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Luke's non-violence  

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Zanza
(@zanza)
Honorable Member

I just watched The Patsy and I think this is one of the most important episodes for showing something very basic about Luke. Essentially he was a non-violent man. Oh, sure, he was a Civil War veteran and he carried a rifle that he was justly famous for his skill, but at heart he was not a violent person. He was kind and gentle, someone people could turn to for help. Over the course of the show we see him caring for sick and injured people and even babysitting an infant. He never hit Mark, and he remarked that his wife never saw his temper. He could be intimidating, with his size and that look he would give when he was angry, but I think he would much have preferred a land and a life where he didn't have to grab his rifle every time a stranger rode onto his property. We also see numerous times when he could easily have killed someone, and he would have been legally justified, but he only shot to wound or even just to shoot a gun out of someone's hand. Not very realistic, that, but beautiful imagery, disarming someone rather than harming them.

The Patsy shows Luke doing his best to placate a man who is so insecure that he thinks the only way he can be big is by making Luke look small. The barber Sam Barrows is not doing a good job with his own son, and Luke can sympathize because he's been there. Seems like there were quite a few widowers on Rifleman whom Luke was able to help because he knew how it felt to lose your beloved wife and be left all alone with a little kid depending on you to be father and mother. This was especially hard because Sam's son Jeff was so jealous of Mark for having such a good father, and he kept picking fights with him. Luke didn't appreciate having to sew Mark's torn shirt or Mark's excuse that Jeff started it. He also was not enthusiastic about Sam's idea of getting up in his face and he would back down, in public, to make Sam look tough.

Turns out Sam was being manipulated by some bad guys who thought they could take over the town if they killed Luke and they were planning to use Sam to help them do it. Luke had no idea of what was really going on and he was trying to be nice to Sam. There he was with those huge scissors about to cut Mark's hair and Sam Barrows comes to the door and floats his hare-brained idea about being nasty to Luke in public and Luke would back down. Sam thought that would make him look good, and Luke thought it would make them both look loco. Then he thought he would take Mark in town and let Sam cut his hair. That was a nice gesture and Sam threw it back in his face, and Luke backed down. He really was trying to be peaceful, and then Sam's son Jeff picked a worse fight than ever with Mark. Luke saw that his peaceful approach just wasn't working.

Then we get what I think is the ultimate scene that shows Luke truly is a non-violent man at heart. He's talking to Micah about how he'll steer clear of Sam and come and go the other side of town, then Mark comes in all dirty and roughed up, saying he's sorry and he tried to avoid trouble with Jeff, and that's about all Luke can take. He can see appeasing Sam is only making the situation worse so he goes out to talk to him. The bad guys are pushing Sam into a gunfight with Luke, and he goes out into the street with a gun on. Luke starts out trying to reason with him, but Sam starts walking and the closer he gets, the more nervous Luke gets.

Chuck did a marvelous job in this scene, getting more and more tense and raising his voice and finally bringing up the rifle. He made me think of a German Shepherd getting more and more agitated as a stranger approaches the door, barking and then snarling and showing its teeth with its hackles up. The very fine Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune studied lions to prepare for his roles in Rashomon and Seven Samurai, and he was very fierce and ungovernable in those movies. That's how Luke seemed to me in this scene, like an animal that had been poked with a stick until it was ready to charge.

This is why I think this shows that the bedrock of Luke's character is non-violence. He was scared and upset enough to pull the trigger anyway, and the closer Sam got the more Luke would have been justified in pulling the trigger if Sam even dropped his hand to his gun. But Luke doesn't like violence, and he doesn't like hurting people, and he hates it so much when he does have to kill someone. Chuck Connors did several interviews about how violence on The Rifleman was not presented in a positive or glamorous way, and there was always the scene with Mark explaining how violence was wrong. Luke didn't just talk like that to Mark, he lived it in every way that he could.

And because Luke is essentially non-violent, he didn't pull the trigger. He was about to jump out of his skin as Sam walked up to him, but because he was able to live up to that ideal of not hurting someone if he didn't have to, Sam was able to warn Luke. And Sam finally got to be the hero he always longed to be, and to become someone his son could look up to. Luke did have to shoot the bad guys but that was unavoidable to save his life and Sam's life. Mark and Luke had already talked things over, so this episode didn't end with them. It ended with a father and son moment between Sam Barrows and his son Jeff, and that was a fitting ending. This episode was about Luke helping someone in a different way, by being a great example of moral courage, the hardest kind of courage there is. Luke had said earlier to Mark that it could be hard to back down from someone, and he lived up to that ideal and it saved his life.

A Case of Identity also showed Luke trying to be peaceful, as well as how fearsome he could be when pushed too hard. I think this was the only time Mark was afraid of Luke. He wasn't afraid that Luke would hurt him but I think he was definitely afraid Luke might hurt Wingate. Luke was shocked almost beyond words when Wingate dismissed the evidence of the Bible; and then when Wingate said it would never hold up in court and Luke started for him with that look on his face, Mark seemed terrified of what his father might do. Mark tried prying Luke off Chaqua, and it probably was a bad memory for him, his father choking a man to death. He didn't want to see something like that ever again.

Like I said, I think in his heart, Luke was a non-violent man and he would have preferred a peaceful life. He wasn't a pacifist, though. He wasn't a man to turn the other cheek when he was threatened or Mark was in danger. Luke reminds me of that saying attributed to Winston Churchill. We sleep soundly in our beds at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence upon those who would do us harm. Maybe that's why Luke snaps on occasion, like in The Raid and in Trail of Hate. He has to be a rough man ready to visit violence, and it's not something he enjoys doing or ever wants to do. Why, in A Case of Identity, he even let Wingate stay in his house overnight. Me, I would have sent that man packing if he had to crawl back to North Fork over broken glass, but Luke tried to do the right thing. Even at the end he only got in a gunfight because he was desperate to get Wingate off his back and away from Mark. Luke would much rather have settled the matter peacefully.

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Posted : 25/07/2020 7:37 am
Dana2020
(@dana2020)
Reputable Member Alumni

Re Sam barrows: Lucas's empathy for Sam was remarkable-especially when one considers another Sam-Sam Gibbs. Lucas never admonished Sam Barrows to "pull yourself together!" After I typed this, I realized that might sound as if I do not realize addiction and alcoholism are diseases . I certainly do-mine is food.

Lucas may come across as larger than life- and he certainly is. However, he is also very approachable. As a person with body image issues, I can well imagine how difficult it could be for "old maid" Isabel to ask Luscious Lucas for that favor!

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Posted : 31/07/2020 8:17 pm
Zanza
(@zanza)
Honorable Member

I think you're right about Luke coming across as larger than life. He had such high ideals and it's certainly rare for a person to practice what they preach, which Luke did on a number of occasions. There were other occasions when he fell woefully short of his high ideals, which from a storytelling perspective was brilliant because it showed a fully developed and complex human being. There were times when Luke was fearsomely violent, but he was always sorry for it. Like in Trail of Hate, where he just completely lost it and tortured those three men, dragging them through the desert. That was just awful, but in the end he was so sorry and ashamed for what he had done, and Mark had to comfort him. That's something that really made Rifleman stand out, that violence was always shown to be bad even when it was necessary and only turned to as a last resort.

As to Isabel, she was a sweet woman and Luke was always susceptible to sweet women. I loved seeing him with Hattie, she mothered him as much as she mothered Mark.

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Posted : 31/07/2020 11:22 pm
Dana2020
(@dana2020)
Reputable Member Alumni

I like to think Margaret was tiny and was played by three different actresses-judy Garland, Vivien Leigh, and Debbie Reynolds. Margaret may never have seen Lucas lose his temper, but I bet Lucas did spend some time placating Margaret (kind of like in the Taming of the Shrew).

Lucas tried not to be bothered when people thought badly about him walking away from a fight, but it did hurt him immensely when the townsfolk believed he had ridden with Wade Joyner. Lucas could be pushed to extremes when it came to Mark or a lady fair or there was a perceived injustice. We also saw Lucas' more mundane flaws and faux paws. He was holier than thou with Julia and came across as a condescending buffoon when he first spoke to Sam Buckhart.

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Posted : 02/08/2020 3:56 pm
Zanza
(@zanza)
Honorable Member

The Taming of the Shrew? Possibly. Luke did like a lively girl. Considering how things started off with him and Millie, very possible. Whenever he talks about his past, he did sound pretty wild. I was just thinking of that after seeing Lariat. Luke knew how to do at least one of Lariat's card tricks, and later in Tinhorn we see that Luke was good enough at cards to catch somebody cheating.

As to Wade Joyner, you're right about that. Luke was very upset that the townspeople thought he might have ridden with an outlaw. He was wild in his youth but he was never a criminal. I've always thought that Outlaw's Shoes presented an extremely difficult situation for Luke above and beyond the amnesia, which was quite bad enough. Luke felt himself to be a good person who would never go around hurting others, yet he believed himself to be an outlaw who had committed capital crimes. That must have been terribly disorienting.

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Posted : 02/08/2020 5:34 pm
Dana2020
(@dana2020)
Reputable Member Alumni

Was Jeff jealous because Lucas was a good father? I felt Jeff was jealous because Lucas was so popular. While Mark probably never said "My pa is better than your pa!", Did he maybe convey that impression to the other kids?

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Posted : 23/08/2020 12:31 pm
Zanza
(@zanza)
Honorable Member

Was Jeff jealous because Lucas was a good father? I felt Jeff was jealous because Lucas was so popular. While Mark probably never said "My pa is better than your pa!", Did he maybe convey that impression to the other kids?
I think Mark could easily have conveyed that impression without ever intending to, even if he tried very hard not to. My mother and father were both physically abusive. The best thing I can say about my childhood is that I survived it. I can remember feeling jealous of kids who had good parents. It was pretty obvious even without them saying anything. Other kids could wear short sleeves because they weren't covering up bruises, and they could talk about whatever they wanted because they weren't worried about hiding anything at home. The other parents would come to school and do things with their kids, and chaperone field trips. Sometimes I would see other kids in the store and they would be laughing and talking with their parents and I could see they weren't afraid.

I think Jeff was wildly jealous. He didn't want Luke for a father. He wanted his father to be a good father so that he could have a good relationship with him like Mark had with Luke. The whole town of North Fork knew what a good father Luke was to Mark, and how close they were. I don't think Mark could have downplayed that if he tried.

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Posted : 23/08/2020 1:02 pm
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