Shane (novel)

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First edition
AuthorJack Schaefer
CountryUnited States
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages214 p. (hardback first edition) & 119 p. (paperback edition)
ISBN978-0-553-27110-2 (paperback edition)

Shane is a western novel by Jack Schaefer published in 1949. It was initially published in 1946 in three parts in Argosy magazine, and originally titled Rider from Nowhere.[1] The novel has been printed in seventy or more editions,[2] and translated into over 30 languages,[1] and was adapted into the 1953 film starring Alan Ladd.[3]


The story is set in 1889 Wyoming, when the Wyoming Territory was still open to the Homestead Act of 1862.[1] It is narrated by a homesteader's son, Bob Starrett. The original unclaimed land surrounding the Starretts' homestead had been used by a cattle driver named Luke Fletcher before being claimed by Bob's father, Joe Starrett, along with 12 other homesteaders. Fletcher had settled there first, although he could only claim 160 acres (650,000 m2) as a homestead. He wants to expand his herd; homesteads in the area would hinder its growth.[1]

The title character, Shane, is a mysterious stranger who rides into and then out of the lives of the Starrett family, "a man who seemed to come from nowhere and appeared equally determined to pass on to nowhere."[4] He is typically quiet, always silent about his past. He does not wear his gun, and yet everyone seems to understand that he is a dangerous man.[5] Joe Starrett hires Shane as a hand on his farm, and Shane puts aside his handsome Western clothes and buys dungarees. He then helps the homesteaders to avoid intimidation by Fletcher and his men, who try to get them to abandon their farms. With Joe Starrett's leadership and Shane's help, the farmers resist Fletcher. Shane is forced into a gun battle.[1][5]


  • Shane – the protagonist, a mysterious gunslinger who enters into the life of Joe Starrett and his family and carves a place for himself in their hearts. Although he tries to leave his gunslinging past behind, refusing to even carry a gun, he decides to fight Fletcher in order to save Starrett's farm. "Shane was dangerous, but he was good."[4]
  • Bob Starrett – Joe Starrett's son. He is eleven years old. He is the narrator. In the words of author Jack Schaeffer's son Jon, the character of Bob is, "a boy who thinks [mysterious stranger Shane] is a God."[4]
  • Joe Starrett – Bob's father. A former cattle driver, now a homesteader and a farmer. He is the unofficial leader of the local homestead farmers.
  • Marian Starrett – Joe's wife. She loves her husband, but also comes to love Shane.
  • Luke Fletcher – the antagonist. He is an open range rancher, set on purchasing or stealing all the land rights from the homesteaders and farmers. When the homesteaders refuse to sell, Fletcher resorts to intimidation and deadly force.
  • Chris – one of Fletcher's cowhands, a young man who intimidates the homesteaders and takes on Shane.
  • Stark Wilson – gunslinger hired by Fletcher to intimidate the homesteaders and kill those who refuse to sell their land.
  • Ernie Wright – fellow homesteader, aligned with the Starretts.
  • Mr. Grafton – general store owner who witnesses the fight with Shane involved.
  • Will Atkey – the bartender at Grafton's general store.[1][5]


One of the most obvious themes of Shane is the tension between the fence-favoring homesteaders and the open-range cattle man Luke Fletcher. In the book, the homesteaders are shown as the small-time operators threatened by a powerful, wealthy man with a large herd of cattle and a government beef contract. In later years, author Jack Schaefer would regret this aspect of his novel, that Shane was, "aiding the advance of settlement, giving his push to the accelerating onrush of the very civilization I find deserving contempt."[4]

On a personal level, the story deals with a man's attempt to leave behind a violent past and the decisions he must take when the homesteaders who have befriended him are faced with danger beyond their experience.[6]

The story, seen through the eyes of a young boy, is also a coming of age story. The boy is puzzled by Shane and his hidden violence, who is beyond his sheltered experience, but comes to trust, love, and venerate him.[7] Times book editor Jack Miles wrote that “What makes ‘Shane’ different, what makes it a classic among Westerns, is that it is a story told by a boy. Schaefer understood...that the Western is an American boy's dream of the world as it should be.”[8]

Shane also demonstrates Schaefer’s strong focus on the social bonds between men, as in the scene when Shane and Joe Starrett uproot an old tree stump. The section ends, “an old stump on its side with root ends making a strange pattern against the glow of the sun sinking behind the far mountains and two men looking over it into each other’s eyes.”[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Richard S. Wheeler has written of Shane and its author: "This was Jack Schaefer’s first novel. He preferred in later years to write stories less mythic and more attuned to the real West.... Although he is little known, and the volume of his work is small, he surely ranks as one of this nation’s greatest."[10] The novel has frequently been honored by the Western Writers of America as one of the best of the modern genre.[4]

Marc Simmons wrote, "By any standard of measurement, Jack Schaefer's Shane rates as a classic in the literature of the American West.[11] William Nauenberg wrote in The Objective Standard that "Shane by Jack Schaefer is an invigorating tale of heroism that celebrates the fundamental power of the good in human life and its ability to defeat evil."[12]


Argosy Version[edit]

Shane was originally published by Argosy, an American pulp magazine. It was published as Rider from Nowhere, a three-part serial, beginning in July 1946. This version was also somewhat shorter. Most notably, it did not include the famous early scene in which Shane and Joe Starrett bond while working together to remove a large stump.[4] Harry Steeger, the editor of Argosy at that time, commented later that when the manuscript arrived, "[it] was so badly typed, single spaced all the way through, dog-eared looking and altogether amateurish in appearance, it should have been returned at once. But an editor started to read it, stuck with it and couldn't put it down until the last word."[13]

Houghton Mifflin[edit]

In 1949, Houghton Mifflin issued a revised and expanded version of the Argosy stories.[2]

Film and TV adaptations[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Wheeler, Richard S. (26 December 2007). "Shane by Jack Schaefer". Saddlebums Western Review. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Marc Simmons - A Salute to Shane". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  3. ^ a b c Andrew, Geoff. "Shane", Time Out Film Guide, Time Out Guides Ltd., London, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Nott, Robert. "Introduction." Shane. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1949, 2017. Kindle Edition.
  5. ^ a b c Schaefer, Jack (2017). Shane. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico. pp. Kindle Edition.
  6. ^ James, George (1991-01-27). "Jack Schaefer, Author of 'Shane' And Other Westerns, Dies at 83 (Published 1991)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  7. ^ "'Shane' Author Jack Schaefer Dies at Age 83". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  8. ^ "Jack Schaefer; His First Novel Was 'Shane'". Los Angeles Times. 1991-01-27. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  9. ^ Boyle, Molly (9 March 2018). "Writer from nowhere: How Jack Schaefer found the West in himself". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  10. ^ B, Gonzalo (2007-12-26). "Saddlebums Western Review: Richard S. Wheeler: SHANE by Jack Schaefer". Saddlebums Western Review. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  11. ^ Schaefer, Jack (1984). Shane: The Critical Edition. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. pp. Introduction. ISBN 978-0803291423.
  12. ^ "Review:Shane by Jack Schaefer". The Objective Standard. 2020-06-18. Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  13. ^ Mullen (1955), p. 38.
  14. ^ IMDb – "Shane" (1953) Retrieved 2015-08-09
  15. ^ TCM Movie Database – "Shane" (1953) Retrieved 2015-08-09
  16. ^ TCM Movie Database – "Pale Rider" (1985) Retrieved 2015-08-09
  17. ^ "Movie Review: Steel Dawn (1987)". The New York Times. United States. November 6, 1987. Retrieved 6 Oct 2015.
  18. ^ What was that Western Movie in Logan? at, retrieved March 13, 2017.


External links[edit]