(So, as a disclaimer, if you haven’t played Red Dead Redemption then watch out for major spoilers.)
What does it take to find redemption? If one spends their entire lives committing acts that damn them to the fringes of society then what does it take for society to accept them? Can one ever truly atone for their sins? These are all questions that are asked of John Marston. It’s not the fact that Marston ever felt truly sorry for what he had done. He accepted his actions as the past and deemed to move on and start a new life. It was the “normal” world who had to decide whether Marston had earned his place among them.
John Marston spent the majority of his life in the gang of Butch van der Lin. John and his future wife, Abigail, joined this gang at a young age after running away from the orphanage that they lived at.Butch raised John almost as a father figure, teaching him to shoot, read, and in general how to take care of himself.
John ran in Butch’s gang and helped commit many crimes. John robbed and murdered during this point in his life, yet Butch always made it appear that they where doing a good work. They never purposefully attacked the weak and chose to feed upon the more affluent. They saw themselves as the Robin Hoods of the west.
After a robbery went bad and Marston was shot, Butch left him to die. Marston lived from this wound and decided that he and his wife should have a normal life. He wanted to start a ranch and teach his son how to live an honest life and not to live a life like he had. However, Marston could never escape his old life.
Edgar Ross, the head of the western division of the newly established Bureau of Investigation, blackmails Marston into his service. Martson’s family is captured and held with their lives as the payment for bringing down the gang of Butch van der Lin. Marston spends the majority of Red Dead Redemption tracking down the other members of the gang and eventually brings them all to justice, including Butch himself.
Marston gets his family back and there’s hope that his dream of a normal and honest life can be realized. Marston begins to teach his son to rise cattle and to hunt and to take care of himself. Yet, even when things seem brightest your shadow is always near.
Edgar Ross returns, alongside the US Army, in search of the last of the van der Lin gang; John Marston. John desperately tries to hold them off but eventually finds himself overrun. Marston makes his family escape and decides to confront Ross and try to reason with him. Instead of reason, Ross orders his execution.
Marston never could escape his old life, but did he find the redemption that he had been searching for? In my mind his redemption came in the from of his son, Jack. Witnessing the death of his father, whom he was beginning to come close to emotionally, Jack dedicates himself to get revenge. Eventually as an adult, after waiting till the time was right, Jack confronts Edgar Ross and challenges him to a duel. By this time Ross is old and slow and Jack shoots him down. The revenge was met.
John Marston’s redemption was found through his son’s revenge. John raised Jack to be an honest person, not someone who would murder Edgar in cold blood. John raised Jack to get revenge, but to do it through honor. Jack could of easily murdered Ross in his sleep but he decided to face his father’s murderer one on one.
This is the legacy of John Marston, a man who only wished to have a normal life. The normal world rejected his offer; John had nowhere to go. John had killed all of his old companions and was betrayed by the only agreement he had left. Yet, John still had his family and his family still had the lessons that John taught to them. That was the redemption of John Marston.
Oh yeah, John Marston exterminated the entire Sasquatch species so… there’s that.