John Wayne's character, Ethan, personifies the western landscape. Jane Tompkins refers to the characteristics of the landscape in saying, "The qualities needed to survive on the land are the qualities the land itself posesses- bleakness, mercilessness. And they are regarded not only as anecessary to survival but as the acmeof human moral perfection" (Tompkins 73). Ethan posesses all the traits necessarily not only to survive, but to triumph in his goal of revenge. By acheiving his goal, Ethan conquers the land, the one thing larger than himself.
Tompkins also writes, "The single most important relationship they have is to the land" (Tompkins 78). The viewer knows that all that stands between Ethan and his goal is the land (and the American Indians, although it is made evident in context that the white man is superior in the film through the protagonist's demeanor). Therefore, it is the land that stands alone as the most important single element in the film.
Finally, when the heroes get back to town, the viewer knows the story is wrapped up. Tompkins says, "Town is a mecca, a haven, a journey's end" (Tompkins 86). Upon arrival, the viewer knows immediately that everything is going to work out and there will be a happy ending, and of course, there is. The symbolic use of symbolism in the landscape of The Searchers makes the tale not just a simple story, but a complex experience.