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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?

SPOILERS AHEAD.

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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  1. Dreadjaws on May 20, 2019 at 8:12 am said

    This is a point of contention to me. On the one hand, I understand John’s death is somewhat necessary for the ending to work, but on the other one, I really wish having Marston dedicate himself to do good alongside the story would have had a more positive effect and give him a happy ending with his family. It would have given the “Redemption” in the title a more apt meaning. Plus, I wouldn’t be forced to play as Jack afterwards.

    When the strange man started to show up, I thought he was precisely a test for this. While I suppose he’s really meant to show the inevitability of death I fail to see the point in testing Marston if there’s not going to be any change whatever you do. Well, you can argue things might work out better for him in the afterlife, but that’s another discussion.

  2. elainersales on May 21, 2019 at 2:26 am said

    One of the best games of its generation, still love it very dearly.

  3. phoenix107 on May 22, 2019 at 12:38 am said

    Read dead redemption 2 is so great, I hope they explain this further, I’ve always wondered what he was or how he ties into both games.

  4. mat.pagan13 on May 22, 2019 at 1:11 am said

    Prior to the the release of Red Dead 2 I thought by the promotional work being released the Trelawney was the Strange Man, and I think a lot of people thought that too.

  5. Want this on PC *sob*

  6. lamboavent1 on May 22, 2019 at 11:31 am said

    I seem to remember years ago watching a video where the narrator seemed to believe that the strange man was the devil coming to test John Marston. Which I can sort of see. For one I do not believe the strange man to be the G-d from the Hebrew/Christian Bible. The Gd from the bible while he does test the faith/morality of individuals. He almost always intervenes and tries to stir to them towards the morally correct path. The strange man in RDR does not intervene with how John Marston goes about solving the moral dilemmas that he essentially forces upon Marston. Now, upon further reflection I do not believe the strange man to be the devil either. For one as stated previously the strange man does not intervene one way or another with Marston has he carries out the dilemmas he forced upon Marston. The devil being the the anthesis of G-d would try to allure Marston to go with the immoral choice. The strange man does not. Nor does the strange man effect the ending of the story in anyway. If Marston never meets the strange man nor meet with the strange man one more time before Marston is shot and killed. Marston and his wife will still both end up buried at the ” fine spot.” So one has to wonder just what the strange man is. He is a demon, angel, a Shinigami that just got bored, or he the strange man just a figment of John’s imagination. While it is possible for the strange man to be a demon or angel. I can with the utmost certainty answer with 100% that he is neither a Shinigami nor a figment of John’s imagination. He could not be a Shinigami because if he was he would have given John a Death Note with which he could slaughter legends of his enemies with pen and notebook in hand. *joking* Now there is no way he could be a figment of John’s imagination simply because the quests he gives John involve people in which we have never seen John interact with nor people who know who John Marston is. So how would John nor John’s conscious brain know about these people or their predicaments. The most likely possibility is that the Strange man is nothing more than some sort of spiritual 3rd-party observer whom is fascinated with John Marston because he is a broken man with an equally broken past and wishes to test John with moral dilemmas to see how he would react maybe because he has a bet with other spiritual beings or maybe because he is just curious. Who really knows nor cares about the semantics. Or we can go way out there and say that the strange man is some gatekeeper in limbo. John is actually dead and the events of RDR take place in limbo while Marston is waiting to be judged. But, again this itself is very unlikely because the Strange Man has no impact on the ending of the story.

  7. SonOfKrypton on May 22, 2019 at 1:03 pm said

    At first I thought the strange man was someone Jon had done something to him maybe he was responsible for his death but at the ranch it was clear that the end is near.

  8. DLC….please

  9. Loken.Cerberus on May 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm said

    Absolutely love this game. Wish it was on PC.

  10. deathbecomeshimproductions on May 22, 2019 at 6:33 pm said

    Great game!

  11. I just finished RDR2, I mean I completed the story 100% and the rest is at 88%, I have RDR 1 as well so I can just pop it into my Xbox and continue the story, which is great.

    I played through some of RDR1 on the PS3 months ago. I got the second strange man encounter while in Mexico. I honestly thought he was Satan. With the way he gives John moral choices, where he can either do the right thing or wrong. In typical video game fashion these choices are black and white and are pretty basic and simple.

    Some lore from RDR2 makes me think this as well. Something about him putting a curse on Armadillo.

    Anyway the strange man being Death makes a bit more sense.

    But the RDR games are now in my list of most favorite games. They are so damned good.

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