The Searchers

The Searchers Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What does Ethan giving his saber to his nephew imply?

    After the Confederacy was defeated in the Civil War, the Southern soldiers turned in their sabers as a sign of surrender. The fact that Ethan still has his saber is a statement that he has not nor will he surrender and he continues to believe in the ideals of the Confederacy after the war is over. This shows Ethan's stubbornness, his loyalty to the Confederate cause, and his refusal to go along with something just because everyone else is doing it.

  2. 2

    Why is Ethan opposed to Martin calling him "uncle?"

    Ethan rescued Marty when he was a young boy and brought him to live with the Edward family. Even so, Ethan is exceedingly prejudiced against Native Americans, and he knows that Marty is 1/8th Cherokee, and so will not accept him as a nephew. This detail creates a tension between the two men, and shows that Ethan is a racist when it comes to thinking about and accepting Native Americans.

  3. 3

    How does Ford use the doorway to both introduce and close the story on Ethan?

    The opening of the film shows the door to the Edwards family home being opened, as Ethan rides in from the desert to greet his family after years away. This image represents the fact that the family is opening its door to the wildness of the American West. Once she is returned home, Ford shoots an image similar to this opening image, as Laurie and the Jorgensens greet Ethan and Marty as they bring Debbie home. With Debbie returned to the family home, the film reaches its conclusion, and everyone walks towards the safety of the house. Ethan, however, remains outside, and plans to keep moving, a restless soul who will never settle down.

  4. 4

    What is Ethan's change of heart in the film?

    Ethan is a rather stubborn and immovable character throughout the film. However, by the end, he changes his mind in an important way. When he and Marty initially see that Debbie is living with the Comanche tribe, evidently content in her role as one of Scar's wives, Ethan is disgusted and believes that she is better off dead than integrated with the Comanches. When the Rangers go to rescue Debbie, Marty goes ahead in hopes of convincing her to willingly come back to white society, but as far as he knows, Ethan is set on killing his niece to save her from the humiliation of miscegenation. In a definitive moment, Debbie finds herself in the arms of Ethan. Instead of killing her, however, Ethan changes his mind and simply says, "Let's go home, Debbie." He changes his mind about killing his niece, and decides that she is worth saving after all.

  5. 5

    Explain Mrs. Jorgensen's monologue about the white settlers being "Texicans."

    Mrs. Jorgensen gives a monologue in the middle of the film that expresses the broader sentiments of white settlers in the West. She discusses the fact that the land is still wild and untamed, that there are still many dangers to living in Texas, but that they are entitled to settle the land for themselves. She suggests that the white people who have chosen to settle there are accepting both a dubious fate and an isolating existence, one that is more transitional than established, but that will pave the way for other white settlers to have an easier time in the future. "Some day this country's gonna be a fine, good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come," she says, remarking on the sacrifices they are making in order to create a better tomorrow.