Examining the ‘Strange Man’ in ‘Red Dead Redemption’
Years after its release, Red Dead Redemption has a lingering mystery; who, or what, is the Strange Man?
The Strange Man is one of many encounters John Marston makes on his travels through New Austin, Mexico, and West Elizabeth. Marston has no idea who the man is, but he seems to know an awful lot about him.
The first time John Marston encounters the Strange Man is on a plateau overlooking the river between New Austin and Mexico. In a brief exchange, the Strange Man first recounts an incident in John’s past including the name of a woman killed in great detail. This clearly shakes John to the bone, and he lashes back in anger. The man however remains calm, and professes that he wished he knew more about life. He then presents Marston with a choice in morality, one of fidelity or infidelity. Martson then rides to Thieves Landing, and has to either convince a man not to cheat on his wife, or encourage him to.
Marston won’t meet the Strange Man until later on in Mexico. “You’re a man who decided right and wrong. Between a man and death. Between a man, and his wife.” Marston knows the man, and yet his identity eludes him. The man presents him with another crossroads decision; to either help a nun reach where she is going, or perhaps rob her? Regardless of the choice, it won’t be until close to the end of the game when Marston meets the Strange Man one last time.
Just outside of John’s ranch at Beecher’s Hope, he stands near a tree. When asked what his name is, the man claims it’s been so long that he can’t remember. He’d then go on to comment that where he stands is, “This is a fine spot. See you around cowboy.” unable to contain his anger at the mysterious man anymore John Marston draws his gun and fires not once, not twice, but three times. The man does not fall, he does not flinch, he doesn’t even show a wound. He just simply walks away, leaving John with more questions than answers.
Who is the Strange Man? Is he a hallucination? A force of nature? Is he a ghost or a demon? He’s none of these things. The strongest implications about the Strange Man is that he is Death incarnate, and he weighs the actions of humans to see what will await them when they leave the world of the living.
He confesses to John that he is an accountant, a man who can’t remember his own name. Well dressed, and in random places of isolation, the man seems to know more about John than he knows about himself at times.
He speaks of the past misdeeds of Marston and his time riding with Dutch van der Linde, and from the first time they encounter, offers Marston ways to seek atonement, or to prove himself worthy of punishment. The final piece of this puzzle, is the spot where he and Marston encounter for the last time. After John makes his final stand against agents and army that raid his property to buy time for his family to escape, his son and wife return and bury him upon that very same spot. A fine spot indeed.
While Rockstar has never explicitly said who or what the Strange Man is, his ominous and seemingly omnipotent abilities along with his purpose in the plot seem to point towards him being a grim reaper in my eyes. Clearly Death itself, weaving fates upon the frontier in the form of the Strange Man.
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