(Above, right: Henrietta Crosman as Hannah Jessop in John Ford's Pilgrimage.)
"Almost alone among Ford characters, Hannah changes — from virulent, raging intolerance to the sowing of tolerance. If she can surpass her myopia, suggests Ford, there is an alternative to wars and to worlds like Tabu’s, where lovers are sacrificed to ideas. Hannah epitomizes her world, yet her hyperbolic qualities lead her to a wisdom from which her interference can save others from moralistic hypocrisies similar to those that led her to murder her own son. Hannah reunites a family, then walks away. Perhaps she is only a deus ex machina wrenched out of the necessities of Ford’s fiction. Whatever, with this little old lady is born the first “Fordian hero,” whom we will encounter in most subsequent Ford pictures in the guise of Will Rogers, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne, among others, and whose judging, priesting, Christ-like interventions will momentarily but repeatedly redeem mankind from its myopic intolerance. Flowers mark Hannah’s passage. Ford’s most constant symbol, they mark most heroes’ loves — Lincoln, from and to Ann Rutledge; Nathan Brittles and Frank Skeffington, to their dead wives; Tom Doniphon, to and from Hallie; and so on. Hannah’s flowers signify not only conscious intention (to honor the dead) and reversal (Hannah’s initial refusal to honor her dead), but also their ultimate power: Hannah succumbs. Objects may do more than witness and judge. We so infuse the world with our feelings and thoughts, that eventually the world infuses us in return."
- Tag Gallagher, John Ford: The Man And His Movies (2007). (A reminder if any reader needs it: the revised edition of the book - immense and essential - is available as a pdf download from Tag's site.)