The Night-Time Town as an Alternative Space in the Western Genre

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This article examines the setting of the night-time town as an alternative space within the wider iconography of the Western genre. I discuss the ways in which this trope is used to complicate some of the conventions through which Westerns represent violence as meaningful and justified. I compare parallel moments in three Westerns: Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1947), Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962), in which a character is shot dead on the streets of a town at night. These movies use the night-time town to establish an alternative perspective on violence within the Western, departing from some of the genre’s more prominent strategies for portraying violence, such as the convention of the gunfight and its associated values. However, I argue that the complications and uncertainties around violence that are expressed through the trope of the night-time town can still be accommodated within the diverse makeup of the Western genre.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages21
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2014


  • Western
  • Genre
  • Violence

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