Literary Frolic Fridays: August, 2019 Edition. Similarities between Alan LeMay’s The Searchers & Homer’s The Odyssey

What do “Amos,” “Ethan” and Odysseus have in common? Quite a lot.

The Character of “Amos” from Alan LeMay’s novel The Searchers was transformed/reworked by screenwriter Frank S. Nugent’s into the character of “Ethan:” “Ethan” is “Amos” on steroids. Scholar Kirtsen Day has discovered that both “Amos” and “Ethan” share traits and experiences with Odysseus from Homer’s The Odyssey.

All three men are:
Heroes, natural/instinctive leaders

Former soldiers (Odysseus – fought for Athens in the Trojan War; “Amos” and “Ethan” – fought for the Confederate States of America in the war between the states)

Utilized by their authors to epitomize a “civilized” society (i.e. Athens or the United States) fighting an “un-Athenian,” barbarically uncivilized one (aka the Trojans or the Comanche)

Wanderers on long, difficult quests; not homebodies (either by choice or circumstance): having saved his crew and himself by blinding the cannibal Polyphemus, Odysseus angered the god’s father, Poseidon, who turned their short trip home into (you guessed it) an odyssey; “Amos” and “Ethan” leave the safety of white “civilization” and venture into Comacheria.

Trying to protect/ensure the racial and sexual purity (chastity) of a significant female in jeopardy (Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and Penelope for Odysseus and Debbie for “Amos” and “Ethan”) before she is (and by extension they are) dishonored by “the other:” if a woman is dishonored by “the other,” then that dishonor must be undone via her exile or death—for the sake of the community just as much as for themselves

Emotionally estranged from their significant females: Odysseus fears that his wife, Penelope, will find love in the arms of another man; “Amos” and “Ethan” are (to varying degrees) in love with their married sister-in-law, Martha; and for “Ethan,” by extension, her daughter/his niece Debbie.

Not above relishing in the violence they commit against their foes: (“Amos” and “Ethan” want to make the Comanche extinct in an ecstasy of gun fire; Odysseus slaughters all of the suitors who exploited his absence and the Athenian tradition of hospitality (i.e. Xenia) to court Penelope)

Not destined for a happy ending: almost immediately after taking care of business upon his return to home and hearth, Odysseus is told by the blind prophet Tiresias that he must go by-by again; Amos is killed by a squaw, and Ethan isn’t welcome inside his brother’s house

Two of these three men, Odysseus and “Ethan,” have further traits in common. They both are:
Renegades against norms and convention: playing to win (to save the lives of their significant females), they do anything and everything to gain the upper hand/advantage—though they defeat their enemies, their methods are deemed dishonorable and their communities ostracize them.

As collateral or direct consequences of their plans, team members are killed.

Not saints: tremendous moral ambiguity exists within their psyches; they are crafty, cunning, scheming and unaverse to dodgy, dishonorable tactics

Nearly transformed into the “other” they despise by the magnitude of what they have undergone and witnessed

Helped by a woman (Odysseus receives recurring aid from the goddess by Athena while “Amos” is warned by Debbie of the immanent Comanche attack).

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Day, Kirsten. “What Makes Man to Wonder? The Searchers as a Western
Odyssey.” Arethusa, 41 (no. 1). 2008. 11-49. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44578494

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