Dances With Wolves Transformation

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“Dances with wolves” is a drama movie released in 1990. The film stars Kevin Costner who is also the movie’s director as Lieutenant Dunbar. Throughout the movie plot, several transformations are observed of Durban. A transformation can be defined as a change in character or appearance (Bauer, 13)

The first transformation is seen in the US Civil War front where Dunbar has been posted as a Lieutenant. In the war, Dunbar gets his leg severely injured. When he seeks treatment, he is told that the only option is for his leg to be amputated. But Dunbar refuses the amputation. He has seen the agony of his fellow soldiers who have had their legs amputated.

He decides he can as well die a hero rather than live with an amputated leg. There is a war front deadlock between the two warring sides, the opposing union and the Confederates (Bauer, 39). Dunbar mounts his horse, Cisco and charges up against the confederation soldiers. Numerous shot attempts are made at him, but they miss. In the ensuing distraction, the Union Army soldiers are psyched up Dunbar’s action and they attack the Confederates’ side. The union army wins the battle. Dunbar is later declared a war hero albeit an accidental one. He is now transformed from a suicidal soldier to a hero. An experienced surgeon is also able to save Dunbar’s leg from amputation. He is also offered a posting to the Western frontier, specifically to Fort Sedgwick.

On arrival at the fort, Dunbar finds the Fort deserted. The fort is neighbored by natives like the Pawnee and the Sioux Indians. It is here that Dunbar gets transformed from a war hero to an honorary member of the Sioux tribe. His first encounter with the locals is when the tribes' medicine man, ‘Kicking Bird’ attempts to steal Dunbar’s horse. A confrontation ensues. And a local tribe warrior called ‘Wind in His Hair’ joins too. Dunbar decides to dialogue with the Sioux since he is all alone and they are the immediate neighbors.

On the way to Sioux camp, Dunbar comes across ‘Stands with a Fist’ attempting suicide. She is the adopted daughter of ‘Kicking Bird,’ and she is mourning her husband’s death. Dunbar rescues her and she becomes his interpreter amongst the locals. Dunbar goes ahead to mingle well with the native Sioux tribesmen. He is drawn to the tribe’s lifestyle, customs and culture. He also slowly learns their native language. He helps the tribe locate a migrating herd of buffalos which the tribe depends on for food and clothing from the buffalo’s hide.

Later on, Dunbar marries ‘Stands with a Fist’ and efficiently settles in the local community. He abandons his military role of a soldier since he no longer keeps watch at Fort Sedgwick. He helps the community fight off the rival Pawnee tribe. This deep entrenchment of Dunbar in the Sioux tribe transforms him into an army deserter (IMDB, 29). Dunbar also recognizes the tribe is at risk from the local Pawnee and the advancing Union army. He advises the tribe’s chief that they should relocate to their winter camp.

The tribe packs up and embarks on the relocation. Then Durban realizes he left his diary at the Fort Sedgwick. It has details which can help the army soldiers track the Sioux tribe. He decides to retrieve it. Unknown to him, a new contingent of soldiers has already reported at the camp. They capture Durban and kill his horse. He is clothed in Indian clothing and he has a hard time proving his soldier identity to the new fort commander. He is beaten and roughed up. Durban is charged with duty deserting and is taken by the soldiers for execution to the east.

            Durban is rescued by the migrating track of Sioux soldiers and he recovers his diary (IMDB, 29) He, however, realizes he can no longer stay with the tribe. He is a threat to them so long as the army will keep looking for him. He decides to leave the clan with his wife. In the course of the movie Durban is transformed from a suicidal soldier to a hero soldier; from a soldier to a Sioux Indian tribe guest and an army deserter.

Works cited

Bauer Patricia. “Dances With Wolves”. Britannica. 31 Oct, 2017: pp.12- 56.     

IMDB. “Dances With Wolves (1990) – Plot Summary” pp. 10-48   

September 25, 2023




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