When it comes to Rockstar Games, in any capacity, attention to detail is generally a significant pillar of world-building and design put into in-game worlds. That much is clear in the satirical adaptation of modern America in Grand Theft Auto, with references to real-life counterparts in all things, realistic or imagined. However, when it comes to the publishers second-biggest franchise, Rockstar Games takes a much more subtle and grounded approach. For as many narrative plot points and characters that are unique to Red Dead Redemption 2, a genuinely large portion of the game's moments, environments, and characters are based on real events in U.S. history.
From moments pivotal to the game's narrative, to the stranger missions and extraneous characters throughout the world, Red Dead Redemption 2 is intrinsically tied to U.S. history. 1899 was an interesting point in American history, as it was the tail-end of America's Gilded Age. Numerous missions throughout the main campaign draw parallels alongside real expansions and tensions that occurred throughout the American West during this time period. Stranger missions and other side activities also serve as fun references to other important moments in 19th/20th century history. Red Dead Redemption 2 reflects U.S. history in a grounded and clever manner.
America's "Gilded Age" was a term coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, originating from the book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. It's certainly not Twain's most popular work, but it is one of the most damning analyses of ruthless American industrialism in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This period of thirty-or-so years lasted between 1870 and 1900, meaning the events of Red Dead Redemption 2 comes in at the culmination of manifest destiny. Twain and Warner's book describes the United States' descent into plutocratic tendencies, ushering in the existence of industrial/economic giants like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller.
In a way, Red Dead Redemption 2's world as a whole represents the effects of this movement and The Gilded Age, specifically on the American West. In search of potential business opportunities like resource mining or railroad infrastructure, land speculation plays a big part in Twain and Warner's story. The reduction of the American Frontier into a civilized nation, putting speculators in direct confrontation with native peoples, all of which correlate with the death of the Wild West. These are all themes evoked throughout Red Dead Redemption 2: Taking place in 1899, Dutch's gang and Arthur witness the fruits and results of the United States' totalitarian industrialism.
In terms of the actual events of the game, there are even more obvious parallels to real-life history when looking at Red Dead Redemption 2's main campaign. That period of the Gilded Age, despite its namesake, was also the purveyor of great economic disparity in the United States.
Even though the Wild West was certainly dying by the time Red Dead Redemption 2 begins, it's not impossible to expect a similar migrant group of outlaws like Dutch's gang to exist so late in the 19th century. The Civil War had bankrupted the nation, and individuals like Arthur, John, Hosea, Dutch, and everyone else in his gang were desperately seeking a reprieve from the life that had always kept them down. Being outlaws, they expectedly resulted to crime for prosperity, at the expense of a certain oil baron. In response, ruthless industrialists like the game's Leviticus Cornwall utilized excessive force to deter anyone halting their economic progression.
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