The characters are intertwined by foibles and life experiences.
Chris Larabee came from Indiana.(7) Ella Gaines remembers a young man who was “the crazy one,… rowdy and ready to fight.” She nicknamed him “Bareback Larabee.”(22) Mary Travis simply notes that Mr. Larabee has a less than steller reputation.(1)
A very private person (2,22), Chris builds a cabin away from town (12), even though the deal with Judge Travis includes room and board. He does not like to have his past dug up.(2) Especially that of his wife, Sarah, and son, Adam, whom he lost in a fire.(1,2,6, 13,22) He courted Sarah despite the fact that her father not only did not like him, but came after him with the proverbial shotgun(13), to prevent, rather than cause, the marriage. Sarah lived up to the Irish family name of Conley, meaning pure, chaste, and sensible, and Chris benefitted from knowing her. What they had together was special.(13) And so, Sarah and Chris wed and lived happily on a ranch about a day’s ride north of the Mexican border.(6) Chris has worn only black since Sarah and Adam died.
Chris is very protective of his men.(1,12,20, 21) In turn, they accept his leadership (1-22), understand his sometimes “woolly” (22) behavior, and, when necessary, watch out for him (9). Chris does, however, have a blind spot, or spots, as when he is in lust, or love, or because of his desire for privacy, he will not hear their warnings.(22)
Chris is well suited to the tasks presented.(1-22) He reads his men well (8), although he is not always happy with their choices (1,14, 15), assigns tasks to which they are most capable (8), and leads by example (2).
More importantly, perhaps because he understands how helpless one can feel when one cannot find a reasonable solution in dealing with a bully, he accepts the role of town protector. Then again, perhaps that is because he and his men know that sometimes, one has to take a stand (12). After all, it’s not about the dollar a day and found they accept from Judge Travis.(2,10) It is because “there’s some things money can’t buy.”(2)
Buffalo hunter, bounty hunter, clerk at the general store.(1) Among other things, Vin Tanner has pursued a varied job career.(1) While he was buffalo hunting, he lived with the Kiowas and the Comanches (11), gained an understanding of their culture (8,11), and learned how to track (8). He still lives in the covered wagon from his buffalo hunting days (11,22) and utilizes his tracking skills as the scout for “The Magnificent Seven”.(5,8)
Except for a proficiency with handling a broom, his professions require accuracy with firearms over long distances.(1,6) He carries a mare’s leg (1-22), a rifle (1,2,6,20,22), a spyglass (1-22), and appreciates a finely wrought sharpshooter’s weapon (21).
While lacking a formal education (17), he is somewhat of a Western Renaissance man – sharpshooter(6), scout (5,8), hunter (1), poet (17), strategist (3,10), philosopher (1,5.8.11,17), and musician (3,8,11) – with a sardonic sense of humor (1). With a gravelly voice he describes himself as “woolly to the bone.”(14) and has no desire to settle down (15). Other’s see him as “kind, bold, exciting (15), honest, well-spoken (20), and a worthy confidant(18,20).
Vin’s relationship with women is a quandary. He respects women who stand up on their own (7,17,21) and encourages others to find a place to make a stand (12). He finds the presence of prostitutes in town inconsequential.(3) He will not engage in helping a young woman “sow wild oats” (20), yet commits adultery (visually (Matthew 5:27-28) , emotionally (Proverbs 22:14), and/or physically (Ezekiel 16:32) (14). His actions in relation to women appear to be situationally oriented.
The name of Tanner is his most valued possession.(7,11) His mother, from whom he learned that courage is a trait worthy of respect, impressed this upon him at the tender age of five.(7) The overriding concern in his life is that his name is on a wanted poster in Texas and he needs to find a way to establish his innocence, to clear his name.(1,9.10,11)
John “J.D.” Dunne
“J.D.” is a tenderfoot. Born on the East Coast, he grew up on a large estate where his mother was a chambermaid.(1) As a stable boy on the estate, he learned to ride.(1) When his mother died, “J.D.” heeded Horace Greeley’s call to “Go West, young man!,” eagerly jumping out of the stage with an English saddle, Eastern duds, and a dime novel impression of the West.(1, 6)
With youthful exuberance, “J.D.” proudly shows off his ability to ride, shoot (1), and do gun and rope tricks (5). “J.D.” should have paid more attention in catechism (17), especially to Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”*
It does not help that, of the Seven, “J.D.” is the shortest, the youngest, has the least acquaintance with life (3,17), and little experience gunfighting. This earns him the appellation of “chiquito” (12), “son” (13), “boy” (13, 17), “kid” (17), and “pup”(17). Drinking milk from a beer stein (9) and wearing a Derby (1-22) doesn’t seem to do much to enhance his “tough guy” image, either.
“J.D.” quickly develops a fraternal relationship with Buck Wilmington, who takes him under his wing, mentoring “J.D” in the ways of a gunfighter.(1,2,15,17,21) According to Ezra Standish, “J.D.” has too much zeal for the job, as when chasing a gang of holdup men “That boy would have ridden all the way to Bolivia if I’d let him.”(20).
While he’s chasing the bad guys, Casey is chasing him. Their relationship is competitive (7, 10, 12) youthful (12, 20), innocent (12) and deeper than either is really ready to admit (20).
“J.D.” thinks his moniker should be “Lightning J. D.” Dunne on account of his “quick draw abilities.”(21) Buck’s suggestion of “Peach Fuzz” (21) may be more accurate. “J.D.” has a lot to discover about life, and more importantly, about himself.
*(The Bible, KJV)
Buck, having known Chris for over a dozen years (1, 2, 12), is well aware of his checkered past. He first met Larabee when Chris had “just parted ways” with a woman (22), but before he had met Sarah. He was around for their romance, marriage, birth of their son and was with Chris the night they died.(6) Buck was Sarah’s friend and very fond of Adam.(6)
A man of many talents and experiences (2,3), Buck always seems relaxed. Whether riding (19), walking, drinking or coming up with a relevant euphemism (17), he seems to know and accept himself.(2) He does have his faults. Much like J.D., whom he mentors (1,2,15,17,21), Buck takes a bit too much pride in his reputation with his gun and the ladies.(12)
Ah, the ladies. According to the rest of The Magnificent Seven, this is Buck’s weak spot.(12, 15, 19) Buck believes women are “everything good that warms the soul.”(20)
As the son of a “sporting woman,” he grew up around women and gained a unique perspective of them.(3) He respects them, which has bought him “an awful lot of kindness” (3) over the years, and if he could spend his entire life just finding ways to make them happy, he declares that would indeed be a good life.”(20) That said, he enjoys every aspect of romance and is willing to take whatever time (21), effort, and manner of charm (16) to win over his amourette. Despite the fact that many women find him irresistible (5, 21,22), he has hit a stumbling block in his pursuit of Inez (12,16), who sees through Buck “like a pane glass window.” (12)
Josiah’s primary issue stems from his relationship with his father.(8) Josiah was the son of a missionary (4,8) and, like many children, Josiah did not feel that his parent followed the biblical verse 1 John 2:6 (KJV):
“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
In his zeal to have his children adhere to the dictums of his religion and their determination to do the opposite (8), Josiah’s father psychologically destroyed them.(1, 8, 18). It could not have been easy for him to have a left-handed son (6, 16), as it is believed that the devil is left-handed and therefore, in many cultures, being left-handed denotes a sinister character. Unfortunately, Josiah’s father has gone “to his reward,”(8) leaving Josiah little opportunity to settle their differences. This may be why Josiah is known to “get very Old Testament on occasion.”(5) He also takes his responsibilities very seriously.(18)
Josiah worked for his father (8, 16) and served as a preacher for a time (9). He is referred to as the “defrocked priest.”(10) Both he and Nathan spend a lot of time fixing up the town’s church.(2, 6,11,13) An educated man, he has studied other religions (4, 8,16), cultures (8), languages (16), legal systems (19) and voraciously reads books.
A big man, who can break a man’s back in a bear hug (7), Josiah is described as “a big fella, hair goin’ a touch gray” (18) with moods that swing from playing the spoons (14) to encourage a lighthearted atmosphere to wrecking a chapel while drunk (18). His passions often dictate his actions.(5,7,11,12,18,21,22). “Smitten” is the word that comes to mind in his relationship to women. Thoughtful and silver-tongued (19), he often puts a philosophical spin on his comments (1,3,10,13,17,20,21), such as when he deftly relates golf to life, “Humility, that’s the lesson of this game. The kind of game that you play with your worst enemy, which turns out to be yourself.”(22)
Psychologically, he is seeking the peace he will find in penance (18), and is ready to meet death head-on (1). Until that time, when he is not working with Chris, his job is to “look and listen” for the daily confirmation of the hand of God in all things.(6)
According to Ezra, his name is Ezra P. Standish and the “P stands for Persuasive.”(20) This articulate, silver-tongued (11) wordsmith endowed with a heaping cupful of the gift of gab, considers himself handsome (22), the best dressed of the lot, and prides himself on his tact, diplomacy and subsequent ability to gather information.(9) As he readily admits that he “was not meant for honest labor” (11), these traits come in very handy in his chosen and ofttimes intertwined vocations – that of gambler and con artist (1). As is true of many real gamblers, Ezra points out, “I abhor gambling and as such, leave nothing to chance” (10). Another well-known tenant is the age old “Never draw to an inside straight.”(1) He could have lent his talent in card manipulation, otherwise referred to as “tactile sensitivity,” to becoming a master illusionist.(6,13) As Ezra observed, “I know every trick in the book. Hell, I wrote the book.”(17) He has no qualms about betting on the outcome of an event so long as he has overwhelming assurity as to what that outcome will be.(12) Ezra also cheats (16), but hates to be cheated (17).
In a pinch, Ezra can be counted on to return to nature – his. And his nature is a reflection of the biblical verse – “For the love of money is the root of all of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”( 1 Timothy 6:10, The Bible (KJV)) At a well-turned-out table, he can be counted on to be checking the markings on the silver while others dine.(22) Monetary gain (1, 3, 7, 12, 16, 21) overshadows his desire to be trusted by his associates.(21) Despite sporting a square cut ruby ring (13), he has yet to benefit from the inherent qualities of the stone as he lacks both nobility and purity. His passion extends no further than the few coins in his pocket. He is anxious and filled with self-doubt which is reflected in the frequency with which he takes a pull from his constant companion, a silver flask.(10) Unfortunately, the ruby does allow Ezra to see his strength and potential from his own perspective, both of which he finds himself to be sadly lacking.
“And Then There’s Maude”* While Ezra claims when he swears “on the grave of his sainted mother” that it is “just a figure of speech,” (2) it may have been more an unconscious wish. Not that she had died, but that she had been worthy of sainthood. Instead, Ezra’s mother, Maude (5), taught her son everything she could about the family business (11) along with a philosophy of life that reinforced the pursuit of that business (5). In describing their relationship, one could say “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he’s “a chip off the old block.” or as Ezra’s mother says “That’s my boy, always working an angle.”(5) Maude and Ezra see each other’s motives differently. Maude believes she did everything she could to teach Ezra a trade (5). Ezra believes that her motives in teaching him the con game were self-serving (5) and that the reason she opposes him is because she cannot abide his becoming successful on his own.(11) Maude believes he is becoming sloppy and that she needs to keep him on his toes.(11)
Perhaps that is why, when Maude finds that Ezra has settled to some extent, she shows up to stir the pot. He has violated her teachings by using his own money to finance a venture (11) and she needs to teach him a lesson. Alternatively, Ezra is looking to cut the apron strings and solidify his standing in the community by assuring the town that “they can trust me to protect it from people like you.”(5) Whatever their philosophical differences, Ezra still finds his mother to be “an amazing woman.” (11)
Despite his relationship with his mother (5, 11) and personal reputation as a scoundrel (16) Ezra is respectful of women.(3,8,16,20) While his inner self may try to make a buck off of that relationship (3), he remains a gentleman with a few good manners (16).
Trust is an important ingredient in the ability of The Magnificent Seven to function. Building trust is not one of Ezra’s strong points. He crosses swords with Nathan over social history and cultural beliefs (1,3,16) Ezra’s talents (3,9,20) are used to forward the group’s agenda but deservedly, Chris does not trust him out of eyesight. Buck considers him a “windbag.”(22). Josiah challenges Ezra to look inside himself for the source of his inadequacies.(16) This is difficult, as Ezra is very aware of his inability to overcome his preoccupation with wealth, and as such, even he cannot stand his own reflection. (21) So while Ezra believes he deserves the respect of his peers, he can never achieve their approbation for as long as his self-respect remains an unattained goal.
* Theme song from Maude, a television series (September 12, 1972 – April 22, 1978) with Beatrice Arthur in the starring role
Nathan was born 26 to 27 years ago on a plantation outside of Atlanta, Georgia in 1839.(19) At the age of 7, he, his siblings and his father, Obadiah Jackson, were sold to a plantation in Alabama.(19) His mother, who remained at the Georgia plantation, subsequently died.(19)
While living in Alabama, Nathan and his father were slaves on a plantation owned by Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson may have introduced Nathan to his appreciation of knives as a weapon when Mr. Jackson made Nathan his sparring partner. They both used bare blades so Nathan had to learn the art quickly.(12) He is quite proficient at throwing knives from a 3-blade sheath strapped to his back (1,6,12) and in crossing swords on a number of subjects with Ezra (3,12,16).
Nathan and his father stayed together until Nathan escaped to the North. In direct contrast to Josiah’s relationship with his father, it was important to Obadiah that Nathan gain his freedom and not live in slavery, where they “worked from sunup to dark,… got whipped,… got sold…had no hope.”(19)
Nathan became a Union stretcher bearer in the “War Between the States.”(1) He observed the procedures in the field hospital, thereby picking up what he knows about doctoring.(1) While tagged with the title “Doc,”(2) Nathan typically refers to himself as a healer (6,13) and his office sign reads “Bones Set Wounds Healed.”(12)
Nathan has been in the town for at least a year.(5) He knew Josiah (1) before the Seven met and often helps Josiah work to restore the town church. He is a voice of calm within the Seven, but is fairly outspoken on the subjects of fairness, equality (19) and anything that smacks of slavery (3,16). While quietly passionate about Rain (1, 18), he knows he is not yet ready to marry and is concerned about that relationship as he has lost everyone to whom he became attached.(18)
Mary is the widow of Stephen Travis (1,2,5,14), daughter-in-law to Owen and Evie Travis (2), mother of Billy Travis (2,5,14), and editor, reporter, printer, advertising sales manager and newsboy of The Clarion News (1,5,17,21), a daily journal, whose slogan is “The People’s Voice”(17).
Mary’s heart was won by Stephen Travis. He was not her only suitor. One of his classmates, Gerard Whitman, also fell in love with Mary and asked for her hand in marriage.(14) Mary is a beautiful, green-eyed golden blonde (21) with a natural grace. She dresses stylishly (9) and is not without charm, a fact not lost on many men.(10,14,21)
While Mary claims she is not in a relationship, nor seeking one, with Chris Larabee and that any relationship they have is “entirely professional,”(3) it is Mary that sounds the alarm when Chris is overdue from returning from a trip.(9)
After his father’s death, Billy lived three hundred miles away with his grandparents.(2,4,5) This provided him a positive environment in which to grow up in and access to school.
Mary wants her town to grow, prosper, and become a “safe and decent community in which to raise children“.(3) Chris Larabee first sees Mary as she holds a shotgun on a bunch of drovers to prevent a lynching.(1)
She also believes that a newspaper can make a difference. Mary is The Clarion News. As a reporter, she does interviews (1,10, 18, 21), although her first with Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner is rather short, as their responses to both of her questions is simply “The saloon.”(1) Mary cannot be referred to as a journalist, as she willing spins the truth to garner a means to an end and readily admits doing so if it means the town will benefit.(1)
A town needs a social conscience. As a leading member of the town (3), and the town’s newspaper editor, Mary fills this role admirably. She is honest in her beliefs and determined.(7) Mary is a forward thinker, believing in women’s equality in life and profession (10,21), statehood (21), adult suffrage (10,21), parole(4), and racial equity (8).
Alternatively, she also has certain prejudices, such as her disapproval of anything she does not consider appropriate for the town, which leads to one visitor referring to her as “Little Miss Muppet.” This could be because it is believed that, as a woman with puritan leanings, the alternative lifestyle represented by prostitution (a “spider”) is frightening to Mary or that as with the religious differences of Mary Queen of Scotts and John Knox, the prostitutes represent a different train of thought and activity than Mary Travis believes is right.
Clarion articles have been reprinted throughout the territory(21), indicating Mary’s power as an influencer. Yet, she is not swayed by promises of even greater power and influence and is willing to risk her life to achieve her goals.(21)
The Honorable Oren Travis, Judge of the U. S. Territorial Circuit Court (2)
Judges of the territorial courts are Article IV federal judges and as such, have jurisdiction over minor state offenses, violation of local ordinances and the majority of the categories of federal law, including both civil and criminal matter, as granted a territorial judge (2). They are also federal judges under Article IV of the U. S. Constitution.
Judge Travis truly believes in the law and is first introduced, shotgun in hand, as he moves to make an arrest in the absence of a town sheriff.(2) He believes in a fair trial and justice.(19) That justice may be tempered with mercy.(19) Justice is sometimes served when a sentence is reduced in exchange for information that leads to bringing others to justice.(20) Justice must also serve and protect the greater society.(20) As a judge, The Honorable Oren Travis has taught twenty-three “smart young men”(2) the consequences of a “short rope, long drop”(6) when they chose to break the law.
Oren is not much for fiction in life or in the courtroom and has been known to shut the door in the face of those who do.(6) He can be a stubborn man. who plays hard ball with a bit of sarcasm sometimes passing his lips.(2) This does not mean that he cannot be charmed with flattery and thereby move a possible criminal case to a civil suit.(19)
He and his son, Stephen, shared a desire to pursue the truth. Stephen upset a lot of people with his newspaper. He fought for the truth and published it,(5) which led to Stephen’s death. As a father, Oren states, “And on the days I really miss him, I wonder if it was worth it.”(2)
The sum of a dollar a day plus room and board is what Judge Travis offers “The Magnificent Seven” to protect the town – twice.(2,10)
Judge Travis and his wife, Evie, live three hundred miles away from the town where Mary and Stephen Travis settled down. Mary and Stephen’s son, Billy, lived with his parents until Stephen Travis was killed, an event to which Billy was the only witness.(5)
After his father’s death, Billy went to live with his grandparents.(4,5) As a judge, his grandfather is often away ‘on the circuit,” so his grandmother is his main caregiver whenever he lives there. Billy attends school and is a good student.(5) His grandfather is very fond of his grandson and declares him ”the smartest boy in his class.”(2). Billy visites his mother during school holidays (5) while he living with his grandparents. Eventually he returns to the town to live with his mother. (10)
Chris Larabee and Billy Travis share a common, deep seated sense of loss. This pulls them together and is the basis for their friendship and mutual need.
“All the world’s a stage”* and Maude is its only player. Her motto is, “I came. I saw. I conquered.”(11)
Maude is an educated woman (5) who believes in giving the rest of the world an education. Among the many facets of her character is an unrepentant grifter (5,19) whose favorite con is “The Cotton Gin Game” (5), a gambler (5), and an entrepreneur who believes in the “Buy low, sell high” principle (5). She understands the importance of knowing the who and what of everyone, especially their financial situation and position of power.
Maude is a beautiful, charismatic, and charming woman with a beguiling southern drawl who is used to the finest of everything and to being the center of attention.(5) She has beautiful and stylish clothes, perfectly coiffed hair, and an impeccable manner because “appearances are everything”.(5) She could, and probably did, charm the socks off the snake in the Garden of Eden.
Maude’s effect on men is transcendent. Josiah Sanchez is enthralled in her presence. Preston Wingo forgives her many trespasses and runs a con of his own to entrap her, declaring her, “hot blooded, passionate. What a woman!”(19)
Maude has been married five times.(19) She cannot abide the traditional subservient position of a married woman.(19) One of the five was named Standish and the issue of that marriage was Ezra, whom she regularly abandoned at relatives unless she needed him to run a game.(5) She believes she gave him the best of educations by teaching him her arts. Ezra sees it as bringing him along only because she needed someone for the game.(11)
Maude’s cardinal rule is, “Never run a deal on your own money.” (11) This may have been the real reason for her visit to the town. After all, Ezra violates that rule when he uses his own money to buy the saloon (One can also understand Ezra’s version of the relationship when Maude writes Ezra a letter requesting money for another enterprise. She is following the cardinal rule by using Ezra’s money. (21)). So she came to teach Ezra a lesson, to keep him sharp and remind him that, “We’re business people and we’re the best at what we do. Don’t ever forget that.”(11)
“ Yes indeed. An amazing woman.”(11)
* William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII Line 139
Nettie Wells’ niece is a tomboy through and through. She can shoot, ride, play mumblety-peg, rope, fish, and spit.(7, 12). Comfortable in men’s clothing, sporting a shirt with a button down collar, pants, vest and open crown hat (13); she believes she is an equal, or better, to men and works hard to prove she can do anything better than a man. She is very competitive.
Buck is the first to recognizes her feminine beauty. Both he an Peter Nichols coax her into a dress, a look that is fetching enough for Peter to say she would be the prettiest girl in Kansas City.(7, 13) However, Casey’s attempts at feminine wiles are farcical.(7,20).
Casey is fond of “J. D.” (7,10,20) but uncertain of how she wants the courtship to unfold. “J. D.” feels the same way. They are both inexperienced in romance, which may be right for them, because when the chips are down, the nonsense goes to the wayside and it is their true feelings for each other that come to the fore.
Casey Wells is “complicated.” (13)
Seeking refuge from the sociopathic son of her patron (12), Inez enters the Standish Tavern at the height of Ezra and Maude’s conflict (11). Upon hearing Ezra’s despair over the pursuit of honest labor, she quickly seizes the job opportunity presented and offers to tend bar, clean, and make repairs at the tavern.(11) After passing the employment test, she settles in with an eye to eventually becoming Ezra’ partner. (11) After a brief conversation and a taste of Inez’ cooking, Maude recognizes her value to the Standish Tavern and capitalizes on it.
Buck has his eye on Inez with a totally different goal in mind. He is quite entranced by this Mexican beauty. His ardor is heightened by her disinterest.(12 ,16) In his desperation, he even tries to use a love potion on her, with comically disastrous results.(16)
Inez is making her stand, in more ways than one, at the Standish Tavern.
The Town with No Name
The setting for the series is a southwestern town. “The Magnificent Seven” are hired by Judge Oren Travis to protect the town.
Where is this town and what is its name? The town appears to be relatively close to the border between the United States and Mexico (The town is approximately a day’s ride north of the border), and between the Pacific Coast to the eastern edge of the Territory of New Mexico (The situation with Mr. Tanner indicates that the town is west of Texas).
The town’s name is never overtly mentioned by any character at any time. However, there is perhaps a hint in the name of the town’s newspaper – The Clarion News. A clarion is defined as “A kind of trumpet, whose tube is narrower and its tone more acute and shrill than that of the common trumpet.” in Noah Webster’ Dictionary of 1828. This could be a reference to the intention of the newspaper to present the truth to its readers.
Alternatively, inserting the name of a town into the masthead of a newspaper is also a common practice (examples include: The Des Moines Register (1860), The New-York Daily Times (1851), The Chicago Daily Tribune (1847)). Therefore, the possibility exists that the name of the town is Clarion. A borough (town) named Clarion was founded in Pennsylvania in 1841 and Clarion township was established in Illinois in 1849.)
Or, it may have been the intent of the series creators to present the town as an unnamed entity, representing any place where people are oppressed by criminal or governmental behavior.