Some of the most memorable Westerns revolve around a quest or journey motif, sometimes made by the lone hero or sometimes by a band of travelers. In The Searchers (1956), Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) sets out to find a family member kidnapped by Indians. In Stagecoach (1939), a group of varied pilgrims cross the wide basin of Monument Valley in a stagecoach, attempting to elude warring Indians. As with traditional quests throughout literature, the quest in a Western usually involves movement from innocence to experience, naivete to awareness. Ritualistic trials must be passed before the goal can be attained. Inevitably, the main hero undergoes major character change, as in Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950).

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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