John Wayne: A Love Song

October 19, 2007

One of her most personalized stories is her interview with John Wayne.  She confesses within the first few paragraphs how this one man (or more accurately although she never makes this distinction his movie characters) epitomized the dreams of an entire nation.  It is in the quietness of our living rooms where we watch television with our families that we are still being shaped.

… when John Wayne rode through my childhood, and perhaps through yours, he determined forever the shape of certain of our dreams. (STB 30)

As Didion chronicles Wayne’s life for her readers she writes

a meeting with John Ford, one of several directors who were to sense that into this perfect mold might be poured the inarticulate longings of a nation wondering at just what pass the trail had been lost. … and the star called John Wayne would spend most of the rest of his life with one or another of those directors, out on some forsaken location, in search of the dream. (STB 31-32)

While Didion uses the private is political stance introduced by Woolf she extends it by using a male hero to examine such tension. He is the hero that will reconcile our private and public maladies. In doing so she is also creating balance and displaying an ability to possess the androgynous mind that Woolf prescribed for all great writers.

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