In the film Hondo, I found the theme of animalistic independence to be common in multiple figures in the film. The character which provoked this thought the most was Hondo’s dog, Sam. The independence of the dog was most pronounced when Hondo was asked about giving the dog food. He replied that he wanted to dog to feed himself, which was for the purpose of survival and to maintain its instincts. These instincts are what I view to be known as animalistic tendencies. The independence was explained outright, just as it was obvious that Hondo was independent. In the opening scene, the viewer only sees a man and his dog walking alone. He walked onto a property by himself, accompanied by his dog, which was raised to be independent as well. He worked on his own, doing chores around the ranch and not wanting assistance from Angie Lowe or her son Johnny. This was almost like a silent cooperation. The dog understood who his master was, as he was obedient to each one of Hondo’s orders, but he still maintained enough distance to survive on his own, as nature intended.
The dog was also territorial and stubborn, often functioning on his own and standing his ground when approached by humans. Whenever Johnny approached the dog, the dog bared his teeth, growled, and snapped at the boy. The dog did this to everybody but Hondo, an indication of Hondo’s male dominance over the dog. There was another point in the film where the dog stood in the path of a cavalryman. The man tried to make the dog move, but the dog responded with a bark and threatening growl. The man eventually walked around the dog after it refused to yield its ground. While the dog was certainly not a human, it still possessed qualities of being independent. I think the fact that this was an animal and not a human further promotes the fact that this theme is holistic in that this independence is present in every living thing. The setting, the West, establishes this independence as being a central quality of the Western style of life.
A turning point in this theme of animalistic independence was after the Indian, Silva, killed the dog. After this point, Hondo’s independence ended. He began cooperating with his fellow white men and eventually worked to overcome multiple Apache ambushes. Man must work together for survival in the West, even the men most capable of surviving on their own. Without the assistance of others, Hondo dies at the hands of the Indians. Instead, cooperation leads to survival and repelling of attacks by the savages.
It is hard to tell if independence is frowned upon or encouraged in the film. The most independent figures, such as Hondo and his dog, either die or need saving from others, signaling a reliance on human interaction. The families that also tried to live independently in Apache territory also came under attack and had to be evacuated by U.S. cavalry. I almost view the film an indictment against the need for independence in the West. Each white man and woman had to have another present for eventual survival against the Indians. The Indians, who always worked together, found themselves to be significantly more successful in their efforts to attack the white men. This tug-of-war, while painting the Indians to be savages through their attacks, also points out how simple and effective life could be while working together. It wasn’t until the white men cooperated did they find success in survival.