There’s No “I” In Heroes
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, directed by John Ford in 1962, displays a tremendous amount of heroism throughout the entirety of the film. Difficulty arises when trying to discern the true hero of the film, either Tom Doniphon, played by John Wayne, or Ransom Stoddard, played by James Stewart. Both characters exude heroism in completely different ways. Tom Doniphon is the rugged, stubborn, macho cowboy from the west who survives through his shooting skills. Ransom Stoddard is the “play-it-by-the-rules”, compassionate lawyer from the east who survives through his ability to apply the law. The film’s unique dynamic of a split-hero role is easily seen through the characteristics of Tom Doniphon and Ransom Stoddard.
Let us first begin by defining a “hero”. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary a hero is, “typically a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage; bravery”. Throughout the film it is easy to see that both Doniphon and Stoddard fit the description in their own unique ways, while also sharing some of these traits.
Tom Doniphon fits the role of the western hero perfectly. Doniphon is known to the town and its authorities as the only person capable of keeping the villains in check and enforcing justice on his own terms. It is clear to everyone that Tom Doniphon backs down to no one, especially Liberty Valance, the town’s local trouble-maker. One of the first scenes that involves Doniphon’s brave, stand-up ways is at the local restaurant. Liberty Valance trips the waiter, Ransom Stoddard, causing him to drop Doniphon’s steak. Doniphon orders Valance to pick it up. It is clear that if Valance doesn’t obey, there will be a price to pay. Here is a clear example of the fearlessness Tom Doniphon exudes. Even though Doniphon knows Liberty is capable of violence, he stands firm with a hand on his gun! The rugged westerner follows a moral code and the ideals of the “Old West”, in which life counts...