By the end of Red River, there are two alpha male cowboys. Throughout the movie, Matt changes into an alpha male cowboy, having lived and traveled with Dunson. When Matt first meets and is taken in by Dunson, Matt wants an “M” included in the brand, but Dunson tells him he must earn it. At the end of the movie, Dunson tells Matt that he is going to change the brand to include an “M” since he has now earned it.
Matt has the appearance of a cowboy. He dresses in a manner similar to Dunson, and like a cowboy should be, as Matheson states, he is neither too dirty nor too clean. Matheson says that “the individual does not enforce the law; he is the law” and that man must be “his own moral center”. Matt proves that he is the law when he takes control of the cattle drive, going against Dunson’s original plan. He also prevents Dunson from killing some of the men when he feels it is wrong to kill them, taking action to do what he feels is morally right.
Matt gains a sense of duty, proven by his taking action to help the wagon train that is being attacked by Indians. In the opening scene, Dunson leaves the woman he loves behind saying the journey is too dangerous and tough for her. Matt later mimicks this when he tells the woman he loves, from the wagon train, that she cannot go with them because it is tough and dangerous. Alpha male cowboys never settle down with a woman because they have a sense of duty that put them in dangerous situations and they live off of the land itself.
In the final scenes, Dunson tries to shoot Matt, but Matt will not draw his gun. Then, Dunson starts punching Matt, who eventually fights back. He did not want to fight Dunson because he is a fatherly figure to him. As an alpha male cowboy, he pushes his feelings aside to do what he must in order to survive.