Shane : Summary: Chapter 11
Fletcher’s men now leave the homesteaders alone. Fletcher himself has gone on another trip out of the area. Shane and Joe, however, remain wary. In the evenings, they stay in the house rather than sit on the porch. They both know that Fletcher will return and there will be more trouble. More homesteaders are ready to move into the valley if Fletcher fails to drive the current ones out. Joe believes that Fletcher feels he must get rid of them or he himself will be forced out of the valley.
The next day Lew Johnson and Henry Shipstead come by the Starretts’ house with the news that Fletcher has returned and has brought another man with him, named Stark Wilson. Wilson, Johnson discovered from the bartender at the saloon, was a gunfighter with a bad reputation. He had apparently killed three men in Kansas and probably more elsewhere. Shane realizes the urgency of the situation, guessing that Wilson is going to provoke one of the more quick-tempered homesteaders into a gun battle. But before anyone can act, Frank Torrey rides up with the news that Ernie Wright has been shot and killed.
Torrey tells his story. He and Ernie Wright had been in the saloon. Fletcher was there with Wilson. Fletcher told Wright that he wanted his land and would pay a fair price for it. Wright was angered by the offer, which was not the first one he has received from Fletcher. He refused. Wilson intervened, saying he was Fletcher’s new business agent. He insulted Wright, calling him a half-breed, but Wright denied his mother was Indian and impetuously accused Wilson of being a liar. This was a challenge that no man could step back from, and Wilson, who knew exactly what he was doing in provoking Wright, drew his gun first, killing Wright. He knew he could claim that he shot in self-defense.
By now Jim Lewis and Ed Howells, two of the homesteaders, have heard the news and have arrived at the Starretts’ house. Shipstead says that Wilson will try the same thing on each of them. Lewis is worried because he knows that none of them are a match for Wilson’s deadly skill with a gun. He calls the shooting of Wright murder, not self-defense.
Shane agrees it was murder, but he does not have much time for the other homesteaders. He says Fletcher will not bother with them now he has made his aims known. Instead he will go straight for Joe, because Joe is the strongest of all of them. Shane tells Joe that Fletcher will likely send Wilson after him, and that Wilson will choose a public place for the confrontation, so there will be many witnesses. Joe says he wants to wait a little while until he sees how the people in the town are reacting to events before he makes a decision about what to do.
Joe gives every impression of being willing to meet the challenge, although Shane tells him not to go the very next day to Ernie Wright’s house to sort out his things. That’s what Fletcher might be counting on. Shane goes outside, and Joe tells Marian that he regrets having got Shane involved in such a situation, because he knows Shane was trying to make a new start and break with his past. Because of that, Joe says they should just sell the farm and move on. Bob intervenes, saying that Shane would never run away from anything. Marian agrees with Bob. She says Shane would never forgive them if they ran away. She insists that they stay where they are and that things will work out well. Joe agrees to stay. He says that perhaps they can wait Fletcher out or maybe the rancher will overplay his hand.
The arrival of the gunfighter Wilson in town means that a final showdown is inevitable. It is also inevitable that Shane will play a part in it. He cannot walk away from it. So his attempt to get away from the kind of life he led in the past has failed. The chapter emphasizes once more that Joe cannot succeed by himself. He needs Shane. This is true at the symbolic as well as the literal level. If Joe represents the civilizing force, Shane represents the violence and brute force that may still sometimes be necessary, at this stage, for civilization to grow.