The Wild Bunch

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for The Wild Bunch. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

A person’s character is best defined by their deeds, not their words.  Though Pike discusses changing his lawless, gunfighting ways, it’s the only lifestyle he knows and he hangs onto it, a dinosaur in changing times.  He stands by his code of loyalty:
PIKE:  We started together—we’ll end it together.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 33)
—and finally refuses to leave Angel to die alone in Mapache’s hands, leading the Bunch in their final shootout.

Main Character Growth

Pike Bishop is “tired of being hunted.”  He hides out in Mexico, holding out for his pursuers—“Railroad men—Pinkertons—bounty hunters.”—especially Thornton, to give up or be killed by Mapache’s men.

Main Character Approach

Knowing that the bounty hunters are waiting for him, Pike pushes the Paymaster out the door first; When the buckshot Buck can’t go on, Pike executes him; When his stirrup breaks, Pike heaves himself back into the saddle without it; Concerned about being double-crossed by Mapache, Pike booby-traps the gun wagon with dynamite; etc.

Main Character Mental Sex

When his “family” members squabble amongst themselves, Pike gives them pep talks in an effort to hold the Wild Bunch together:
SYKES:  That was a mighty fine talk you gave the boys ‘bout stickin’ together.  That Gorch was near killin’ me—or me him—
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 33)
With Thornton closing in, and his own men ready for fight or flight, Pike looks at the bigger picture:
LYLE:  We kin stay right up here and kick hell out of ‘em.
PIKE:  No water.
DUTCH:  Make a run for the border?
PIKE:  They’d be after us every step of the way—I know Thornton.  No, I’m tired of being hunted—we go back to Agua Verde and let the general take care of those boys.
LYLE:  You’re crazy!... Back with those greasers!
PIKE:  He’s so tickled with the guns he’ll be celebrating for a week and happy to do us a favor.  Thornton ain’t going after us in there.  While they’re busy picking over old Freddy’s pockets, we’ll take the back trail off this mountain and head for town.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 99)
NOTE:  The obstacle character, Deke Thornton, also has a female mental sex.  He too, tries to hold together his group of misfits, but by using threats.  He’s able to grasp the bigger picture of how things work, which allows him to work for Harrigan and to join Sykes at story’s end.  He can intuit what Pike is thinking at any given time, as they share the same problem solving techniques.

Story Driver

Harrigan decides to wait until the Wild Bunch come out of the railroad office and catch them in the act, thus causing the townspeople’s slaughter; Thornton makes a decision to hunt down Pike rather than face jail; Pike allows Angel to take a case of guns, leading to his capture by Mapache; The Wild Bunch decide to go for the gold and get guns for Mapache; Pike decides to rescue Angel from Mapache’s men; etc.

Story Limit

The Wild Bunch run out of options in trying to get Angel back from Mapache: Pike tries to buy him back with Angel’s share of the gold, then with half of his own, but Mapache won’t bargain:
MAPACHE:  No, I don’t need gold…I don’t sell that one.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 103)
Finally, confronted by the determined Wild Bunch, he relents:
“MAPACHE:  You want him…?  Take him…  [...]  MAPACHE GRABS HIM BY THE HAIR and his other hand flashes across the boy’s throat as he shoves Angel into the Americans, the blood splattering them from his severed throat.
AS PIKE STEPS BACK TO AVOID Angel’s falling body, he draws his forty-five automatic and fires twice into Mapache.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 108)
The climactic shootout ensues.

Story Outcome

Though the Wild Bunch receive gold from Mapache in return for the guns, and it turns out to be their last big heist, they don’t escape to enjoy it.  They are killed, as are Mapache and the bounty hunters.  Angel’s hope of liberating his people from oppression does live on in the form of Sykes and Thornton, though the gold remains buried in a place unknown.  Thornton fails to either kill the Wild Bunch or take their bodies back as promised (though he allows his bounty hunters to try), and becomes an outlaw again.

Story Judgment

Pike never gets the chance to put right the personal wrongs he’s experienced in the past: he doesn’t get revenge on the man who killed his woman, and for abandoning Thornton there’s no forgiveness—only death for another’s (Angel’s) cause offers any kind of redemption at all.

Overall Story Throughline

""Going For the Gold""

Overall Story Throughline

The members of the Wild Bunch are concerned with robbing the railroad, trying to make one last big score; Harrigan, Thornton, and the bounty hunters track the Bunch down and set traps for them; Mapache wages war against Villa’s forces and tries to improve his arsenal.

Overall Story Concern

The Wild Bunch robs the railroad to get gold; As robbing the railroad gets more difficult, Pike and the Gorch brothers are after one last big score; Angel wants guns to give his people power against the oppressive government; Mapache wants guns to empower him against Villa; Harrigan wants Pike and his men dead, to make his railroad safe; Thornton wants to capture Pike, his “get-out-of-jail-free card”; The bounty hunters want the reward money on the Bunch’s heads.

Overall Story Issue

The Gorches argue that Angel and Sykes shouldn’t get the same share of the loot as them; Thornton’s primary concern is keeping himself out of jail; Angel kills Teresa because if he can’t have her, then Mapache can’t either; Coffer and T.C. loot corpses for personal gain; Mapache aims to be “the best armed General in Mexico”; Dutch leaves Angel at Mapache’s mercy and escapes with his gold; Pike runs out on Thornton at the whorehouse; Pike offers only half his share to buy back Angel from Mapache; etc.

Overall Story Counterpoint

Thornton pleads with Harrigan for the plight of the innocent townspeople in Starbuck:
THORNTON:  They should have been told!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 6)
Crazy Lee sacrifices himself for the benefit of Mr. Pike; To hold the Bunch together, Pike appeals to their sense of loyalty for the benefit of the group; Angel steals guns (and Pike lets him) to give to his oppressed people; Dutch and Sykes argue for going back and rescuing Angel; The Wild Bunch do go back for Angel, knowing they risk their own lives—and in the ensuing battle, rid the region of oppression; Thornton joins with Sykes to fight for the cause of Angel’s people; etc.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Self-Interest vs.Morality

“Many of The Wild Bunch’s linked statements and actions reflect oppositions between cohesion and dissent, idealism and materialism, altruism and selfishness….  The materialistic realm, which involves an emphasis on money and selfishness (with an attendant destruction of group unity), is characterized most aptly after the Starbuck massacre when an argument about apportioning the “silver” occurs.  The Gorches don’t want Sykes or Angel to have shares equal to everyone else’s, which leads to guns being drawn on all sides.  The dissension is most aptly characterized by Pike when he says, “Go on, go for it, fall apart.”  Opposed to this strain is the idealistic realm, in which, despite petty antagonisms, the men stay together because of their feelings of loyalty to one another, a state also successfully characterized by Pike after Tector threatens to “get rid of” Sykes.  Pike then delivers…:  “When you side with a man you stay with him, and if you can’t do that you’re like some animal, you’re finished, we’re finished, all of us.”  The use of the plural pronoun signals precisely the kind of unity about which Pike is talking.
The two elements are vital to The Wild Bunch because, if nothing else, the film is about the difficulty of making choices.  It’s significant that in the majority of the cases in which we find moral linkages, the example signifying dissent, materialism, or selfishness occurs before the one signifying cohesion, idealism, or altruism.  The implication is unavoidable:  what we witness in The Wild Bunch is the triumph of the ideal over the material realm.”
(Bliss, p. 85)

Overall Story Problem

The Wild Bunch’s pursuit of easy money to be taken at gunpoint puts them in conflict with their favorite target, the railroad—whose representative, Harrigan, sends Thornton and the bounty hunters to bring them in, dead not alive.  Angel’s pursuit of fiancee Teresa into Mapache’s camp causes problems with Mapache, but not as much as his theft of guns for his people—necessary to achieve their independence.

Overall Story Solution

If Pike and his Wild Bunch steered clear of the railroad and its offices, Thornton and Harrigan’s men would have great difficulty finding them; If Angel had kept away from the unfaithful Teresa, he wouldn’t have killed her—and would have avoided her grieving mother’s betrayal of him to Mapache; If Pike and the Bunch had left Angel to his fate, they would have escaped death in Mapache’s camp.

Overall Story Symptom

Mapache keeps the Mexican villagers under his thumb by way of superior force; Harrigan controls Thornton with threats of a return to jail if Pike’s not brought in; Pike regulates his Wild Bunch with repeated appeals for group loyalty, and threats to split up the group; Thornton controls his bunch of bounty hunters with consequences of death if they go back empty-handed, and his threat to leave them in the desert to die.

Overall Story Response

Lyle and Tector Gorch are constant threats to the Wild Bunch’s cohesiveness, whining about splitting their share and disrespecting the Mex (Angel) and the old man (Sykes) and even Pike; Crazy Lee is an out-of-control killer, which is why Pike leaves him with the hostages; Frenzy results when the bounty hunters shoot into the townsfolk in Starbuck; The unfocused bounty hunters shoot their own side, the U.S. Army; Mapache spins around with the machine gun, bullets flying everywhere; Angel lets his emotions run rampant, shooting Teresa and almost hitting Mapache; etc.

Overall Story Catalyst

Pike’s merciless attitude towards civilians in the railroad office determines how Thornton’s ambush will play out:
PIKE:  If they move, kill them.
Harrigan’s attitude toward Thornton compels him to go after Pike:
HARRIGAN:  You fail and I’ll see you rot to death in Yuma.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 20)
Mapache’s stubborn refusal to bargain over Angel leaves the Wild Bunch no choice but to confront him with violence; etc.

Overall Story Inhibitor

Thornton’s decision to catch the Wild Bunch on the way out of the railroad office allows them to avoid capture, under cover of the Temperance march; Angel’s decision to shoot Teresa almost gets the Bunch killed and backfires when her mother informs on him about the rifles; Pike’s decision to allow Angel to take one case of the guns causes problems with Mapache; Pike’s decision to get Angel back from Mapache leads to the final confrontation and ensures the Bunch won’t get away with the gold.

Overall Story Benchmark

The objective characters measure their progress by what they learn.  In Starbuck, Thornton and Harrigan learn the ‘soldiers’ are the Wild Bunch they’re after, and Pike learns Thornton is after him; Dutch learns Pike and Thornton parted under bad terms, and asks about the botched robbery:
DUTCH:  How about us, Pike?  You reckon we learned, being wrong today?
PIKE:  I sure hope to God we did.
Angel learns from Don Jose that Mapache killed his father and took his fiancee Teresa as a whore; A child soldier brings Mapache a telegram informing him of the successful raid on the munitions train; Angel learns that Teresa’s mother informed on him about the theft of Mapache’s guns.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

“The film begins with the Wild Bunch holding up a bank in a desert town while the railroad has its bounty hunters waiting in ambush.  The gang spies the trap midway through the robbery, and as the town temperance union coincidentally marches unaware down the street, the bunch makes their break using them as a shield.  The trap is sprung anyway.  In the slow-motion blood ballet that follows, some gang members are killed and [one is] abandoned, as the decimated gang takes refuge in Mexico.  The bounty hunters follow in pursuit.  They are led by Deke Thornton, once the closest friend of Wild Bunch leader Pike Bishop, until Pike had abandoned him in the face of oncoming lawmen.  Now, in order to win parole, Thornton must bring Pike back.
The gunfight’s setting in the town is a harbinger of one of the prevailing themes of The Wild Bunch:  the frontier is closed.  It is, in fact, 1913, and in entering Mexico, the bunch knowingly is entering a three-sided conflict between Pancho Villa’s rebels, the Mexican establishment embodied by a corrupt warlord named Mapache, and the U.S. government, which is calling out the army to defend the border against Villa’s raids.
The gang chooses to work for Mapache.  For $10,000, they will steal a shipment of arms from a U.S. Army supply train.  Although Thornton is aboard, the raid is a success.  The bunch stands off Mapache’s troops who have come to kill them and then claim the arms without making payment.  Afterwards, they trade the guns for money in a pre-arranged rendezvous.  As a result, Mapache apprehends Angel, a young Mexican member of the Wild Bunch whose village Mapache has ravaged.  Mapache accuses Angel, correctly, of having taken a portion of the shipment to arm the rebels.  Meanwhile, still pursued by Thornton, the Bunch must seek refuge in Mapache’s village.  There, in drunken debauch, Mapache tortures Angel.  This action Pike finally cannot abide.  [He offers] to return [half his] money for Angel.  The drunken Mapache produces Angel but slits his throat.  Enraged, Pike and Dutch Engstrom kill Mapache.  In the ensuing climactic gunfight, the gang uses the stolen armaments—a machine gun, grenades, and explosives—to decimate the army and the village before they themselves finally succumb to gunfire.  [...] The bounty hunters claim the bodies, but Thornton elects to stay and fight with the rebels, who have rescued Sykes.”
(Magill’s, p. 1846)

Overall Story Backstory

In the screenplay, voice-over narration leads us into the story:
NARRATOR:  To most of America in 1913, the Age of Innocence had arrived and the stories of the Indian Wars and the Gold Rush and the Great Gunfighters had become either barroom ballyhoo or frontporch reminiscences…But on both sides of the Rio Grande men still lived as they had in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s—unchanged men in a changing land.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 1)

Main Character Throughline

Pike Bishop — Leader of the Wild Bunch

Main Character Throughline

At a time when encroaching technology—the motor car, machine gun, and telegraph—is making him obsolete and ineffective,  Pike’s aging fast:
PIKE:  I’m not getting around any better—like the red-haired lady said to the white-haired judge—“I only got so many miles left in my backside, Your Honor, and I aim to keep it moving while I’m still young enough to feel what it’s there for.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 28)
He’s wounded physically and psychologically, to the point where his own men doubt his abilities:
LYLE:  Riding with ‘Brother Pyke’ [sic] and old Sykes makes a man wonder, if it ain’t time to pick up his chips and find another game.
TECTOR:  How in hell are you going to side anybody if you can’t get on a horse.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 32)

Main Character Concern

Pike has vague dreams but no real hopes for the future—a man who knows his time is up:
LYLE:  Say—I’ve heard it’s like the old times in Argentina…Butch Cassidy down there making a killing…
PIKE:  It’ll be the same there—all over in a few years.  Those mining companies will bring a bunch of hardcases down there and Butch’ll get busted just the same…Every one of us is worth a year of drinking and whoring to any fool that can read a wanted poster and carry a gun.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 17)
PIKE:  I don’t know any better—maybe don’t want any better.  I wouldn’t know what to do with ‘better’ if it poked me in the eye with a sharp stick.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 28)

Main Character Issue

Pike puts his foot down about sharing the loot the same way as always; He’s single-minded about the forces of law and order waiting for him:
PIKE:  I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 29)
He’s adamant about the Bunch sticking together, just like it used to be; Pike’s initially unreceptive to the idea of rescuing Angel.

Main Character Counterpoint

Pike’s receptive to the Temperance march—as cover for the Bunch’s escape from Starbuck; Though he has no fondness for Mapache and his cause, Pike’s open to stealing guns for him as a way to get gold; Pike’s swayed enough by Angel’s idealism to allow him a case of guns; Pike shows his willingness to re-evaluate with the phrase “Why not?” when offered Mapache’s whores; Pike re-evaluates his whole life and decides to fight for Angel’s freedom.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Preconception vs.Openness

Pike’s resistant to change, even though the old ways are not working as well any more.  With Angel as an example and Thornton as a constant reminder, he finally re-evaluates his lifetime of running out on people and stands by Angel, living up to his word:
PIKE:  We started together—we’ll end it together.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 33)

Main Character Problem

Pike helps Angel and the people of his village attain independence by allowing them a case of Mapache’s guns; Pike’s final decision to live by his words—to help the tortured Angel—is what ends his life.

Main Character Solution

If Pike continued his earlier obstruction of Angel’s vengeance, he and his Wild Bunch would remain alive and free:
“GUARD:  Mapache?  More than a general—a man to rule all Mexico if God wills.
PIKE:  You’re here with us, pardner—any business you got with the general comes after we finish ours—understand?
ANGEL:  As you wish.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 44)
Similarly, he at first blocks any notion to rescue Angel:
DUTCH:  Sykes says we got to go after him.
TECTOR:  How in hell can we do that?!  They got guns and 200 men… Besides, chances are he’s dead by now.
PIKE (finally):  No way… no way at all.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 97)

Main Character Symptom

To help keep his unruly Bunch together, Pike exerts control by lecturing them:
PIKE:  We don’t get rid of nobody—we stick together—just like it used to be— when you side with a man you stick with him—!  If you can’t do that you’re worse than some animal—you’re finished—we’re finished—all of us!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 32)
Pike also keeps a tight rein on his true emotions:
“Even though it is placed later in the film, the flashback showing Aurora’s death is most to the point here, for it is there that Peckinpah makes manifest the full extent to which Pike keeps his deepest feelings to himself.  This is the only flashback accompanied by voiceover—Pike affecting a toughness of attitude, telling Dutch all he thinks about is getting even with Aurora’s husband.  The images, however, focus chiefly on Pike’s own sometimes careless treatment of Aurora (he arrives two days late for a rendezvous, offering neither explanation nor apology) and on their last few moments of tenderness together before she is killed.”
(Seydor, p. 164)

Main Character Response

When Pike’s rigid control causes tension amongst Bunch members—or between the Bunch and others, such as when Angel kills Teresa and there’s a Mexican standoff—Pike encourages unregulated laughter as a way to diffuse it.

Main Character Unique Ability

Pike is stubborn in his determination to run the Wild Bunch his way or no way, as he tells the Gorches:
PIKE:  If you two boys don’t like equal shares and a little for the old man—why in hell don’t you just take it all.  [...]
LYLE:  Ah—Pike, you know…
PIKE:  I don’t know a goddamned thing except I either lead this bunch or I end it—right now!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 23)
The tight-knit cooperation his stubbornness engenders enables the Bunch to pull off their heists so well, but when Pike’s guilt over Angel enters the equation, it adds up to doom for them all.

Main Character Critical Flaw

“[...]  despite all of the preceding talk about unity, Pike (and the rest of the Bunch) abandoned Crazy Lee, just as Pike abandoned Abe [sic] and will abandon Angel and Sykes himself.  What we witness in these conflicts between words and deeds is Pike’s having to balance considerations regarding the individual against those of the group.  [...]  Yet opposed to these practical considerations is Pike’s basic desire—doubtless in response to his guilt over having abandoned Thornton—to remain loyal to the men in the Bunch.”
(Bliss, p. 99)
In the end, it’s Pike’s decision to selflessly lead the Bunch against the superior forces of Mapache, in order to get Angel back, that dooms him as it redeems his reputation.

Main Character Benchmark

Pike assesses buckshot Buck’s current situation as hopeless, and executes him so the Bunch’s escape won’t be slowed:
PIKE (dryly):  You want to move on - or stay here and give him a decent burial?
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 16)
He lets the Gorches know how things stand regarding sharing the loot—same as always; When the Pinkertons enter the whorehouse, Pike seizes the moment and runs out on Thornton; Before the raid on the train, he emphasizes:
PIKE:  This is the last go round—this time we do it right.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 61)
With Mapache’s death, time seems to stop as everyone freezes in shock—until the Wild Bunch’s leader initiates Pike’s last stand by shooting the German advisor.

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

“PIKE BISHOP, wearing lieutenant’s bars rides slightly ahead of the others.  He rides stiffly, always slightly in pain.  Pike is a not unhandsome, leather faced man in his early forties.  A thoughtful, self-educated top gun with a penchant for violence.  He is afraid of nothing—except the changes in himself and those around him.
Make no mistake, Pike Bishop is not a hero—his values are not ours—he is a gunfighter, a criminal, a bank robber, a killer of men.  His sympathies are not for fences, for trolleys and telegraphs or better schools.  He lives outside and against society because he believes in that way of life and if he has moments of sympathy for others, moments of regret, they are short lived.  He is not a ‘good man’ according to the righteous…To them he is totally bad, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 1)

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

Pike Bishop is a man who wants things to go on like they used to be, while realizing that’s not realistically possible.  He loathes himself for deserting others, but repeats this action with Crazy Lee, Buck, and Angel.  He’s haunted by memories of abandoning his best friend Thornton, and it’s to make up for that that he sticks with Angel, joining him in death and a little glory.

Main Character Backstory

Pike Bishop’s a man with misgivings about his past deeds and missed opportunities.  When ambushed in a whorehouse, he fled and left Deke Thornton to be shot and captured. Also, as he tells Dutch in the steam hut:
PIKE: I met a woman I wanted to marry.  She had a husband and I should have had enough sense to kill him.  But he wasn’t around and I got careless.  One night I woke up as he walked in—watching me over a shotgun.  First barrel went in her face…I was running for my gun on the other side of the room when he caught me with the second.  [...]  He cleared out and it took me five years to find his son…who told me where the old man is living, before I killed him.  He’s in Cuba now and when this job is over I’m going after him…There hasn’t been a day or an hour that I haven’t thought about getting him…
(Green and Peckinpah, pp. 60-61)

Influence Character Throughline

Deke Thornton — Judas Goat

Influence Character Throughline

Thornton’s been released from prison because he knew Pike, and is the best man for the job of tracking him down and killing him.  He never veers from his pledge to Harrigan to bring Pike in, a loyalty which even Pike respects him for:
DUTCH:  Thornton—they got Sykes.  He’s hit bad.  Goddamn Deke Thornton.
PIKE:  What would you do in his place.  He gave his word.
DUTCH:  Gave his word to a Goddamned railroad.
PIKE:  Still, it is his word.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 98)

Influence Character Concern

Although Thornton does Harrigan’s killing for him, it’s clear he doesn’t relish it:
THORNTON:  Tell me, Mr. Harrigan—how does it feel?  Getting paid for it?  Getting paid to sit back and hire your killings with the law’s arms around you?!  How does it feel to be so Goddamned right?
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 21)
His true drive is to avoid going back to jail and more floggings, and he’s true to his word to Harrigan until Pike’s dead.

Influence Character Issue

Even though his abandonment by Pike took place some time ago, Thornton can’t forget or forgive it, and in coming after Pike reopens the wound for both of them.

Influence Character Counterpoint

Thornton feels a lack of resolution when coming across the corpse of Pike, who in ending his life helping Angel’s cause, has reached some closure.

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Denial vs.Closure

Thornton gets no satisfaction out of finding Pike dead, and it’s only in picking up his gun—and his mantle of newfound idealism—that he can let that particular past go.

Influence Character Problem

Thornton’s pursuit of Pike causes Thornton problems not only because Pike doesn’t want to be pursued, but because Thornton doesn’t want to hunt down his old friend.  Harrigan so distrusts his motivation that he threatens:
HARRIGAN:  If one of you tries to quit on me, I’ll pay a bonus of $1,000 to the man that kills him.

Influence Character Solution

Avoiding going back to jail is what will truly satisfy Thornton.  If he could avoid the capture of Pike, while at the same time avoiding Harrigan’s wrath, he’d be a lot happier:
HARRIGAN:  You might run off with them.  Might even join them again.  You’d like that, wouldn’t you?
THORNTON:  What I like and what I need are two different things.

Influence Character Symptom

Thornton considers the options Harrigan offers him—staying in jail and receiving more whippings, or going after his partner whose arrogance put him there—and votes for freedom, which means he must go after Pike and bring him in.

Influence Character Response

Disappointed with his motley crew of “damned egg sucking chicken stealing gutter rats,” Thornton reconsiders his promise to bring Pike in:
THORNTON:  Shut your mouth!  You don’t even have enough sense to keep your Goddamned boots on.  We’re after men—and I wish to God I was with them.  You make any more mistakes and I’m going to ride off and let you die.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 80)
—but the thought of going back to jail or execution keeps him on Pike’s trail.

Influence Character Unique Ability

Thornton refuses to let Pike go, and his constant presence is a reminder of Pike’s earlier betrayal of him—causing problems for Pike:
DUTCH:  What about Thornton and them others?
PIKE:  Last I saw they was cuttin’ out—But if Deke made it—he’ll be payin’ a visit.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 73)
DUTCH:  At least we don’t have to worry about Deke Thornton.
PIKE:  Hell no, not after riding a half case of dynamite into the river.
SYKES:  Well don’t expect him to stay there.  He’ll be along and you know it.

Influence Character Critical Flaw

While Harrigan thinks Thornton’s the man to bring Pike in, Deke himself is not sure he’s the one to kill him:
HARRIGAN:  I am wondering why you shot the paymaster and let your ‘old friend’ get away.
THORNTON:  I tried—but I spooked—it happens, Mr. Harrigan—to any of us.  Today it happened to all of us.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 19)
He’s disgusted by Harrigan’s (and thus his own) wanton killing under the color of law:
THORNTON:  Tell me, Mr. Harrigan—how does it feel?  Getting paid for it?  Getting paid to sit back and hire your killings with the law’s arms around you?!  How does it feel to be so Goddamned right?
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 20)

Influence Character Benchmark

While Thornton’s angry that Harrigan may get more innocent people killed in pursuit of Pike, he considers the alternative:
THORNTON:  I don’t want to go back to jail, Mr. Harrigan…not ever.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 20)
After his men shoot the U.S. soldiers by mistake, he realizes that now they must bring in Pike:
THORNTON:  Unless you’d like to go back and face a firing squad.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 71)
When his men lose the trail of the Bunch’s wagon, Thornton knows they’re being watched and keeps going the wrong way; Though his men want to hunt down the injured Sykes, Thornton considers Pike and the others as more important targets.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“...DEKE THORNTON, an older man crouching next to him.  Thornton has a deeply lined face and the resigned manner of a man who has changed sides to stay alive, although part of his life has gone out of him with the change.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 5)

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

In order to gain his freedom, Deke Thornton hunts down Pike who, ironically, was responsible for his loss of freedom.  Thornton tracks Pike but can never get closer than one step behind him, eventually catching up with him only because he’s been killed.  Thornton feels no vengeful satisfaction at this, but rather a lack of purpose now his quarry’s dead and he’s free.  Joining up with Sykes and Angel’s people in the cause of freedom provides his future with meaning.

Influence Character Backstory

Deke was Pike’s partner and best buddy, until he trusted him too much and got shot and captured for his trouble:
THORNTON:  How can you be so sure?
PIKE:  Being sure’s my business.
Now he’s out on parole, working for the self-assured Harrigan:
THORNTON:  How does it feel to be so Goddamned right?
HARRIGAN:  Good, Mr. Thornton…it feels good.
THORNTON:  You dirty son of a bitch.
HARRIGAN:  You have 30 days —30 days to Yuma.  You’re my Judas goat.  You use them—lead them—kill them off.  When you come back, I want all of them head down over a saddle.  Pike—All of them—head down over a saddle.  30 days.
(Green and Peckinpah, pp. 20-21)

Relationship Story Throughline

""You Can Run, But You Can't Hide""

Relationship Story Throughline

While Thornton and Pike never meet face to face, Thornton’s constant presence reminds Pike of how he abandons his associates when the going gets tough.  The effect of Thornton’s altered behavior in now working for the law is to point up Pike’s own intractability:
LYLE:  I thought Deke Thornton was your sidekick.
PIKE:  He was—but he got old and tired and when that happens, things change.
DUTCH:  He changed—you didn’t!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 17)

Relationship Story Concern

Pike is an unchanging man in changing times, who knows:
PIKE:  We got to start thinking beyond our guns—them days are closin’ fast.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 26)
—though he’s unable to act upon that sentiment.  Thornton has changed since Pike’s act of betrayal, becoming a bounty hunter for the very railroads that Pike targets for robbery.  As Dutch notes:
DUTCH:  He changed—you didn’t!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 17)

Relationship Story Issue

Thornton commits to bringing Pike in, regardless of who gets killed along the way; Pike admires the steadfastness of Thornton—he’s given his word, even if it is to the railroad; Pike feels guilty for his lack of devotion to Thornton, running out on him in the whorehouse.

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Both Pike and Thornton know that Thornton was chosen for the job because he knows his quarry, having once been his partner; An honorable man, Thornton squirms at being Harrigan’s Judas Goat, and would just as soon join Pike as kill him; Pike knows his days as an outlaw are numbered, that he’s vulnerable to “any fool that can read a wanted poster and carry a gun,” while:
DUTCH:  Deke Thornton isn’t just any fool that can carry a gun and read a wanted poster.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 17)

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Commitment vs.Responsibility

Even though he realizes times are changing and his way of doing business is fast becoming obsolete, Pike sticks with his lifestyle of living by the gun and dies by it, knowing of no viable alternative.  Though Thornton has qualms about what he’s doing, he remains dedicated to bringing Pike in until he witnesses his self-sacrifice.  At that point, he feels unable to stomach taking Pike’s body back—preferring to send it with his bounty hunters—and instead takes up Pike’s gun and his newfound cause.

Relationship Story Problem

Thornton was chosen to go after Pike for a reason:
HARRIGAN:  I gave you this chance because you know Bishop!
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 19)
As the two are former partners and have similar M.O.‘s, Thornton’s able to predict how Pike will behave.  Thornton’s persistent pursuit is a constant reminder to Pike of how he runs out on people when they need him most, a quality he dislikes in himself.
“...Pike is aware that his abandonment of Thornton years before set in motion the of events that now causes his best friend to pursue him.  In essence, Pike is really being pursued by his own guilty conscience in the person of Thornton.”
(Bliss, in Doing It Right. p. xv)

Relationship Story Solution

If Thornton would only dodge the bounty hunters he’s leading and make a run to freedom—which is what Pike would probably do in the same situation, but Thornton’s a man of his word—Pike might be able to forget his personal demons.

Relationship Story Symptom

It’s Pike’s overconfidence in himself that holds Thornton up in the whorehouse long enough to get shot:
PIKE:  We’ve got plenty of money to spend and not a worry in the world.  They’re not going to look for us in their own back yard.
THORNTON:  How can you be so sure?
PIKE:  Being sure is my business.

Relationship Story Response

Harrigan is unconvinced of Thornton’s explanation of why he didn’t shoot Pike when he had the chance; Thornton’s not convinced of Pike’s reasoning in the whorehouse—when there’s a knock at the door, he yells to the woman going to open the door to “Hold it!” but she listens to Pike and gets Thornton shot; Feeling bad about Pike’s death, Thornton can’t be persuaded to take his body back to Harrigan:
COFFER:  You sure you ain’t coming?
THORNTON:  I’m sure.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 113)

Relationship Story Catalyst

After the Starbuck massacre, Harrigan pressures Thornton to bring in Pike by reminding him of their deal:
HARRIGAN:  My company negotiated your release for services—I think you’d better show your appreciation.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 19)
And later when Thornton and Harrigan are planning to trap Pike with the train:
HARRIGAN:  24 more days!

Relationship Story Inhibitor

Pike unrealistically aspires to escape Thornton’s reach by giving up his life of crime:
PIKE:  We got to start thinking beyond our guns—them days are closin’ fast.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 26)
PIKE:  This was going to be my last too…  [...]  I’d like to make a good score—then back off.
DUTCH:  Back off to what?
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 28)

Relationship Story Benchmark

In the whorehouse flashback, Thornton reluctantly allows Pike’s ideas about what their pursuers will do next to determine his future; Conceiving of Pike’s next moves, Thornton’s able to keep up with him; Influenced by Pike’s example, Thornton likes the idea of taking up Angel’s cause and joining Sykes.

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

Main character Pike Bishop and obstacle character Deke Thornton meet face-to-face only twice—once in flashback and then again after Pike’s been killed.  At other times, they view each other distantly, either down a gunsight or through binoculars.  But it’s the knowledge that the persistent Thornton’s on his trail that affects Pike’s thoughts and actions, constantly reminding him of his duplicity—preaching loyalty while abandoning his colleagues.  Pike finally commits to his word—dying in the process—and Thornton picks up where he left off.

Relationship Story Backstory

Formerly partners, the two haven’t met since Pike deserted Thornton to save his own skin:
“... Pike and Thornton [are] hiding out in a bordello in a town where they’ve just pulled a job.  Thornton, visibly apprehensive, urges they leave, while Pike orders him to relax, assuring him this is the last place the law will think to look.  “How can you be so damn sure?” Thornton asks.  Pike, with excruciating pomposity, replies, “Being sure is my business!”  At that moment, the door bursts open to reveal a Pinkerton agent drawing a bead on Thornton.  He fires and hits Thornton, while Pike uses the momentary diversion to escape out the back way.”
(Seydor, p. 87)

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

Everyone in and around the Wild Bunch is concerned with getting the gold and getting away:  Both Pike and the Gorch brothers are out for one last, big heist; Angel wants to use his share to buy guns for his people; Thornton provides opportunities for the Bunch to rob the railroad so he can kill them in the act and avoid jail himself; Harrigan wants the Bunch dead so they can’t steal any more railroad payrolls; The bounty hunters want the blood money on the heads of the Wild Bunch; Mapache offers the gold as payment for the guns he needs to fight Villa.

Overall Story Consequence

Death, the ultimate transformation, is the consequence for failure in The Wild Bunch: Failing to get away with their gold, Pike, Dutch, and the Gorch brothers embody some kind of nobility in dying for what they believe in; Mapache’s career as an oppressor ends when his men are wiped out and their guns taken; The bounty hunters are apprehended and killed by Sykes, and fail to deliver their pelts; The throat slit Angel is denied the chance to see his people freed; Thornton doesn’t get his man, but happily becomes a free man and an outlaw again.

Overall Story Cost

Despite his desire to keep his men united, Pike ruthlessly sacrifices weaker members of the Bunch—Crazy Lee and Buck—when they threaten the group’s goals; Thornton feels bad about going after his former partner, Pike, and causing the death of innocent civilians; Angel murders his promiscuous fiancee when she rejects his village life; etc.

Overall Story Dividend

Angel gets his people the guns, a way for them to fight back the next time their villages are attacked; The Wild Bunch take Mapache and 200 of his soldiers to their death, liberating the region from further oppression; Sykes and Thornton find a new cause with the freedom fighters; Harrigan and his railroad won’t be robbed by the Wild Bunch again.

Overall Story Requirements

Angel must learn who killed his father and “took” his fiancee before he can gain revenge; To get guns, Mapache must find out where they are:
PIKE:  Arms shipments are generally kept a secret…
MOHR:  No—like Pershing, Mapache has an incredible intelligence force—organized under my supervision.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 53)
Harrigan must learn, through Thornton, how Pike thinks if he’s to set traps for him; etc.

Overall Story Prerequisites

As leader of the Wild Bunch, Pike must come up with ideas for their next heist; Harrigan and Thornton must come up with ambushes at the railroad office and the train, if they’re to capture Pike; Mapache and his advisor suggest the Wild Bunch steal guns for him from the munitions train, in return for gold; Pike thinks of booby-trapping the wagon to prevent ambush by Mapache, and dynamiting the bridge to escape Thornton; etc.

Overall Story Preconditions

Thornton believes he must think like his old partner in order to figure out Pike’s next move; Unfamiliar with Pike, Harrigan thinks he must rely on Thornton’s sensibilities to tell him if the soldiers entering Starbuck are the Wild Bunch; Dutch considers helping Angel, but must leave him in Mapache’s hands if he’s to escape with his gold; Becoming cognizant of a way to get guns for his people, Angel contemplates the effects of arming Mapache:
ANGEL:  I’m not going to steal guns for that pendeju general then watch him rob my village and kill my people.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 56)

Overall Story Forewarnings

Eager to see what they’ve just stolen from the train, the Wild Bunch open the boxes of guns:
LYLE:  You know how to work one of these things?
Pike stands, then grins a little and crosses to the wagon.
PIKE:  Whatever I don’t know, I’m going to learn.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 79)
Mapache’s immediate glee upon receiving the machine-gun foreshadows the climax, as he unleashes a lethal barrage of bullets, threatening everyone in sight.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

The railroad clerks understand what they’re up against when Pike tells Crazy Lee:
PIKE:  If they move, kill ‘em.
The Wild Bunch understand how determined Harrigan’s bounty hunters are when they shoot into the townspeople.  Pike understands the pursuit is personal for Thornton, the partner he abandoned.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Understanding to Doing

The Wild Bunch escape Thornton’s ambush, only to realize they’ve been tricked with washers.  They flee across the border to Mexico, tracked by Thornton, who’s spurred on by Harrigan.

Overall Story Signpost 2

The Wild Bunch spend time in Angel’s village, singing, dancing, feasting, and playing like children, as:
DON JOSE:  We all dream of being a child again—even the worst of us—perhaps the worst most of all.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 37)
Thornton and his men follow the Bunch’s trail.

Overall Story Journey 2 from Doing to Obtaining

Feted by the villagers, the Wild Bunch look for opportunities in Agua Verde, where they’re hired to obtain guns for Mapache.  The angry Angel takes Teresa’s life, while the frustrated Thornton and Harrigan plot to ambush Pike again.

Overall Story Signpost 3

The Wild Bunch hijack the train and steal the arms shipment.  Thornton, his bounty hunters, and the untrained soldiers try to stop them.

Overall Story Journey 3 from Obtaining to Learning

While pleased to receive the guns from the Wild Bunch, Mapache’s displeased to learn of Angel’s theft and captures him.  Thornton ambushes Sykes, but runs when he learns Mapache’s men are after him.

Overall Story Signpost 4

Mapache learns that the Wild Bunch won’t take no for an answer regarding Angel, so he slits Angel’s throat and starts an all-out massacre.

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

The resourceful Pike turns the current situation to his advantage: pinned down in the railroad office, he finds cover in the Temperance marchers:
ANGEL:  People marching and singing coming down the street—going to pass near the horses.
PIKE (grinning):  We’ll join in…
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 7)
Pike leaves Crazy Lee in place to delay his pursuers.

Main Character Journey 1 from Present to Past

Surprised at being stalked by an old friend he deserted, Pike repeats his betrayal in the present with Crazy Lee and Buck, running out on his partners again.

Main Character Signpost 2

Faced with mutinous rumblings among the Wild Bunch he leads, Pike lays down the law by letting the Gorches know he’s going to run things the way he has in the past:
LYLE:  About the sharing up…
PIKE (wearily):  The sharing up’s going to be the same as always.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 22)

Main Character Journey 2 from Past to Progress

Feeling guilt over abandoning Thornton in the past, Pike vows with his bunch to “stick together.”  He robs the train, gets the gold, and helps Angel’s cause progress by giving him guns.

Main Character Signpost 3

Watching the Mexican woman and her baby, the post-coital Pike seems to reflect on his Mexican fiancee and others he’s let down.  Unhappy with the way his life’s been going, and with what’s happening to Angel, Pike makes steps toward living up to his credo by jumping up and deciding to confront Mapache over Angel.

Main Character Journey 3 from Progress to Future

Unhappy with Angel’s torture getting more severe, Pike leaves his gold behind and confronts Mapache.  Pike kills him and then the German, sealing the fates of many.

Main Character Signpost 4

Pike dies shooting, killed by a member of the upcoming generation—a child—and leaves behind a legacy of a defeated oppressor.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

After the massacre in Starbuck, Harrigan questions whether Thornton’s getting sentimental, and Thornton’s reminded of why he took this job:
HARRIGAN:  I am wondering why you shot the paymaster and let your ‘old friend’ get away.  [...]
PIKE:  Nobody’s an old friend when he’s worth a bounty…and that bounty will keep me out of jail.  [...]  I don’t want to go back to jail, Mr. Harrigan…not ever.
(Green and Peckinpah, pp. 19-20)

influence Character Journey 1 from Memory to Preconscious

Disgusted that he has to do Harrigan’s killing for him, Thornton reflects on the man he’s hunting:
THORNTON:  He was the best.  Never got caught.
...and immediately thinks of when they last met.

Influence Character Signpost 2

Thornton thinks back to what got him into this mess—that time in the whorehouse when he ignored his impulses and listened instead to the reassurances of Pike, whose own impulse was to run out the back door.

Influence Character Journey 2 from Preconscious to Subconscious

Pained by his misplaced trust in Pike, Thornton struggles to keep his men motivated in the face of dynamited bridges and U.S. troops with poor aim.

Influence Character Signpost 3

After Pike’s men rob the train and escape, Thornton’s drive to go after them is raised a notch when his bounty hunters shoot some of the U.S. Army soldiers:
COFFER:  Are we going after—
THORNTON:  Unless you’d like to go back and face a firing squad.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 71)

Influence Character Journey 3 from Subconscious to Conscious

Thornton shows no interest in finishing Sykes off, instead staying on Pike’s trail at a distance until he sees Mapache do his dirty work for him.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Thornton decides not to accompany the Wild Bunch’s corpses back with the bounty hunters.  The returning Sykes makes him an offer that requires little deliberation:
“SYKES:  Well, come along—we got some work to do—(riding away)  It ain’t like it used to be, but it’s better than nothin.’
THORNTON TAKES A DEEP BREATH, THEN HALF GRINS, unties his horse, then mounts and follows.”
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 114)

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

Thornton carries out Harrigan’s plan to ambush Pike and his men, including the idea to catch them coming out red-handed.  When the tuba player stops Thornton’s bullet meant for Pike, Pike doesn’t like the idea of killing his old buddy and shoots a bounty hunter instead.

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Conceptualizing to BecomingFeeling pressure from Harrigan to get Pike or return to jail, Thornton contemplates how Pike never got caught.
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Pike thinks back (and so does Thornton) to the defining moment in their relationship, when Thornton got shot and became a prisoner, while Pike ran out on him and became a lesser man.

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Becoming to Being

Determined to become the one to catch Pike, Thornton and his men ambush the Wild Bunch on the train, but it’s Pike who sends Thornton down river with the help of dynamite.

Relationship Story Signpost 3

Thornton leads his men past where Pike’s hiding the wagon of guns, pretending to have lost the trail:
THORNTON:  We didn’t lose them—I could point to them now.
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 79)
But Pike isn’t able to figure out Thornton’s moves:
PIKE:  Are they bluffing or did they really miss it?
(Green and Peckinpah, p. 76)

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Being to Conceiving

Thornton’s deception pays off when he ambushes Sykes.  Pike’s admiration for Thornton’s loyalty to Harrigan causes him to hide out in Agua Verde and send Mapache after Thornton.

Relationship Story Signpost 4

Thornton picks up the dead Pike’s gun, a souvenir of their former relationship, and abandons any ideas of taking Pike’s body back to Harrigan.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


Dramatica Story Expert

the next chapter in story development

Buy Now