an irreverent attitude which may shock, but which serves a purpose beyond immediate amusement and gratification. It may equally offer dissent or challenge to a commonly held view or an established position or argument, but it may be more effective than straight counterargument as humour engages emotion and personal interest far more readily than does mere intellectual jousting.


In terms of drama and entertainment, for most people light comedy appeals more than heavy drama, though a subtle mixing of the two may produce rewarding results. Comic relief has long been recognised as an essential element in the success of serious works, offering some degree of escape from what might otherwise be judged an overly intense experience, while drama and conflict lend weight and value to what might be considered a pleasant but ultimately vacuous experience.

I would say the key elements in successful comedy/drama are balance and complicity.


Going back to the 17th century, Molière’s comedies reveal many of the social ills of his time but also address several universal social themes such as status, love, parenthood and faith, to name but a few, but he was always careful to maintain a balance between gently mocking comedy and touching emotion bordering on tragedy. He knew the key was to have his audience care for his characters despite their flaws and so while encouraging laughter at his characters’ misjudgements, he fosters emotion and sympathy as the audience sees the potentially tragic results of these misjudgements. To this day, most comedies of note follow a vaguely similar pattern as they promote an underlying threat of (self) destruction with regard to their main characters in order to ensure a degree of emotional engagement on the part of the audience.

Complicity of the audience through previous knowledge and awareness (which, crucially, may not be shared with characters in the production being viewed) will also foster engagement and a sense of “participation” in a production. Just about the ultimate example of this is “Groundhog Day” in which weathercaster Phil Connors (Bill Murray) relives the same (Groundhog) day seemingly endlessly, but only Phil and the audience are privy to the joke.

Much can be achieved through the medium of humour (or the inclusion of humorous elements) that might otherwise be less successful or engaging.


At its core, the above-mentioned “Groundhog Day” is a fable about personal development and evolution through (eventual) consideration of and selfless service to others. Such a naive, simplistic and potentially patronising message had to be handled deftly and with care, and Harold Ramis along with Bill Murray carry it off wonderfully with a series of strangely comical positive-yet-cynical vignettes. These trace Phil Connors’ transformation from self-centred careerist through depressive fatalist and selfish hedonist (willing to use others for his own ends, but equally depending on them), until finally he achieves fulfilment through altruistic acts of kindness and help. The lightness of touch ensures we never dislike Phil (perhaps because he is the ultimate target of the humour of the film) as we share his responses to his outlandish situation, which the humorous tenor of the film allows us to accept and enjoy.


Similarly, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” would undoubtedly have been considerably less appealing and successful in terms of engagement, sympathy and empathy if it had been presented as a harrowing battle of wills between a representative of social repression and one of personal freedom. Humour allowed for the humanisation and development of the numerous characters involved, and their struggles and conflicts became all the more touching and affecting because humour encouraged empathy and a sense of solidarity, ultimately emphasising and clarifying the division between the two factions and making the end (and the “message”) all the more effective and moving.

Even the genre of action/adventure films has been augmented and enhanced by the inclusion of humour.


The early Bond films injected a knowing self-awareness and even mockery which added an element of sophistication and entertainment which many have sought to emulate in other productions and which has influenced several of the most successful franchises in cinema history, including “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones”, “Mission Impossible” and some Schwarzenegger productions. By incorporating elements of humour in their storylines, writers lighten the emotional load (in itself essential to maintain interest) on audiences and yet build emotional engagement with their characters and draw audiences into their work.

My thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie







Thursday, 26 October 2017

Random thoughts and questions about life




Random thoughts, questions and observations - just for fun


I’d be happy to discuss any reactions or thoughts prompted by the questions and reflections below.

I can be contacted at stuartfernie@yahoo.co.uk



Which is the wiser course – to travel to see beauty or to appreciate beauty in what you see?


Where should man seek truth – without or within?


If God is the creator of man and is infinite, where did He get the idea of the finite?


Art is an attempt to encapsulate and share an observation or point of view with beauty and clarity.


An author reveals himself in his writing.

 
Opportunities should be equal, even if the capacity to take advantage of them is not.                                                                  

When confidence outweighs competence, the consequence can be crisis.


Mutual respect is a basis for harmony.


Everything is subjective.
  

Time is a man-made construct which does not exist in nature.


Philosophy is a fascinating subject which ultimately achieves nothing, however the method used to philosophise may help achieve something.


Treat a person reasonably, and you create a reasonable person. 


Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone learns from them.


It’s not the length of experience that counts, it’s what you make of it. 


Nationality is an accident of birth.  


Fame means you are known, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are worth knowing.


Recognition of one’s ignorance is essential to the measurement of one’s knowledge.
   

Careerism is the enemy of professionalism.




Monday, 18 September 2017

Reflections on the nature and resolution of regret



Reflections on the nature and resolution of regret


Regret is a painful reminder of the past that may help guide you in the present.

Regret, guilt and anguish may ultimately be destructive. Regret can become an obsession that colours other (even all) aspects of your life and can prevent you from functioning “normally”. In extreme cases, it can lead to despair and depression, altering your view of life so it is difficult to keep things in proportion or maintain a balanced perspective. Feelings of responsibility and guilt may become overwhelming and prevent you from seeing positive aspects of your character and life.

Regret, however, is not all bad. It suggests intelligence and sensitivity. You may have done, said or felt something you regret, but the very fact you regret it suggests recognition of and a desire to embrace certain values and principles. Mistakes may have been made, but that does not make you worthless, nor does it invalidate positive actions and decisions you have taken in the past and may take in the future. If you feel bad, it is probably because you are good, and you need to recognise that.


To state the obvious, we cannot change the past. If we feel regret, the most we can aspire to is redemption in the form of our future actions. If we learn from our mistakes and channel our feelings of regret into a positive way forward, or learn to see that what we regret may be just one part of a bigger and brighter picture, or even recognise the positive influence our regret may already have had on our conduct, we may appease some of our guilt. Self-forgiveness may not be possible – perhaps we need pain and remorse to help us evolve and to prod us into acts of compassion and understanding, but it may be possible to live with our remorse if we recognise our failures (but also our successes) and set about doing our best in the future.

Stuart Fernie

A poetic comment from Daphne Buckingham:


A lovely offering of peace to the soul. Regret knows its place in the heart. We too often live in such ways that seek to avoid this necessary emotion; therefore we delay our own evolution. That we can feel regret is one of the characteristics that makes us uniquely human. Next, how we respond to it and how we calculate our future actions is key to the responsibility that regret calls up to us. When we take time to listen to the sad music of regret, we allow ourselves the possibility to transcend what is our most humble and ordinary existence. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Reflections on "Dunkirk" (2017)



Reflections on “Dunkirk” (2017)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan,
starring Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy




Watching “Dunkirk” was something of a visceral experience. It felt like more of a participation than a viewing, and I think that was probably Christopher Nolan’s key intention and purpose when planning his film – he wanted his audience to share the experience he is presenting.


Nolan engages the senses of the audience. The movement of the camera and positioning of shots allow us to be involved in the action and to be impressed by sweeping vistas and the sheer scale of the task of evacuation of so many men. Yet he is equally adept at handling intense, confined scenes which allow us to share the immediate experiences of all concerned in the evacuation process. Scenes are built reflecting the fear, hope, safety, loss, destruction, devastation, insecurity, defeat and celebration (survival is the enemy’s failure) of the evacuees and those trying to ensure their evacuation.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard better use of sound than in this film. It wasn’t just loud, it was sharp, intense, encompassing and heightened the sensations and reactions of the audience so they could virtually feel the sheer power and deadly force of each bullet.

The music (courtesy of Hans Zimmer) became part of the sound experience and enhanced not only the action and the drama, but the very sensations felt by the audience. At one point the steady increase of sound/music and its intensity reflected not just the physical approach of fighter planes and bombers, but an ever more concentrated sense of expectation and imminent danger.


While I understand Nolan’s desire and intentions in showing the same events from different perspectives, emphasising the existential nature of actions and their impact on others (often without realisation), their nonlinear presentation within the ongoing timeline caused some confusion.

Throwing us in at the deep end (having the audience join the action without preamble or explanation) means no meaningful background or exposé of situation or character, so we have no historical overview or perspective (we’re really no further forward in terms of our historical knowledge and understanding by the end of the film), and we have no real opportunity to build emotional ties to any of the characters (beyond sympathy and understanding for their immediate circumstances).

Indeed, this amounts to a certain emotional detachment for virtually all the characters in the film because although we share their awful experiences, there is no construct in the script to allow us to know or care about the characters beyond admiration for their determination and courage, and sympathy for their situation.


The one exception is the young lad on Mark Rylance’s boat who is hurt by the shipwrecked Cillian Murphy. This story within a story seems tagged on and requires greater development – as it is, it just rather tragically fizzles out. These are the only “artificial” scenes in which an emotional situation and response are created and imposed – all other scenes are “natural” and arise from the drama and genuine possibilities of real events which could have applied to any of the evacuees.


So, a worthwhile venture whose strengths in involvement in action and sharing experience bring about a few weaknesses in engagement of emotion and historical context.

My thanks for taking the time to read this page.

Stuart Fernie


Friday, 1 September 2017

Multimedia - a narrowing of horizons?



Multimedia – a narrowing of horizons?


The internet and modern multimedia offer the gift of global communication and the capacity to share information, knowledge and opinion with virtually everyone on the planet.

These are the most powerful tools for the development and spread of education, culture and thought the world has known, yet in many nations general standards of education are slipping, general knowledge is on the wane and social skills are in decline.

How can it be that these stupendous technological aids have produced seemingly negative effects along with the plethora of positive aspects of their implementation?
I think the answer is choice.

The pre-internet and multimedia generations had few TV channels and experienced relatively rigid programming and timing. Children’s programmes were restricted to certain times and days, as were news, current affairs, light entertainment and religious programmes. This meant that as a young man, I was “forced” to watch programmes that did not necessarily appeal to me, but which (in retrospect) I realise contributed to my general knowledge, personal development and understanding of people, the world and its values. I watched serious current affairs programmes such as “World in Action” or “Panorama” (focusing on political, legal and social issues), light documentary shows such as “Whicker’s World” (investigating many aspects of modern life across the world) and social dramas such as “Sam”, “A Family at War” and “When The Boat Comes In” (all dealing with the fabric of society). I would never have opted to look at such programmes, but there were few alternatives and the thought of turning off the television never entered my head.

A further result of the lack of choice was that watching these programmes became a shared and social experience. Friends, family and colleagues were in the same position and this led to discussion and the sharing of opinion the following day, compounding whatever informative, educational or thought-provoking effect the programme itself might have had.

Compare this to the situation today, where viewers have the choice of a multitude of TV channels, internet sites, YouTube and online gaming. The young can easily opt out of informative and potentially character-developing programming in favour of entertainment, music on tap or endless series inviting their audiences to share personal details of private lives and possibly encouraging admiration of a descent into backstabbing, public bickering and humiliation – all in the name of “entertainment” and the advancement of fame and notoriety.

Why would the young opt in to something demanding and even difficult when something less challenging and more accessible is more readily available and probably better publicised?

At the dawn of the televisual age, and in its early development, opportunities in this new field encompassing entertainment, education and information attracted the most enterprising, talented and skilled candidates in their disciplines. In general, these were people who didn’t just burn with a desire for fame and glory, but who had original ideas, talent and had something to offer or say. They saw this new medium as a means of sharing their views and vision.

It appears that many involved in modern programming are driven less by vision and integrity and more by ego and ambition to succeed in personality-driven television, often taking minimal talent the maximum distance.

Of course, there are still many high-quality programmes and contributions from individuals, but given the exponential increase in channels, programming and the media in general, I think it is probably fair to say standards have been diluted in proportion with the vast increases in demand to fill schedules.

Quite apart from the ailing quality of some programmes and the resultant lack of challenge and thought, the sheer vastness of choice means viewing is now a greatly fragmented experience. In choosing what suits individual mood, character and preference, viewers may have less of a common experience to discuss with friends, family and colleagues. There is less to unite us in one to one conversation, discussion and debate. Indeed, discussion tends to take place online as individuals post comments and opinion aimed at the anonymous masses. Even sharing a reaction has become less sociable.

In terms of communication and research (where possibilities are virtually endless), there is a tendency to restrict oneself to a group of like-minded friends or individuals, potentially bolstering and entrenching belief systems and avoiding challenge and debate. It has become easy to opt out of or avoid topics and ideas that don’t appeal, and this attitude seems to extend even to education where students may be tempted to drop a subject if they encounter a level of difficulty they find uncomfortable. Stamina and determination are to be encouraged, but they are ill-served by the expectation that quick and easily accessible solutions should be available on the internet, and if they aren’t available it’s easier to give up than to work out your own solution.

Increased consultation of the internet seems to have brought about a certain lack of respect for knowledge (both on the part of students and some educators) as it is felt that information can be accessed on the internet, used for a short time, and then jettisoned (and sought again if required later on). This seems to be a rather short-sighted approach, however, for if knowledge is limited or not retained, students will fail to make connections with other facts or information (a process which is the basis of intelligence), and this will reduce both understanding and the capacity to understand, and will thus limit the ability to develop and grow.


Of course, substance and integrity still exist within all this choice, variety and diversity. We simply need to ensure we exercise judgement and control over the choices we make in order to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities afforded us by these technological marvels, but in order to do that, we must first be aware of the potential side-effects of our modern multimedia.

My thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope you found it of some value.

Stuart Fernie

I can be contacted at stuartfernie@yahoo.co.uk



Saturday, 13 May 2017

Reflections on Kevin Costner's film of "Dances With Wolves"


Reflections on “Dances With Wolves”,
directed by Kevin Costner, written by Michael Blake,
starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell and Graham Greene



A video presentation of this page is available here 


“Dances With Wolves” starts with a battle in the American Civil War during which Lt. John Dunbar is badly wounded and is due to have his foot amputated. Rather than face the pain and (as he sees it) degradation of this life-changing amputation, he sets out to face his enemy one last time in a vain attempt to secure death. Although he fails in his mission, he inspires others to action, victory is gained and he is rewarded with foot-saving surgery and his choice of a new posting (he opts for the Western frontier). Thus begins Dunbar’s great adventure and transformation.

The Civil War, apart from being the catalyst for Dunbar’s future life, may also be viewed as the encapsulation of the breakdown of the society Dunbar has grown up with, with men no longer able to live together without dispute and the eruption of violence over issues such as race, creed, colour, social standing and social structure.

Dunbar is clearly a man of honour, dignity, principle and courage, and we see him react to personal circumstances rather than out of political or social motivation. While he has fought out of a sense of duty (doubtless in common with many of his fellow soldiers), he is keen to turn his back on conflict and what has become of “civilisation” to set off west and explore the frontier (and his own character and nature).



As he heads west we are treated to panoramic views of wide open spaces and beautiful vistas. Nature (in all its forms) is a recurring and pervasive theme – Dunbar is visibly more at ease and relaxed as he distances himself from “civilisation”, and he regularly expresses admiration for the beauty around him, even gently stroking the long grass during a break in his journey. This respect and admiration will also be displayed through his relationship with various animals, repeated inclusion of images of water, land and trees, and of course man’s natural tendency toward society and friendship where these are allowed to develop untroubled by bias, jealousy, ego and ambition.

The farther Dunbar leaves behind civilisation, the more “natural” he becomes, though there are reminders of the effect and influence of the society he has left behind in the form of his rather uncouth and dismissive driver (who is harmless enough, but has failed to appreciate and embrace his surroundings as Dunbar appears to do). And then there is the outpost commander who simply cannot cope in the face of the spare and difficult living conditions imposed by nature.

Once Dunbar arrives at his isolated fort, survival and development become his priority – he establishes himself through sheer hard work and effort and is pleased with the progress he makes. He leaves behind the conflict, social ambition, greed and selfishness associated with society and there is a steady lessening of military mentality and protocol embodied by his gradual abandonment of uniform (he is entirely naked at his first encounter with Kicking Bird, surely suggesting Kicking Bird sees the man and not what he represents within the framework of society).



As he abandons military structure and conventions and he becomes increasingly self-reliant, he learns to appreciate the loyalty and friendship of his horse Cisco. He also develops a relationship with a wolf he names Two Socks, eventually gaining enough of the wolf’s trust to allow him to feed the wolf by hand, demonstrating not just his respect and admiration for nature but also his willingness and desire to work with it.

Through respect and consideration developed in his isolation, and by focusing on essentials rather than on social conventions, Dunbar learns to be at one with the land and wild life, and this attitude extends to social interaction.

The story of the evolution of Dunbar’s relationship with the Sioux may be somewhat idealised, but it displays and underlines the potential for good relations and friendship between people when this is based on mutual respect, understanding and tolerance, and when focus is maintained on what they have in common rather than what divides them.

Both Dunbar and the Sioux are wary and defensive on their first encounters, but neither resorts to violence and each shows respect for the other, though that trait is not necessarily shared by everyone. Dunbar’s driver was dismissive of all Indians, but Dunbar’s first impression of Kicking Bird (who is seen stroking the long grass in exactly the same way as Dunbar did earlier) is that he is a “magnificent looking fellow”, while the Sioux talk of white men in disparaging terms, but Kicking Bird respects Dunbar as he showed no fear at their first meeting. There are clearly similarities in character and attitude between Dunbar and Kicking Bird, despite having been brought up in apparently vastly different cultures.



We discover that Dunbar and the Sioux share the same core values, share adherence to similar familial and social structures, and share a closeness to nature. Dunbar’s first view of the Sioux encampment suggests beauty, peace, tranquillity and above all else, a oneness with nature with tepees set up next to a fast-flowing river, surrounded by green plains and alive with the hubbub of people happily going about their business of getting by.

Communication is achieved first through mime and then through language as Dunbar’s curiosity and willingness to learn enable him to gradually adopt the language of his friends. He does not insist on English or try to impose his culture on the Sioux. Rather, he adapts to a life and culture he finds appealing. Language is seen as nothing more than a tool (as opposed to a symbol of authority imposed on others), and loyalty to formative education and social influences can be abandoned in favour of something more personally satisfying and enriching.

Stand With A Fist (or Christine) has also adapted to her circumstances. Originally kidnapped by some Pawnee as a child after a massacre, Stands With A Fist accepted her lot, adapted and evolved, finding happiness and fulfilment with the Sioux, marrying, and even contemplating suicide after the death of her husband. She demands respect and within the Sioux social structure, she receives it.



As Dunbar shares experiences, adventures and life-threatening situations with the Sioux, he becomes an integral part of their community (and vice-versa), cemented by his romantic involvement with Stands With A Fist and his ever-increasing use of Lakota, the Sioux language. Belonging is not necessarily restricted to birth, but can be brought about by action and conviction. When Dunbar (who has been given the name Dances With Wolves due to his friendly interaction with Two Socks) marries Stands With A Fist in an Indian ceremony and in Lakota, his transformation is complete and he has abandoned his former life. He has found people who share his values, share his respect and admiration for nature and who, above all, are willing to share their lives with him. He is happy to leave behind his former existence in favour of a simpler yet more profoundly satisfying existence based principally on an appreciation and acceptance of nature.

Of course this idyll in isolation cannot last – the basis of drama is conflict and Dances With Wolves must face his past and his former culture.

Reinforcements reach Dunbar’s outpost and Dances With Wolves realises he has left behind his highly detailed (and lovingly maintained) journal of his experiences (and transformation), a journal that could provide potentially devastating information about the Sioux if it were to fall into the wrong hands. Dances With Wolves therefore sets off to retrieve it.

Dressed in Indian clothing, Dances With Wolves is captured, beaten and chained, and is to be transported to Fort Hayes for hanging as a traitor. The contrast between the conduct and attitudes of the soldiers and those shown by Dunbar on course to his transformation could not be more striking and informative. At the same time as underlining how far Dunbar has come in his sojourn out West, the conduct and attitudes of the soldiers do much to explain his desire to leave behind “civilisation”.



In contrast to Dunbar’s hesitant and wary, yet curious, respectful and positive initial meetings with the Sioux, the first reaction of the military is to fire upon their “enemy”, thoughtlessly killing Cisco in the process (in total contrast to the mutually meaningful development of friendship and loyalty between Dunbar and Cisco).



Dunbar’s lovingly kept history of his evolution is discovered by illiterate, immature and distinctly unprofessional young soldiers who proceed to use its pages as toilet paper, once more emphasising the distance between Dances With Wolves/Dunbar and his former colleagues who appear to be unwilling to entertain customs or cultures outside their own.

As Dances With Wolves is being transported for hanging, his captors spot Two Socks (loyally following his friend) and, purely for their own indulgence, they take undisciplined pot shots at him until he is fatally wounded, again in complete contrast with the patient development of trust and friendship between Dunbar and Two Socks, and Dunbar’s determined attempts to be at one with nature.



Dances With Wolves is saved by his Sioux friends who attack his captors with vigour and pride. They are fired by a sense of righteousness and moral outrage while the decidedly uninspired young soldiers defend themselves, but through fear and without conviction or belief in their cause.

This battle takes place in the middle of a river (an image of nature used frequently in the film) which may symbolise the flow of nature and constant change. Dances With Wolves enters the river on one side and leaves it on the other, a different man with no chance of going back. If his transformation was complete before, he has now broken all ties with his past. As though to emphasise this, there is a shot of his journal (containing the story of his life) floating away down river – the past is gone, now he must think of the future.

The film concludes with the departure of Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist in order to protect the rest of the tribe from vengeful action by the soldiers who continue to pursue Dances With Wolves/Dunbar.

There is much sadness as all are prevented from seeing out a peaceful and natural destiny due to the imposition of one culture on another. Much is made of being remembered and appreciation of the influence of friends on one’s life, and ultimately there is, I suppose, little more one can hope for.
“Dances With Wolves” is a rare feat in that it manages to combine poetic content with an engrossing storyline. The achingly human tale of John Dunbar’s transformation into Dances With Wolves is brilliantly told with beautiful photography, excellent pace and stunning music which captures the sweep and elegance of the surroundings while at the same time expressing the feelings of the characters. Huge kudos to Kevin Costner for managing to create such a heart-warming yet thought-provoking film, especially with liberal doses of humour mixed with the pathos.


Additional notes

After recently viewing “Dances With Wolves” for the first time in years, it struck me that the splendid photography and sweeping shots of stunning scenery merited investment in a Blu-Ray disc. As I picked up the disc in a local store, I looked along the row of Westerns and spotted "The Searchers", a film I’ve long admired. With both discs in hand, I realised both westerns were influenced by the Civil War, involved kidnap victims and solitary central figures involved with Indians. In my head, I sought other areas that might be worthy of comparison and quickly came to the conclusion that actually, “Dances With Wolves” is virtually the antithesis of “The Searchers”. While that term might be a bit strong, there are several points of diversity and contrast:

In “The Searchers”, Ethan remains virtually the same throughout the film – his character is examined and reasons for his mindset are only hinted at or alluded to. Much of the interpretation of his character remains in the mind of the viewer, but Ethan is very much an anti-hero who doesn’t really develop in the course of the film. We see the same dogged determination tinged with hints at personal trauma in a variety of situations, but it is his unwavering resolution that makes him admirable and useful.

In “Dances With Wolves”, on the other hand, John Dunbar develops, evolves and adapts almost constantly, and his reactions and reflections are shared with the audience so we can follow the various stages in his transformation. Dunbar is also undoubtedly heroic – his attitudes and actions are clearly intended to be inspirational.

Where Ethan is single-minded and reduces life to a single purpose, Dunbar is open-minded and desires new experiences.

Ethan is profoundly disgruntled and disappointed in life (and may have indulged in criminal activity) while Dunbar remains principled and generally positive, even idealistic.

In “The Searchers” there is no real exploration of Indian culture (beyond what helps them in their search for Ethan’s niece). The only Indian we really get to know is Scar, who is just as damaged as Ethan. In “Dances With Wolves” there is total exploration. Kicking Bird is as open as Dunbar and is as ready and willing to learn as Dunbar.

Ethan eventually finds the kidnapped Debbie and returns her to civilisation, while Dunbar meets Stands With A Fist and joins her in an attempt to get away from “civilisation”.

Stands With A Fist adapted and developed within Sioux culture, unlike the vision of the insane kidnappees presented in “The Searchers”.

Society is presented in the form of homely, hard-working and principled homesteaders in “The Searchers”, while Dunbar finds his militaristic society prejudiced, bigoted and uninspiring.

At the end of “The Searchers”, Ethan is virtually shunned by those he has supported, while Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist opt to leave their friends in order to protect them, much to the chagrin of their fellow tribesmen.

I do not necessarily contend that Michael Blake (author of “Dances With Wolves”) set out to produce a work which contrasted so markedly with Alan Le May’s “The Searchers”, but I do consider that comparison of the two works offers a valid and rich source of discussion.

My thanks for taking the time to read this page. I hope you found it of some value.
I can be contacted at stuartfernie@yahoo.co.uk .





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