The Plot of Buckley’s “Gold-Mounted Gun”


Parlindungan Pardede

Universitas Kristen Indonesia


Fiction is undoubtedly the most interesting and the most widely read literary genre due to the realistic sense it offers. Compared to other types of literary works, fiction embodies experiences, emotions, and ideas about human life in a way which seems very close to relity. Despite this fact, readers often find it difficult to throughly comprehend a fiction they are reading. Some readers, for instance, find it difficult to see the relationship among the actions and events that develop the plot. Some others may find it intricated to make out the theme. Some others find it complicated to figure out the characters’ qualities. Still some others may encounter difficulties to relate the determine and relate viewpoint to the theme presented.

To a higher extent, such difficulties are caused by the readers’ lack of literary analysis competence. Literary analysis is indeed an intricated process because it necessitates a good understanding of the works elements and how these elements are combined to create a unified literary work. Roberts (1977: 6) explains that literary analysis is the process of breaking up a literaty work into smaller units so that each of the elements nature, function, and meaning could be deeply discerned, and the corelation among the elements could be easily defined.

This analysis is a venture to aid readers to appreciate fiction in general and Gold-Mounted Gun, a short story by F.R. Buckley in particular. The short story is interesting to analyze because it manges to dramatize one stage of the process of  growing up among teenagers in order to reveal the importance of learning-by-experience in one’s life.

This paper deals with the plot of the short story. Discussions are focused on the stages of the plot and the use of the plot to present the theme. The analysis was carried out by using the structural approach and was based on the transcendental phenomenology, i.e. a study aimed to analyze a phenomenon by using a set of theories the basis of the analysis.


1. Synopsis of Gold-Mounted Gun

Gold-Mounted Gun is a short story written by using the western cowboy life-style as a background. It starts when in an evening Will Arblaster, a teens, approached a hard-faced man who is riding a horse in Longhorn city. Will thinks the hard-faced man is the well-known Pecos Tommy, a notorious robber, since he has the gold-mounted guns which most people know belong to Tommy. Will says he admires Tommy for his reputation and wants to join him as henchman. To make Tommy interested, he proposes both of them to steal money has just been taken from the bank by an old man named Sanderson as a starting point.

After a brief consideration, the hard-faced man agrees and both of them ride to Sanderson’s house located outside of the town. There is nobody in the house so that Will can easily find the 500 dollars bill. After handing the money to the hard-faced man, Will asks him to leave the place, but the man replies they will stay and hide there to see Sanderson’s reaction when he realizes his money is gone.

Sanderson and his daughter turn up. When he gets in to the house and realizes his money is gone he cries loudly. He is very sorry to realize that his daughter’s two-year salary working in a store is gone. Although his daughter tried to comfort him, Sanderson keeps on crying. Hearing it, Will feels guilty. He then compels, by pointing his gun to the hard-faced man, to return the money to Sanderson. After returning the money, Will finally realizes that the hard-faced man is not Pecos Tommy but the sheriff who killed the bandit one day ago.

2. Plot Types

Gold-Mounted Gun is written by employing a chronological plot. From the beginning until the end of the story all events in the story are arranged based on the order of the time they take place. The journey to Sanderson’s house is told after Will’s acquintance with the hard-faced man. Buckley present Will’s insistence to return the money after the scene of Sanderson’s scream of sadness.

3. Plot Stages and Elements

The plot of Gold-Mounted Gun has a regular structure so that it can be neatly divided into four stages: exposition, complication, climax, and resolution. The first 30 paragraphs of the story are employed as an exposition. These paragraphs introduce the reader with the place and time settings and the two major characters. While Will and the hard-faced man are being introduced to the reader, the conflict of the story is also initiated, i.e. whether Will Arblaster’s intention to be a bandit is really a true commitment of his:

“What do you want?”

“I want to join you.” (p. 46)

The conflict is directly proceeded with the first complications, i.e. Will’s trial to convince the hard-faced man that he has some necessary skills to be a robber and a ‘proposal’ to prove his seriousness:  “I know I ain’t got any record, but I can ride, an’ I can shoot the pips out of a ten-spot at ten paces, an’—I got a little job to bring into the firm, to start with.” (p. 46). Other complications, such as when the hard-faced man agrees to execute the stealing, when the former tells the to get the money himself, and when the former insists on staying close to the house only to see Sanderson’s reaction after realizing his money is gone: “I’d like to see what he does when he finds his wad’s gone. Ought to be amusin’!” (p. 48).

The climax is reached when Will’s inner feeling is touched by Sanderson and his daughter’s sorrow. Since he is basically a kind-hearted person, he can’t stand listening to these persons’ mourning any longer, especially because he is the source of the trouble; “Don’t know as ever I figured what this game meant,” he said. “Always seemed to me that all the hardships was on the stick-up man’s side—gettin’ shot at an’ chased and so on. Kind of fun, at that. Never thought’ bout—old men cryin’.” (p. 49).

Soon after the climax, Buckley presents the resolution, i.e. Will’s decision to return the money. He is even ready to sacrifice his life in order to stop Sanderson’s sorrow:

… “No,” said Will Arblaster, still very slowly. “But I’m goin’ to take that money back. You didn’t have no trouble getting’ it, so you don’t lose nothin’.”

“Suppose I say I won’t let go of it?” suggested the lean man with a sneer.

“Then,” snarled Arblaster, “I’ll blow your dammed head off an’ take it! Don’t you move, you! I’ve got you covered. I’ll take the money out myself.”

His revolver muzzle under his companion’s nose, he snapped open the pocket of the belt and extracted the roll of bills. Then, regardless of a possible shot in the back, he swung off his horse and shambled, with the mincing gait of the born horseman, into the lighted doorway of the cabin.  (p. 49).

Although Gold-Mounted Gun is written using a chronological plot it is far from boring. Due to due to two reasons. First, Buckley varies the use of summary and scenic method to tell about the actions. For instance, when he tells the scene of the process of Will’s search of the money in Sanderson’s house, Buckley uses the summary method. This is very appropriate because such a long action (which is accompanied by the account of what happens to the hard-faced man at the same time) needs to be condensed:

Stealthily he crept toward the house. The moon went behind a cloud bank, and the darkness swallowed him. The lean man, sitting his horse, motionless, heard the rap of knuckles on the door—then a pause, the rattle of the latch. A moment later there came the heavy thud of a shoulder against wood—a cracking sound, and a crash as the door went down. The lean man’s lips tightened. From within the cabin came the noise of one stumbling over furniture, then the fitful fire of a match illumined the windows. In the quite, out there in the night, the man on the horse, twenty yards away, could hear the clumping of the other’s boots on the rough board floor, and every rustle of the papers that he fumbled in his search. Another match scratched and sputtered, and then, with a hoarse cry of triumph, was flung down. Running feet padded across the short grass and Will Arblaster drew up, panting. (p. 47).

Soon after the money-searching process, Buckley uses the scenic method to tell what Will does after finding the money: “Got it!” he gasped. “The old fool! Put it in a tea canister right on the mantelshelf. Enough to choke a horse! Fell it!” (p. 47).

The second reason why the use of the chronological plot in this short story does not make it boring is Buckley’s great expertise in presenting a suspense right in the beginning of the story. Soon after being introduced to both characters, the reader’s mind is quickly loaded with the curiosity on whether the hard-faced man will recruit Will (a very young and innocent boy) as his henchman or not. This curiosity makes the reader eager to know how the story will come out. When this suspense is answered, Bukley presents another one, i.e. the desire to know why the hard-faced man insists on staying to see Sanderson’s reaction when he realizes his money is gone, and how Sanderson’s will react after seeing that his money has just been stolen (pp. 47-48).

4. The Use of Plot to Present the Theme

Besides his success in making a simple chronological plot interesting, another achievement of Buckley in writing Gold-Mounted Gun is his ability to effectively present the theme through plot. The theme of the story is the idea that “experience is an effective means of learning to be maturer”. As a teenager, Will is in the process of searching self-identity. To fulfill this search, he would like to try to be someone like a bandit named Pecos Tommy. He meets the sheriff (who he mistakes as Pecos Tommy) and proposes to be his henchman.

However, Will’s basic character does not suit him to be a bandit. The sherif knows this very well, when Will states that he aims to join Tommy in order to get an adventure in robbing and that he even has not a girl friend:

“Figurin’ robbin’ trains is easier money?”

“No,” said the young man, “I ain’t. But I like a little spice in life. They ain’t none in punchin’.”

“Got a girl?” asked the lean man.

The boy shook his head. The hard-faced man nodded reflectively. (pp. 46).

Realizing the good nature of Will’s basic character, the sheriff wisely gives Will a chance to go through a real criminal experience so that he can make a good judgment for himself.

The sheriff’s plan runs well. After seeing that his stealing deeply hurts old Sanderson, Will realize that committing a crime is not suitable for him: “Don’t know as ever I figured what this game meant,” he said. “Always seemed to me that all the hardships was on the stick-up man’s side—gettin’ shot at an’ chased and so on. Kind of fun, at that. Never thought’ bout—old men cryin’” (p. 49). That’s why he even risks his life in order to return the money to Sanderson.


Although Gold-Mounted Gun is written in a simple chronological plot, it is really interesting due to Bucley’s expertise in arranging the events that keeps the reader’s curiosity to finish reading the story. He also makes the story far from boring by varying the use of the summary and scenic methods to tell the story. In addition, Buckley also succeeds to employ the interesting plot to effectively present the main theme of the story.


Buckley, F.R. Gold-Mounted Gun. (in Pardede, Parlindungan. 2006. An Introduction to the Study of Fiction. Jakarta: FKIP-UKI).

Roberts, Edgar V. 1977. Writing Themes About Literature. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc.


Jakarta, March 16, 2007.


  1. I want it to say Frederick Robert Buckley ( 1896-1976) live next door to me when I was a little girl when he lived in the The Exorcist`s house in King`s Lynn Norfolk. I`m now 60 but me and my mum still talk about him.

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