Becker, Carlo (2017):
"“Every New Land Demands Blood”: ‘Nature’ and the Justification of Frontier Violence in Hell on Wheels." Eds. Day, Brendan; Gileva, Maria; Hoang, Jenny; Lyle, Caroline; Ocvirk, Maša; Pekár, Adam; Ramacher, Anna-Krystina; Schadewaldt, Annika M.; Shao, Jingya; Schubert, Stefan; Wollmann, Nadine; Zielinski, Boris Alfred Artur. aspeers 10: 21-37.
Journal Article

This paper demonstrates how AMC’s TV show Hell on Wheels portrays the ideological force of nature to justify violence in frontier mythology. After a short look into the historical and ongoing relevance of frontier mythology in US culture, I will argue for its ideological reliance on nature. The following chapter will provide a theoretical background on social Darwinism, determinism, and scientism. I will then analyze how these relationships are examined in Hell on Wheels. First, as Thomas Durant’s social Darwinist monologue is paralleled with imagery that challenges the providential myth of Manifest Destiny, the show reveals that both ideologies equally replace human responsibility with a quasi-evolutionary rhetoric of inevitable progress. Second, the Swede’s deterministic notions of nature demonstrate the mythical power of the natural environment and evolutionary biology, which can easily assume Manifest Destiny’s divine authority as a justification for violence. Finally, the Swede’s and Reverend Cole’s discursive replacement of God with blood signifies a shift from religion to a redemptive scientism, in which science purports not only to explain but also to justify the violence of westward expansion. In these renditions, nature is variably utilized as the prime model for social behavior, as the ultimate victor over culture, and as the final authority whose imperatives are intelligible only through science.