Whiskey in Unforgiven

Through out the movie Unforgiven, it started to become apparent that whiskey is a big part of that old west life style. The characters seemed to really rely on whiskey in several scenes as either a crutch after a difficult situation or tough shooting, or as a reward. William Munny is the most obvious character where whiskey has played such a strong role in his life. It is obvious to viewers that he used to heavily drink whiskey before he married his wife, yet mentions that his wife changed him and pulled him away from the negative habit. Munny continually passes up taking a drink of whiskey from Ned. In the beginning of the movie, it is constantly forced upon him yet he has such a will to reject the drink and not fall back into his old habits.

In this scene Munny talks about how his late wife, Claudia, changed him and allowed him to take a better step in the right direction, whiskey free. It appears here that whisky represents old bad habits and his old life of heartless killing. Although Munny is going back to kill he claims it is for different reasons, just for money. It appears that the whiskey free lifestyle represents this new light of killing for him and just killing those who have done severely wrong. Ned is a character that seems to constantly rely on the whiskey as an ailment for both mental and physical heath. After Munny has been severely beaten up and almost died, Ned feels that he needs some whisky to bring him back to health and have a smooth recovery. Another way where whiskey is shown as a positive reinforcement in the characters life is where Little Bill offers whiskey as a reward to the people of his county if they find Munny and The “Schofield Kid.”

However, the greatest effect of whiskey really becomes apparent after Munny is told that Ned is dead. This is the moment when Munny realizes that he will once again have to kill for revenge out of spite. When realizing this he takes his first sip of whiskey after several years. Whiskey really represents a state of mind in this scene and shows a new more malicious outlook that Munny will have to take. Whiskey seems to drown many negative, terrifying memories for these killers, yet through Claudia Munny had learned to cope without the whiskey.

Immediately after this scene Munny takes his first drink when he has to face the pain of dealing with Ned’s death. However, the most most interesting aspect of this is how The Schofield kid uses whiskey as his crutch during this scene. He continually chugs the whiskey as he talks about killing a man, and Munny even admits he was drunk most of the time when he killed men in the past. However, it is fascinating when Munny says, “Take a drink ” to the Schofield kid when he begins to cry about killing his first man. It is clear here and proceeding through the rest of the movie the effect that killing has on these men and how they use whiskey to cope. Even in the last scene when Munny kills all those men, including Little Bill he takes a shot of whiskey almost as a way to deal with all of the lives he has just taken. It is really evident through Ned, Munny, and Schofield Kid’s characters that whiskey helps them deal with their horrific acts of killing others, especially when it is in an act of vengeance. When the situation became too tough and too devastating, not even Munny could resist the temptation of whiskey to deal with this lifestyle.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Whiskey in Unforgiven

  1. kayleigh0812

    I thought your post on Whiskey brought up some interesting thoughts. When I first watched this film I did not really pay that close attention to how much of a role it actually played in the film. Your post made me think of a few question about the role of whiskey. Do you think that it could be considered a convention for the Western film genre? I have seen a few westerns were whiskey was always the main thing the characters drank when going to the bar. Also you mentioned that he drank whiskey when he performed heartless killings. Would you consider this as a way of the character believing that what he was doing was wrong, and this was how he dealt with the situation? I thought when you brought up the representation of drinking whiskey versus not drinking whiskey, and how it corresponded with his killings was very interesting.

  2. taalib2010

    You bring up a great point about the use of whiskey in the film. Almost every character uses whiskey or is involved in the use of it throughout the movie. That’s why I believe the town is named “Big Whiskey”. Moreover, not only do character in the film such as, William Munny, Ned and the Schofield kid use this drug as a coping mechanism but the town relies on it to stimulate the economy. During, the both scenes when Munny enters the bar it is noticeable that the whore house is right upstairs above the bar. This is probably a tactic devised by the owners of the bar so that when the customers get really drunk they do not have to venture far to find some more pleasure. Being intoxicated and under the influence it is more likely they are easily influenced to do such things. Nevertheless, you highlighted some interesting scenes and actions about how most people in the film only kill under the influence of whiskey or have to drink away their emotions and guilt afterwards just as William Munny and Schofield demonstrate.

  3. chaseweddington1

    While watching the movie, I too noticed the subtle role that whiskey plays in the old western society. It always seem to make its way into the scene as someone’s coping mechanism. I also feel as though whiskey was used as an excuse or explanation for committing some kind of wrongful act. Munny highlighted that when he used to kill, he usually was under the influence of whiskey. I believe that it is an attempt for him to explain that it was not in his true character to kill, but that it is whiskey’s fault for causing him to commit so many barbarous actions. That way, Munny (and others who engaged in drinking) would show that it was not their decision to kill, but instead the evils that trickles from whiskey.

  4. tylerlindley

    I didn’t notice the role of whiskey at all while I was watching Unforgiven, so I thought that you had a very interesting post. After looking back over it and thinking specifically about the role of whiskey, I find it interesting that in the scenes in the post, Munny describes himself as being mostly drunk when he committed his former heinous acts, but then takes a sip of whiskey before he goes off to kill Little Bill and the others. This seems like it’s almost a chicken-and-the-egg question: Do these men drink because they kill, or do they kill because they drink? It seems that a plausible order of events would be: a man kills another man, feels extremely guilty, drinks heavily to assuage the guilt, wishes to eliminate the guilt by justifying the action while drunk, kills with little or no provocation again as if to mitigate the effect of the first murder, and then repeats the process. It seems that a man who felt any remorse whatsoever for killing another man would only kill again out of self-defense or while intoxicated, so the whiskey seems to be a double-edged sword in which a man can lessen his feelings of guilt but also heighten his capacity for killing again.

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