This Clint Eastwood classic, to me, was a bit of a domino effect of events. What I mean to say is, if thing A happens, that causes thing B to happen, which causes thing C to happen, and so on and so forth. That’s what happened in this film.
The film takes place in the year 1880 in a town called Big Whiskey. It started with two cow boys who decided it was perfectly okay to cut up a woman’s face. That woman was a prostitute whose name was Delilah Fitzgerald, and she lived in a saloon and whore house. Here was this seemingly innocent woman simply doing what she was paid for, and this cowboy decided that because she wasn’t doing her job to his satisfaction, she deserved to be punished. So, he cut up her face, neck, and upper torso with his knife, while his partner held the other prostitutes, Delilah’s friends, back from helping her escape. The owner of the saloon called the sheriff, Little Bill, down to deal with what had happened.
Little Bill dealt with the situation as if it were an injustice of business. To him, the two cowboys had ruined the owner’s property and therefor saw it fit to punish the two criminals by making them give the owner property of their own to compensate, seven horses. Seven horses in exchange for a crime against another human because Delilah wasn’t seen as a person, but a thing of business and profit, a product. The two men ruined that product like breaking a vase in an antique shop. The men were not whipped, locked up, nor hanged, but were simply fined for compensation. Little Bill dealt with the situation so unjustly and poorly that the other prostitutes saw it fit to rebel and take the matter into their own hands.
Those women pooled all of their money together and sent out a bounty for anyone who would kill the two men who committed such a terrible crime. They sent out a call for assassins to justify what had happened to Delilah. That call reached the ears of a young man, who was referred to as The Schofield Kid, who seemed to be only in his early twenties.
Schofield wanted to be seen as a big tough cowboy who kills a lot and doesn’t give a damn. Mostly because in that time that was perceived as what a man should be. He boasted to have killed five men, and after hearing about the bounty Delilah’s housemates sent out, he went to find one of the most notoriously known men to be his partner. That man was William Munny (Clint Eastwood).
William Munny was known as one of the most fearsome men in the west and was heard to have killed many men. He married in 1867 and had two children. Since his marriage he stopped killing, gave up gunfighting, drinking, and most other vices, and raised a hogfarm with his wife and children. When his wife died from small pox in 1878 he was left to take care of the farm and his children, neither of which he was very good at. When Schofield came to Munny with the offer to partner in the assassinations, Munny reluctantly accepted the job, but decided he was better off taking his old partner Ned instead.
Ned was also living a peaceful life on a farm with his common law wife. He agreed to go with Munny and they both set of in pursuit of the Kid, eventually found him, and after some time the three made their way into BigWhiskey to find Delilah’s attackers.
Since their first arrival into Big Whiskey Munny was beaten by the Sheriff, sick, returned to health by the prostitutes, and succeeded in killing one of the two attackers. Ned was the first to take aim at the villain, but only managed to shoot his horse which caused the attackers leg to break. Ned refused to go through with the kill and Munny, after several shots, hit the cowboy in his lower chest. Ned had had enough of killing and mounted his horse to ride home, leaving Munny and the Kid to finish the job on their own.
Ned was caught by Little Bill’s men and was taken into be interrogated. Meanwhile Schofield and Munny set off to find the other attacker, who Little Bill had ordered to be protected by several men. They waited outside the house where the attacker and his guard were holed up. The attacker came outside to use the outhouse and Schofield waited until he was finished before shooting him. The Kid confessed he had never killed anyone before, and couldn’t live with the fact he had killed a man, resolving never to kill again.
One of the prostitutes brought the reward money and the news that Ned had been killed by Little Bill. Munny sent the reward home with the Kid, ordering him to give it to his two children, and rode into town with a bottle of whiskey in hand towards the saloon and whorehouse. Ned lay dead in an open casket outside the building with a sign that read “This is what happens to assassins around here.” The establishment was filled with most of the townsmen and the Sherrif. Munny did not hesitate to shoot the owner, everyone else, and finally aimed his rifle at the Sherrif, downing the last of his whiskey. Little Bill claimed he didn’t deserve to be killed, to which money replied, “Deserves got nothing to do with it” Little Bill then said, “I’ll see you in hell, William Munny.” Munny simply replied, “Yeah,” and shot him. William Munny left Big Whiskey and moved to San Francisco with his children.
In this film everyone was to blame. If those men hadn’t cut up Delilah, the Sheriff wouldn’t have needed to punish them. If the Sheriff dealt with the problem more justly, the prostitutes wouldn’t have sent out the bounty. If the prostitutes didn’t send out the bounty, Schofeild wouldn’t have gone to find Munny, and wouldn’t have had to face the pain of killing anyone. If Munny didn’t agree to the job he wouldn’t have had to kill anyone, he wouldn’t have gone to take Ned, and if he didn’t take Ned with him, Ned wouldn’t have been killed. If Ned didn’t agree to go with Munny, he wouldn’t have had to shoot anyone, and wouldn’t have been killed. All this tells me that everyone is at fault to some degree. I feel like the Sheriff was the most at fault because he wasn’t doing his job to protect the town like he was supposed to. Instead it seemed like he enjoyed the mayhem and the power of controlling it all. If there is anyone in this film who was the least to blame, it would probably be Ned, because he never killed anyone and did leave, but he still went in the first place. To me everyone is to blame, and no one is forgiven, hence the title. No one had to hurt anyone, but in the end they all did. If those men didn’t attack Delilah, none of it would have happened, but if they didn’t then there wouldn’t be a film, and it was a good film.