The Ox-Bow Incident By Walter Van Tilburg Clark Character Analysis Art Croft

Croft has been rather fully discussed in the commentaries as a socially sensitive person, a man of modest literacy and intellect, a confessor for the troubled men in the story, and finally as an ethical failure, or at least an ethical disappointment. We sympathize with Gil Carter because he isn't sensible or sensitive enough to react properly, but Croft has persuasively shown that he is.

Clark's problems with Croft are several. He clearly felt that the story needed the immediacy of a first-person narrator; an omniscient, dispassionate recounting would not do. Croft cannot present the various ethical positions himself, but he must be sufficiently perceptive to understand them. He must have enough conventional traits to become one of the cowhands. Finally, he must be both familiar enough to tell us about all the other people in Bridger's Valley and stranger enough to feel the unspoken accusations of the valley's "insiders." All of this leaves the reader with a certain responsibility to retain a balanced view. If we think of him as merely one of the cowhands, we will reject his ethical perspectives. If we consider him to be a mere "recounter" of the facts, we lose sight of his status as spokesman for the uncommitted members of the posse. As is clear from Tetley's managing of the vote, neutral in this case is negative; there is no middle ground. Perhaps this is why Croft is called upon to pay with a bullet wound in advance.

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