The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ is both optimistic and pessimistic. It is unsatisfactory to call the film plain optimistic, which it was in the middle of the movie, as the beginning but more so the end was pessimistic. The middle of the film was optimistic because it showed the joyous personalities of the people and about ten minutes from the end of Ransom Stoddard’s flashback, film reached it’s climax when Liberty Valance was killed. On the pessimistic side of the film however, is what has become of Shinbone after Liberty’s death. When Liberty died, so too did every body living his way, which included the film’s unsung hero, Tom Doniphon. When Stoddard came back to Shinbone, the town was definitely less lively, due to modern inventions such as the telegraph, the steam trains and possibly the telephone. This is the cost that Shinbone had to pay for modernizing – liveliness.
The movie came down to liberty and violence verses law, order and freedom of speech, in which the latter prevailed, the latter being Ransom Stoddard. The sad thing was that with Liberty’s death died those living under the law that he lived, too. A prime example of this was Tom Doniphon. He was well respected mainly for his powerful presence and his ability not to be manipulated by anyone including Liberty Valance. However, when Senator Stoddard came back for Doniphon’s funeral, no one knew who Doniphon was. He died with Liberty. The even sadder thing was that he killed his own self in a sense, as he killed Liberty. The audience was meant to feel this, though as the free and violent way of living can be unorthodox and can be undone easier than law and order, in this case it was undone by itself. His ways would have died out over time, however, as modernism does spread quickly, but he was the favorite of Shinbone, he had a girl and a nice house was nearly ready for him and Halle to move into but lost it all – because his way of living didn’t prevail.
The place of Liberty Valance’s death was no coincidence. He died outside the saloon under the banner, which stated Mass Meeting – Elections’. When Liberty died, this allowed for meetings to be held, elections to take place and all the other things that a modern society would do. Normally modernism passes between states that are next to each other, but not in this case. Stoddard was robbed while going somewhere and accidentally stayed in Shinbone, and spread modernism from there.
In conclusion I’d like to point out that this film is one that is filled to the brim with key issues and so on, and it is difficult to absorb all these in the one viewing. From what I’ve heard, nearly all of the movies directed by John Ford are relevant to American History, and this one is no different. He shows how someone’s life can be built up on a lie. Take the lie out that it is built up on, and then the rest of the building comes crashing down. The film is both optimistic and pessimistic and it sways between the two more often than other films like it, and as a result is unpredictable and enjoyable to viewer.