Dancing with wolves essay

This work is dedicated to the specific topic called “Dancing with wolves”. It consists from summarizing and analyzing the information and thoughts, given in different works about this theme. The essay sheds light on the main argument of the definition and determining of film called “Dancing with wolves”. Detailed overview can allow getting the main ideas, advantages and disadvantages of a big amount of thoughts and arguments. Our core focus will be on the determining main standpoints of such questions: what are three intercultural or communication themes in the movie, how does the storyline/topic of the movie relate to every day life, and other. Thus, I am going to show and illustrate all sides of the themes in this film through this paper.


We are talking about the film called “Dances with wolves”. To understand the plot and context of this film clearly we should mention that it is important to see the film by own. According to Blake (1998), “Dances with Wolves has been called a “revisionist western” – a movie that reversed the traditional roles of Cowboys and Indians. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. However, it is said, “Dances with wolves” is a historical drama about the relationship between a Civil War soldier and a band of Sioux Indians, Kevin Costner’s directorial debut was also a surprisingly popular hit, considering its length, period setting, and often somber tone. According to my experience, this film opens on a particularly dark note, as great melancholy Union lieutenant John W. Dunbar attempts to kill himself on a suicide mission, further still, instead becomes an unintentional hero. However, his actions resulted into his reassignment to a remote post in remote South Dakota, where, as we are concerned, he encounters the Sioux. It is believed that attracted by the natural simplicity of their lifestyle, the main hero decides to leave his former life behind in order to be able to join them, changing his previous name to the Dances with Wolves. Shortly later, Dances with Wolves has become a welcome member of the tribe and, unsurprisingly for me, fallen in love with a white woman who, however, has been raised amongst the tribe. In the time when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the Sioux land, the main character’s definitely peaceful existence starts to be threatened, as well. Moreover, “Dances with Wolves” works on many levels. It is seemed to be a rousing adventure, a touching romance, and even a stirring drama. Desobrie (1999) has mentioned, “The characters populating Dances with Wolves are strongly written and effectively portrayed. While no one is going to place Costner alongside Laurence Olivier in the acting department, he brings likability to Dunbar that many better performers might not have been able to match. In fact, we know nothing of his past – he comes to us as a clean slate, born through his act of suicidal courage.” Moreover, I want to add, that the obviously reality of his life starts in the same moment when we meet him at first time.

Intercultural/communication themes in the movie

Talking about intercultural or communication themes, which appears in the movie, we should notice that there are some, which are worth of attention. Strictly talking, I have chosen three of them, which are definitely interest me.

First, I think, is a long-standing tradition of misunderstanding and hostility between Native American tribes and United States society. This fact, however, was noticed in the early history. As far as I am concerned, intercultural communication barriers lent themselves to assumptions and intolerance, which definitely resulted in warfare, bloodshed, and even the eventual destruction of an entire culture’s traditional ways of life. Nowadays, it is clear that stereotypical representation of the “cowboys and Indians” of the 1800s obviously continue to perpetuate hurtful misconceptions, which I believe further thwart attempts at understanding between the cultures. Svetkey (1991) noticed, “One motion picture, released almost two decades ago, served to demonstrate how a thoughtful, respectful approach across cultural boundaries might have resulted in a more peaceful exchange of understanding and appreciation for differences among peoples”. It is nothing to be against of in these words. Nothing known about Sioux’ people, Dunbar see a Kicking Bird, a medicine man in Sioux. He seemed to be a real Indian: tough, wild and free. He radiated wisdom and was a man of responsibility in his community. However, Kicking Bird was staring at the “new” Ford Sedgewick. I think, it was even funny, when described the first meeting of these two certainly different men. Kicking Bird as well as Dunbar was interested and, in the same time, scared (Dances With Wolves (Wilson & Costner, 1990), page 23).

Next theme, I think popular even nowadays, can be defined as language topic. Wilson (1990) mentioned “With the encouragement of Kicking Bird, a holy man of the tribe, Stands With a Fist works to remember her forgotten English so that the Lakota people can speak with Dunbar to determine if more white men are coming to their lands. Alone in the wilderness and isolated from his U.S. Army brethren, Dunbar grows more and more entrenched in the Lakota way of life, learning the tribe’s language and living among its people”. The language problem is depicted in the movie. Dunbar was in the community, where he was not understood, because of unknowing their language. Just a woman, with who he fell in love later, knew English earlier. Differing languages prevent Dunbar from speaking directly to his visitors to determine their motives, and Wind In His Hair’s sense of superiority over what he sees as a foolish white man prevents him from readily responding to Dunbar’s good intentions. The scene, which illustrates Dunbar, Kicking Bird, and Stands With a Fist as the three meet together for the first time in the Lakota village (Dances With Wolves (Wilson & Costner, 1990), page 107). Stands With a Fist is one, who can understand the white man, thus she is asked to talk to him. However, she is reluctant to do so because she fears that it can lead to the return to the white world, and she clearly approaches Dunbar while “assuming differences”. In addition, Stands With a Fist believes she has nothing in common with white man. Further still, it also believed that due to Stands With a Fist’s limited memory of the English language and Dunbar’s inability to understand the Lakota exchanges between Stands With a Fist and Kicking Bird it codes plays into this scene. Dunbar and his visitors find themselves unable to understand each other’s languages. Because Wind In His Hair has suspicion and scorn toward Dunbar at the fort, it is pictured feelings of cultural superiority toward Dunbar through his derogatory comments to his Lakota companions, which Dunbar definitely cannot understand.

Last theme is discussed below. With a Fist’s initial reluctance to create what Beebe, Beebe, and Redmond (2008) refer to as a “third culture” (p. 111), in which the three could create an atmosphere of acceptance and find common ground upon which to learn about each other. Stands With a Fist could have acted as a more effective facilitator by using her prior knowledge of white culture to “develop mindfulness” (p. 113) of both Dunbar’s and Kicking Bird’s backgrounds to help them understand one another and answer each other’s questions. In addition, it should be mentioned, that this film is not only expounded on the joys and affirmations to be found in exploring other cultures but also demonstrated the dreadful consequences of intolerance and prejudice. It is believed that “Dances With Wolves” lives on as a cinematic commentary on the nation’s gross mishandling of an era, which, however, could have finished in friendship and even understanding, definitely rather than bloodshed and death. Desobrie (1999) stated, “All that could have made the difference is the concept of patient, mutual effort toward intercultural communication”.

Leave a Reply