Michael Blake’s book Dances with Wolves reveals a very exciting story of the territorial war between settlers and Native Americans. The book has a Western setting depicting a frontier from a Native American’s point of view. Blake invites the reader to experience the regular pressure that had initially been placed on American by Settlers. John Dunbar, the major character, is a lieutenant who had initial sympathy for the settlers, links with a tribe belonging to Native Americans. This essay analyses Lieutenant Dunbar’s traits that made him abandon America’s allegiance and be part of the Comanches.
Dunbar is a brave man after deciding to be a leader of a troop in a civil war. Instead of having one of his legs face amputation, he decides to take a horse to war and ride next to his enemies where they have a full view of him. He goes into the enemy’s frontline so as to pronounce and face his death. The army belonging to the Union attacks as the confederates gets distracted by the ride Dunbar has decided to take. The war ends as a confederate riot. Dunbar survives the battle and they win the war and Dunbar is considered a hero. His creative nature is evident when he decides to distract the enemies from his troop. He also defends the village and sees them to victory following attacks from a rival tribe known as Pawnee.
He is smart when he requests for a position on western frontier, though it is deserted. He is awarded the horse that carried him during the war and his posting as a gift. As a result of his brave trait, he does not leave the island, and he decides to live alone with his horse. His self-assured nature gives him the courage to live in the island though it looked deserted. After arriving at the new post, he finds the frontier in disrepair and abandoned. He is opportunistic of giving “hope” to the island and makes a “life” out of the island. He begins restocking and rebuilding the fort and prefers the solitude that has been accorded to him.
Dunbar being a friendly and a social person creates friendship with the people of the tribe found in the frontier, where he finds a woman raised by Indians despite her white race. He gets attracted by the customs and the lifestyle of the island dwellers and he begins spending a lot of time with the tribes. For being lovable person he earns respect from the island dwellers and is seen as a hero when he locates buffaloes that were migrating and volunteers to participate in hunting the buffaloes. In addition to this, his befriending nature also extends to animals after he forms some form of friendship with a wolf that he names “Two Socks” (Blake 120). His non-conversant nature allows him to interact freely with the tribes in the island and get rid of his white-man’s lifestyle. He changed his clothing, identity and mindset. He further befriends and forges relationship that turns out to be romantic with a white woman from the frontier tribe.
Dunbar is realistic depicting high intelligence in the way he manages his life as well as the life of others. Due to his sympathetic character, Dunbar rescues the white woman who was injured. His compassion attribute causes him to understand the pain tribe is experiencing when they are confronted with the Pawnee community. He also portrays a cooperative nature when he decides to work together with the community in times of war and when hunting for the buffaloes. His cooperative nature is also evident when gets along with the tribe as well as with its culture. Dunbar is loyal and has a citizenship-type of a character when he turns down the offer by Americans to serve in their army. The American army requests Dunbar to serve as an interpreter in helping them understand the local tribe’s language. When he rejects their offer, he is put on trial, and charged for treason, and they transport him back to the east as a prisoner. His courageous nature is also seen when he does not falter even after being threatened with deployment to face trial charges. Dunbar’s excellence nature is attributed to the victory his accomplices have witnessed. Dunbar is also industrious seen in the way he reconstructs the island and tries to reshape it from its ruin. His leadership skill allows him to lead his troops twice in a battle where they did not concede defeat. He showed them the “way”, and this influenced his troops to follow his example.
In conclusion, the shift portrayed in the story is what makes the story so unique and unusual, as the antagonist turns out to be the protagonist. As the story begins, Blake depicts the Indians as protagonists after the warriors originating from the Pawnee tribe murder Timmons, who was Dunbar’s escort. This makes a reader have an impression of how all Native Americans are cruel and evil savages. As the book progresses, Indians turn out to be the protagonists after Comanche reconciles with Dunbar, and Blake describes them as colonization’s victims. The love twist that unfolds between Lieutenant Dunbar and his lover makes this book worth reading. Dunbar has various character traits that enable him to “fit” and accept the Comanche tribe and join them. Dunbar’s bravery trait made his troop win the war and as a result, he was positioned at the frontier as a gift accorded to him. This accord made him experience a new whole tribe in a deserted fort. His leadership skill “blends” well with his bravery character, in leading the two groups to victory during the war. His bravery nature is one of the things that attract the Comanches to him and because of this he is awarded respect. First and foremost, he leads the Comanches to victory against their foes the Pawnees, and he later joins them in the hunt for the migrating buffaloes. His cooperative nature is another attribute he depicts after agreeing to join hand with the community in searching for the buffaloes. He has a friendly nature seen in the way he befriends the community, a wolf and the woman whom he turns out to have feelings for resulting in a romantic relationship. As the story comes to an end, Dunbar shows the loyalty and the citizenship after turning down the American army’s offer to together with them in interpreting the Comanches language. Despite the fact that the American army threatened him with trial charges for trespass and treason, Dunbar does not yield to their request. They then transfer him to the eastern side where he is to face trial, but he is rescued by the Sioux.
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An idealistic Union soldier with a romantic dream of the fast-vanishing frontier is rewarded for an act of heroic gallantry in the Civil War with the posting of his request, a remote fort in the Dakotas. There he is befriended by a tribe of the Lakota Sioux and goes native, only to be caught up in the encroachment of the white man, seeing the twilight fall on the great horse culture of the Plains.
Kevin Costner's directorial debut was ambitious, epic and, most worryingly, a western — chunks of it actually in Lakota Sioux with English subtitles — at a time when only Clint Eastwood was daring the unfashionable grand old genre with any success. Industry wags gleefully predicting disaster dubbed it "Kevin's Gate". Costner had the last laugh in a personal, artistic and commercial triumph when it rode away with seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Director. It was the first western to win Best Picture since Cimarron (1931).
Dances With Wolves is a captivating adventure and wistful elegy that sprung from a fascination Costner and his buddy, writer Michael Blake, shared with an entire Baby Boomer generation who grew up with the cavalry and Indians in Saturday matinees and on primetime TV but were later affected by the 60s-born movements for Native American rights and the environment. Its South Dakota locations and exciting action sequences were ideally suited to Australian cinematographer Dean Semler's talents, the Mad Max veteran at home with both awesome landscapes and rootin' tootin' action. Together they created a lyrical, warmly evocative prairie odyssey which refuses to stint on rich detail, as in the time and space given to Dunbar's strange journey to the abandoned fort and his introduction to the Indians — by stages his terror, curiosity and notions of formal diplomacy giving way to his complete captivation by his feather-decked neighbours and their way of life.
As director Costner was sufficiently savvy to take lingering elegiac, mystical, sentimental, comic or romantic chapters in Dunbar's story to a series of vivid action climaxes. The film draws you in from the outset on a Tennessee battlefield with wounded Lt. John J. Dunbar, courting death, galloping straight across a line of Confederate riflemen, finishing his wild ride on trusty steed Cisco unscathed. And he does it again, his arms outstretched in a sacrificial attitude, unwittingly inspiring a Union rout of the Southerners and becoming "a living hero". Conventional Indian attacks are largely avoided since the film is specifically a love affair with "The People", portrayed as proud, quick and humorous: "I had never known a people so eager to laugh, so devoted to family, so dedicated to each other. And the only word that came to mind was harmony."
McDonnell's Stands With A Fist remembers in a flashback the massacre on her family's homestead. The muleteer is slaughtered by a Pawnee hunting party looking for some action. And Dunbar/Dances With Wolves' ordeal when ultimately he is taken prisoner by an Army detachment is ended by an archetypally whooping band of braves in a gruesome flurry of arrows and tomahawks — with the unique distinction that it is the Indians who are the good guys charging to the rescue and the blue coats who are the savage baddies. Otherwise the most memorable action set pieces are in keeping with the majestic pace of the film. The earth-shaking passing of the buffalo that awakens Dunbar to a dreamlike glimpse of the mighty herd leads to the stately buffalo hunt. Beginning with ritual body painting and horse decorating, building to the gallop into the racing herd, the chase with its whoosh of arrows, whump of spears, cracks of Dunbar's rifle and thuds of crashing buffalo, Dunbar's rescue of the boy Smiles A Lot (Nathan Lee Chasing Horse) from a wounded beast's charge and the eating of its heart is an extraordinary eight-minute sequence that is spectacular but also furthers the story by elaborating the significance of what they are doing.
The same is true of the ferocious Pawnee assault on the village. The Lakota war party away and the raiders spotted, Dances With Wolves casts off Dunbar by giving his Army rifles to his friends and leading the frantic defence: "As I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was." A year after its release Costner presented the "special edition" version of Dances With Wolves with nearly an hour of additional material. Almost all of this is seamlessly inserted snippets of dialogue here, a bit more snogging there, and still more ravishing scenery. The most important "new" scene is Dunbar's discover that the Lakota have caught, tortured and slain the ignoble white buffalo hunters. But there if no new major action scene and the added length, while handsome and involving for devotees, does drag the pace. Action fans are likely to be happier with the arguably superior, inarguably likeable, original "short" version.
The story of how he goes native, comes by his special name (capering with the wolf he calls Two Socks) and finds himself is as enchanting a western as ever was.