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Free Online Study Guide-Shane by Jack Schaefer-BookNotes Summary/Synopsis
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After the visit from Wilson and Fletcher, there is an air of tension in the Fletcher household. Even young Bob feels the strain and asks his father, "What are you going to tell Fletcher tonight?" Although Joe remains silent, everyone knows the answer. When Fletcher returns, Joe will still not agree to sell his land.

After dinner, when her work is finished, Marian sits beside her husband and holds his hand. Shane cannot settle down. Filled with an unbearable torment, he leaves the house in a rush. Marian starts to follow him out, but decides against it. Instead, she falls into her husband's arms. Joe understands his wife's emotions. He realizes that she is truly fond of Shane and fights her emotions for him. He tells her, "I'm counting on you, Marian to help him win again. You can do it, if anyone can."

When Bob sees Shane coming out of his room later in the evening, he is dressed as he was the day when he arrived on the farm. He is also carrying his gun. Bob thinks his hero looks magnificent. Shane announces to Joe that he is going into town. Joe, sensing that he is going to find Fletcher, tries to dissuade him. He explains that Fletcher is not Shane's problem, and he cannot allow him to try and handle the problem alone. Shane, however, is firm and insistent. When Joe tries to stop him, Shane even hits him on the head with the barrel of his gun. Marian watches the entire argument and understands Shane's determination. Before he departs, Shane asks her to make Joe understand what he has done. Marian asks whether he is doing this only for her. Shane hesitates for a long moment and then says, "No." He then departs without a further word.


The Starrett household is filled with tension, for each family member, including young Bob, knows that Fletcher has to be faced before the night is over. Marian tries to comfort Joe by sitting next to him and tenderly holding his hand. Shane, however, can find no comfort. In anxiety, he finally races from the house. Marian thinks about following him out, but she decides against it and takes solace in her husband's arms.

When Bob spies Shane coming out of his room, he thinks his hero looks magnificent. He is dressed in his formal gunslinger attire, and his gun flashes against his trousers. Bob thinks he looks like the most dangerous man he has ever seen. Ironically, he feels Shane is the safest man that has ever been in their house.

Shane announces that he is going into town. It is clear that he plans to find Fletcher and handle the problem, for he does not want Joe to be endangered by him. Joe tries to dissuade Shane, saying that Fletcher is not his problem. Shane, however, is insistent. When Joe tries to stop him, Shane hits him over the head with a bottle. He tells Marian, who has been watching and understanding the argument, that she needs to explain everything to her husband. He says to her, "Tell him no man need be ashamed of being beat by Shane."



Bob cannot imagine missing this fight; therefore, he sneaks out of the house and follows his hero. When Shane spies him, he chastises Bob and tells him to go home. He then rushes away to lose the boy. Bob, however, is determined to see the fight. He creeps into town under cover and goes to the saloon, where he climbs on to a perch from where he can see everything that happens.

There is a hush in the saloon, almost as if everybody has been waiting for Shane's arrival. Wilson is present, and so is Chris -- with his hand in a sling and a smile on his face. When Shane enters, he asks where Fletcher is. Wilson answers by asking where Joe is. The stage is clearly set for the battle.

Shane and Wilson face each other squarely and without fear. Then with incredible swiftness, gunfire resounds through the saloon. When the shooting stops, Shane stands solidly. Wilson, however, has a useless right arm; blood can be seen flowing from under his sleeve. Not satisfied with simply injuring Wilson, Shane fires another shot, which hits Wilson in his chest and sends him toppling to the ground. Suddenly, another bullet is fired, and Shane is hit on the shoulder by a shot from Fletcher's gun. Shane swirls around and fires a return shot at Fletcher, who has been hiding in the balcony. Fletcher falls against the rail, jars it loose, and falls with it. Bob has watched the entire fight.

Satisfied with his victory, Shane leaves the saloon in dignity. Bob follows him out and calls to him. Shane stops to speak to the boy. With sadness in his voice, he explains that a man cannot be changed from his original mold. He has tried to leave gunfighting behind, but he felt that he had to fight against Wilson and Fletcher. Now he knows there is no place for him in the village; he cannot go back to the farm. He tells Bob to look after his parents. As he leaves town, he is a dark, lonely figure against the moonlight.


The climax of the story occurs in this chapter. Shane finally comes to grips with the fact that he cannot escape who he is. As an expert gunslinger, he knows that he must fight Fletcher and Wilson and spare Joe from tragedy. He also knows that his decision will prevent him from remaining on the Starrett farm, but he is willing to give up his comfortable, stable life in order to protect Marian, Joe, and Bob. It is a truly noble gesture.

The young Bob is not about to miss out on the action. When Shane leaves the house, Bob sneaks out and follows him. When Shane spies Bob, he scolds him and tells him to go home. Bob does not obey, but continues on towards town under cover. When he arrives, he finds a perch at the saloon so he can watch the fight that is sure to occur. The author has to have the boy present in the saloon, for he is the one telling the story from the first person point of view.

When Shane enters the saloon, everyone is sitting in silence awaiting his arrival. Shane looks around and asks where he can find Fletcher. Wilson answers by asking about Joe's whereabouts. Shane is a picture of calm and confidence. Now that he has made the decision to fight once again with his gun, he is no longer tortured by uncertainty or indecision. He is prepared to take care of Wilson and Fletcher once and for all.

Shane and Wilson square off against each other, and gunshots ring through the saloon. When it is silent again, Shane is standing unhurt, and Wilson is seriously wounded in his right arm. Not satisfied to only injure his opponent, Shane fires another shot into Wilson's chest, killing him. Then another shot is heard, which grazes Shane's shoulder. It was fired by Fletcher, who has been hiding in the balcony, awaiting the chance to kill Shane if needed. Before reacting, Shane mutters aloud, "I gave him his chance."

Shane then reacts quickly to the gunshot. He swirls around and successfully fires at Fletcher, who falls against the rail, breaking it and tumbling to his death. Satisfied with his victory, Shane walks out of the saloon with pride and dignity. Bob follows him out and calls to his hero. Shane stops and explains the situation to the boy, saying that a man cannot escape the mold from which he has come. He came into the town a gunslinger, and he must now depart from the town because he has used his gun again. He tells Bob, "There's no going back from a killing. The brand sticks and there's no going back." This time, however, the killing was to spare the Starretts from tragedy.

Unable to stay on the farm any longer, Shane leaves town without even saying goodbye to Marian and Joe. He simply tells Bob to take care of his parents. As he departs, he is a dark and lonely figure against the moonlight.

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