This term is usually associated with Richard Slotkin. The myth of the West originated from early Puritans’missions into the wilderness in order to shine the light of civilization. In the wilderness we rediscover our barbaric nature, which must be confronted and purged through violence. Violence thus regenerates civilization; it purifies and refines. It returns us, as Theodore Roosevelt asserted, to our essential Anglo-Saxon origins. Desultory and brutal as it is, necessary violence regenerates us as a civilized people. Thus, when Blaze Tracy (William S. Hart) in Hell’s Hinges (1916) stares down the barrel of the last bad guy with the town being destroyed in a flaming inferno, we know that his gunplay serves a purpose of purifying utter savagery and returning us to our uncorrupted essential natures.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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