Joseph Moser

Professor Ramos

English 1B

22 April 2019

Rhetorical Analysis: Hostiles (Rough Draft)

As humans, we want to believe that conflicts in this world are simple. Simple in that one side is good and the other side is bad, nothing else to it, right? Wrong. The movie Hostiles perfectly depicts this idea with the history and relationship between Native American tribes and the U.S. Army. Hostiles is the story of  U.S. Army Captain Joseph Blocker, who is assigned to escort Cheif Yellow Hawk and his family from the fort’s prison in New Mexico back to the Chief’s homeland in Montana. Chief Yellow Hawk and Blocker know each other from long years of war. This makes Captain Blocker extremely upset that he must safely escort a man who he hates so deeply back to his home.

The movie begins with a scene depicting a white family living on the frontier peacefully. Their peace comes to a stop when the farm is attacked by a rogue gang of Comanche bandits. The husband is shot in the leg with a pistol, shot in the back with an arrow and then scalped in front of the family. The two young daughters are shot in the back and killed and the baby is hit by a stray bullet. The only one to escape and survive is the mother who is now left with only her dead family and a burnt down farm. This is a clear example of one side, the Native American, committing horrific acts on the other.

After the farm scene, the movie cuts to Captain Joe Blocker and his fellow Cavalrymen, lassoing an Apache man and dragging him through the dirt by the neck as his family watched in horror. Later Blocker escorts them back to the Fort where they are thrown in holding cells to be kept for who knows how long.

Both of these scenes show the sheer brutality of the conflict at hand and more importantly show that both sides are guilty of something. All we hear about nowadays when it comes to this is how bad the white people are for killing and displacing all the Natives. What sets this movie apart though is that it actually acknowledges that the “white people” aren’t completely to blame. Several Native tribes throughout all their history have a brutal and savage history themselves. They killed waged wars with other tribes, tortured prisoners they even practiced cannibalism in some tribes. From the first Europeans settlement to the wars waged at the end of the 1800s, these tribes acted the same way. The Europeans and Americans were the same too though, weren’t they? Well except for cannibalism of course but still brutal and unforgiving, the only difference is that in the end, the Americans won.

Later on in the movie though, after a long journey to Montana, Blocker and the Cheif finally are able to forgive each other. I credit this to the fact that during the journey both men went through hardships that ultimately brought them together. Captain Blocker lost fellow soldiers and friends by the hand of Comanche bandits and Yellow Hawks Daughters were kidnapped and beaten by white hunters. In the scene when Blocker forgives the Chief, Blocker says “I lost many friends and you have lost many as well.” Yellow Hawk replies “They are a great loss for us both but we know death comes to us all.” Finally, after all those years of miserable fighting, they are able to come to terms with what happened and shake hands.

The use of ethos, pathos, and logos are also an important part of understanding the message of this story. The appeals to the characters are evident in a scene where Captain Blocker is having an argument with a reporter from a popular newspaper about lockers past as a soldier. The reporter obviously knows nothing about the effects of war and his understanding of the conflict is shallow at best. Blocker understands the complexities and feelings of war and unlike the reporter who hasn’t experienced anything of the sort has completely different views on everything.

The pathos shown in the movie is incredibly significant because not only does the movie show the true feelings of hate and loss but it shows the transformation of those feelings into forgiveness and mutual respect. Like I said the Chief and the Captain both come to terms with the past and put it behind them because they both realize that what happened happened and it no longer served them to hold onto that hatred.

The argument this movie makes is that both sides of a conflict are guilty of something and have suffered immensely, and in the wake of that suffering, both sides as individuals come together so that they don’t have to bear the weight of that suffering alone. Chief Yellow Hawk and Captain Blocker both acknowledge that they did terrible things to each other in the past, for example; Blocker talks of his friends who the chief has butchered and in return there are references of Blockers own past that is brought up such as his participation in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Despite all of this terrible history between them, they find forgiveness and strength in their shared grievances instead of holding one another in contempt.

Works Cited

Cooper, Scott. “Hostiles.” Netflix.

Scheimann, David. “Adoption or Entree.” Ohio University, 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.ohio.edu/orgs/glass/vol/1/14.htm.

Harris, Justin. “The Native American Experience With Europeans in Peace and War: A Case Study of Six Tribal Groups.” Academia, 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.academia.edu/5472230/The_Native_American_Experience_with_Europeans_in_Peace_and_War_A_Case_Study_of_Six_Tribal_Groups