The Searchers

The Searchers Summary and Analysis of Part 3


While Marty takes a bath inside, Laurie comes into the room and examines his clothes. "What are you getting so red in the face about, I got brothers, ain't I?" Laurie says. Before she leaves the room, she teasingly pours a bucket of water over Marty's head.

Out on the porch, Ethan tells Jorgensen that they kept track of the Comanche until the blizzards started. "I got your boy killed," Ethan tells the Jorgensens, sadly, but Lars insists that it's America that killed Brad. Mrs. Jorgensen says that they are Texicans, and says, "A Texican is nothing more than a human man, way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for 100 more, but I don't think it'll be forever. Someday this country's gonna be a fine, good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come."

As they go back in the house, Mrs. Jorgensen tells Ethan he will sleep in the bunkhouse, and Jorgensen realizes there's a letter that came for Ethan last winter, brought by Charlie McCorry. Ethan reads the letter, before showing it to Mrs. Jorgensen. Along with the letter is a piece of calico, which Mrs. Jorgensen recognizes as coming from one of Debbie's aprons.

Laurie brings Marty some clothes, as he shivers near a fire. She kisses Marty before leaving the room. Left alone with Marty, Ethan tells the boy that Jorgensen has been running his cattle with his own cattle. "You mean Debbie's cattle," Marty says. Ethan tells him that he is pushing on with the mission the next day, and Marty wants to join him.

"She's no kin to you at all," Ethan says brusquely, and suggests that he stay with the Jorgensens. Marty gets angry, and insists that he come along with Ethan on the mission, before rolling over onto the bed.

The next morning, Marty kisses Laurie passionately. She kisses him back and he says that he thinks they ought to start "going steady." Laurie gets suddenly angry, suggesting that they have been going steady since they were three years old. She then tells him that Ethan left already to go look for Debbie. She pleads with Marty not to go, saying that he will not be of any help to Ethan.

"That's what I'm afraid of, Laurie. Him finding her. Oh I've seen his eyes at the very word 'Comanche,'" Marty says, expressing his worry about Ethan going crazy on the Comanche. Laurie says she was hoping to keep Marty there, before showing Marty the letter that came for Ethan. Marty can hardly read it, so Laurie reads it to him: it's a letter from a man named Futterman saying that he knows where the Comanche have gone.

Marty asks for Laurie's help, and she gives him her own horse, Sweet Face. "You take him and welcome, but don't you count on finding me here when you get back," she says, angrily. She tells him she's been waiting for him for two years and she isn't cut out to be an "old maid." Marty apologizes and gets on the horse to go to Futterman's.

At Futterman's trading post, Ethan confronts Futterman about the dress he bought. Futterman pulls out the dress and reminds him that he needs a reward in exchange for information. "You'll get the reward when I find her and if she's still alive," Ethan says, and gives him some money in the meantime to talk.

"A young buck fetched it in last summer. Said it belonged to a captive child of Chief Scar," says Futterman. Futterman offers to let them stay, but Ethan doesn't want to. Outside, at a campfire, Marty asks Ethan if he thinks they're being followed, on account of the horses acting nervous. Ethan throws more logs on the fire, much to Marty's chagrin, then puts a blanket over him. As Marty falls asleep, Ethan makes a dummy of his own sleeping body, then wanders back behind a rock.

Suddenly, Futterman climbs up on a nearby rock and shoots at the dummy that Ethan has made, waking Marty. From behind a nearby rock, Ethan shoots Futterman, who falls down dead. Ethan goes to Futterman and takes the money he gave him out of the dead man's pockets. At this point, Marty gets angry that Ethan used him as bait, and Ethan tells him they ought to get out of town.

Meanwhile, Charlie McCorry arrives at Jorgensen's with a letter from Marty for Laurie. Mr. Jorgensen, Mrs. Jorgensen, and Charlie all gather around the hearth and ask Laurie to read the letter. At first, Laurie is private, but then she agrees to read it aloud, while Charlie strums his guitar. The letter states that Marty and Ethan are still tracking down the Comanche, that Futterman is dead, and that Scar is the chief that has Debbie.

As Laurie reads the letter, we see images of Marty and Ethan's exploits on the trail. Marty approaches a tribe of Native Americans, and trades with them. The "biggest sellers" with the Comanche are bowler hats and top hats, and we see Marty putting a top hat on one of the tribe member's heads. Ethan rides up and tells Marty he has a lead, impatiently telling Marty to mount his horse and join him.

On the trail, Ethan tells Marty that he heard a group of hostile Comanche came through the area less than a week ago. Suddenly, they realize that a Comanche woman wearing a bowler hat is following on a horse. She smiles coyly at Marty, who insists he does not want the blanket he bought anymore. Ethan clarifies to Marty that he didn't buy a blanket, but a wife; the woman thinks she is wedded to Marty.

The scene shifts back to the Jorgensens' house, where Laurie reads Marty's account of his accidental purchase of a wife, a Comanche "squaw." Angered, Laurie throws down the letter, but Jorgensen picks it up and tells her to keep reading.

We see Marty, Ethan, and the Comanche woman on the trail. Marty tries to explain to the Comanche woman that he does not want to be married, and Ethan translates from Comanche that the woman's name is "Wild Goose Flying in the Night Sky." Marty goes off and covers himself with a blanket, and the Comanche woman comes and lies down next to him. Angrily, Marty kicks her down the hill. As Ethan laughs, Marty scolds him and tells him to ask the Comanche woman where Scar is.

They go over to the woman and question her about Scar's whereabouts. The woman looks scared and runs away hastily.

The next day, Ethan finds an arrow made out of rocks and notes that the Comanche woman is gone and has moved in the direction of the arrow. "Maybe we ought to follow her," Marty says, but Ethan walks away annoyed. In his letter to Laurie, Marty suggests that perhaps the Comanche woman left more signs, but they never found out because it snowed for the next week.


Buried beneath all their suffering, the white pioneers in the film harbor a deep belief in the American dream. After Ethan references the fact that Brad got killed on the expedition, Jorgensen begins to go on a rant against America, but Mrs. Jorgensen interrupts him to suggest that they are suffering so that one day, America can be a "fine, good place to be." She implies that white settlers in the American West are enduring the difficulties of sharing space with indigenous tribes, so that one day, more white people can live there. This belief is at the core of the settlers' ethic, and Mrs. Jorgensen basically outlines a simplified version of "manifest destiny."

It does not take long after Ethan lays down his pack at Jorgensen's that he receives another clue about Debbie. A letter that arrived the previous winter contains a piece of calico that was on one of Debbie's aprons. Ethan resolves to keep on the search for the girl, and can only stay one night at the Jorgensens. For all his stubbornness and rough manners, Ethan Edwards possesses a determination of spirit and a tenacity to keep going that is part of what makes him a "searcher," as the title suggests.

In the midst of the drama of the plot is a love story between Marty and Laurie. Laurie, the Jorgensen's daughter, is in love with Marty, and believes that they have been going steady since they were children. Marty, on the other hand, is a little more clueless, and only upon arriving at the Jorgensens does he realize that there is a connection between them. Their romance is quaint and sweet, especially against the background of the horrors and drama of the rest of the plot.

In his conversation with Laurie about Ethan, we see that Marty's desire to travel with the veteran is not simply about his desire to save Debbie, but also about his fears about Ethan's racial prejudice. He says that he has seen how angered and crazed Ethan can get about the Comanche, and hints that he wants to go alongside him to make sure that the old cowboy doesn't get out of hand. In this moment, Marty becomes an advocate for the Native Americans; he seeks to balance out Ethan's racist ire with some of his own even-handedness, and for the first time, we see someone hold Ethan accountable.

Director John Ford splits the narrative into two components in this section, when he shows the viewer both Marty and Ethan's experience, as well as Laurie and the Jorgensens' experience of reading Marty's account. The tone of these narratives switches quickly between comic and dramatic; one moment we see light-hearted depictions of trade between Marty and the Comanche or comic scenes of Laurie learning about Marty's accidental Comanche wife, the next Ethan and Marty are faced with the fearful promise of a run-in with "Scar." This back and forth mirrors the white characters' prejudicial attitudes towards the Comanche themselves: one moment the Comanche people are the butt of the joke, the next they are the fearsome villains.