Bill Munny says he is lucky when he wins the final gunfight, but that he’s always been lucky. He tells a kid: it’s a hell of a thing, killing a man – take away all he’s got & all he’s ever gonna have. He tells Little Bill, when he kills him: Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. There is no life after death nor no justice. This speech justifies Little Bill’s deeds: without eternal justice, good & evil are merely private. Terrified, man is justified in every horror to preempt inevitable violence.
Bill Munny’s deeds, however, are a quest for justice. He seeks revenge: first, for a woman, then, for a friend. Now, the women are whores & he does it for the money; & his friend is a bounty-hunter & an accessory to cold-blooded murder. They are a sorry bunch, & unheroic. Nevertheless, the love that binds friends conquers self-interest.
His drunkenness shows immoderation: his manliness served his desires. He played with guns. He became lawless, but he might have become a soldier or sheriff. He is shown in his worst light. But there is good in him: his children, whom he raised, show no sign of his evil; his dead wife also testifies to his gentleness; as does the whore in whom he inspires love & whom he treats kindly.
His affection for his friend, who seems to have been more successful in the life of peace, is entirely devoid of selfishness. Differences of race mean nothing to them. They are capable of feeling shame, & honor. He allows his friend to leave for home, because he no longer loves war; his friend, in return, refuses to betray him when tortured. Both care for each other’s good more than for their own good. That shows nobility.
Neither youthful excesses & brutality, nor mature repentance & marriage could exhaust or restrain his passions. His just vengeance therefore is marred by his guilty conscience. He embellishes the whores’ story to convince his partner of its justice. He is ashamed of making money out of it.
The speeches he makes to his friend Ned deal with his fear of death. He is haunted in dreams by his the victims of his injustice. Their ghosts assure him there is soul & that he is damned. He hopes the old days are gone, the Old West whose deviltry he embodied. He suspects he is unchanged, again taking to the gun & the bottle.
He finally liberates the city & threatens citizens with punishment for future lawlessness, speaking as if he were immortal & could enforce oaths. Justice is punishment foremost. Its name finally is God’s wrath.