Looking at specific laws that have shaped this country, examine the social oppression that certain groups have faced because, even though America claims different, we are not actually “equal.” Focus on the experiences of those deemed “other” in this country, and decide—historically, socially, philosophically, judicially—why these groups have been treated as second class citizens and, more importantly, how certain things have changed while, arguably, others have not.
Use Tom’s trial in To Kill a Mockingbird and the murder mystery and it’s revelations in Snow Falling on Cedars, along with the fictional and real life Mississippi Trial, as the platforms for your discussion on otherness as it relates to ethnicity. And ask yourself, “are there any cases similar to what happened back then going on in the 21st century?” If so, what happened and why? If not, what judicial machinations now exist that has eliminated the racial strife America was once famous for?
For crimes against women, look at Wolf’s essay and The Accused. When it comes to sexual assault, what protections exist for women now that didn’t before? Or are women just as vulnerable and victimized as they have been at any point in history? And what do these assessments say about how society views the human female?
At the same time, establish why Picoult’s tragic love story in The Pact becomes, in many ways, more about these young people being male and female—a possible predator and victim—than about children in pain. Is the prosecution of Christopher warranted? And does the book’s climax provide a sense of moral justice, social justice, or a failure of both?
Throughout your paper, infuse Emerson to defend/balance your arguments. And consider this: when “Self-Reliance” was written, did Emerson intend for it to influence everyone, or was all his posturing and talk about self-affirmation designed for and about White males only?
A 100-250 word abstract (paper proposal), which details the larger research paper, must be posted on our OpenLab page (ENG3401/E254) by 12/5.
The Final paper MUST be posted to our OpenLab page, AND submitted as a HARD COPY in class, on 12/18.
Paper should weave source discussions that we have uncovered while researching these texts, including any laws, statistics, and philosophical principles.
Throughout the work, feel free to introduce any supporting Films or literature we have examined this semester that will support your argument.
Paper must establish an argument and defend it, based on the statements above.
Paper must have a working thesis statement that controls the flow of the paper’s body paragraphs.
The criticism must address every component discussed above, but the format—the structure of the paper—belongs to you, the critic.
Secondary sources—sources not listed in the above assignment—are required (at least six).
Paper must have quotes throughout that support the writer’s argument.
Do not forget that the paper must conform to MLA’s documentation style.
This paper cannot be less than eight FULL pages or more than twelve (this does not include Works Cited page).
Any paper suspected of plagiarism will result in an automatic F and be forwarded to the Division Dean.
The search for justice is not any easy one. This is especially true when that search is hampered by sexist stereotypes and racial prejudice. Through technology we have never been more connected as a society, but the indignities our fellow humans go through ha never been more apparent. Ever since Hammurabi’s code was etched in stone the human race has strived to become a more civilized race, but there have been many, many bumps in the road. I will show that the literature we’ve covered and the movies we’ve watched parallel and complement each other. The search for justice or the failure to provide it are equally compelling and tragic, and gives us a window into the eternal dilemma.
The remnants of the Jim Crow-“separate but equal”- system was finally abolished in the 1960’s due to the efforts of brave Civil rights workers. Emerson had said that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and changing the archaic racist thinking that pervaded American southerner thinking was necessary but dangerous. The events of the movie Mississippi Burning show what a perilous journey that was.
On the night of June 21, 1964 three civil rights workers – Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney were on their way to assist in the efforts to register African-American voters even though they knew their lives were at risk. After being arrested for speeding on their way there by the Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, the trio were released but never arrived at their destination. After much searching by the F.B.I., agents first found the activists ditched station wagon, which later led them to discover the bodies on a nearby farm.
It took years of court battles to find any justice for these three young men. Seven of the eighteen conspirators, including Deputy Sheriff Price who conspired with KKK leadership, were found guilty on lesser charges. One of the major conspirators, Edgar Ray Killen, eventually did get convicted of manslaughter on June 21, 2005, ironically, the 41st anniversary of the crime itself. Even today the search to eliminate such racial strife is a long and ongoing progress.
In Jodi Picoult’s “The Pact” justice sometimes seems to be unattainable whether you convict the main character or not, the punishment does not seem appropriate. The story starts with two families who live near each other and become more than neighbors over the years. As their children grew up together so did their bond. However, for Emily Gold all was not golden in her life. Possible sexual molestations had occurred in her childhood which shaped her negatively. Her art was depressive in general and she confided her suicidal thoughts to Chris. Emily wanted Chris to assist putting her out of her misery. Unfortunately this led to a mercy killing pact that involved Chris potentially shooting Emily.
The story jumps to Chris being interviewed by cops at the hospital while Emily lay dead. He starts by lying and saying it was a double suicide attempt but his lies are uncovered. During the subsequent trial Chris insisted on testifying on his own behalf, even though his lawyer disagreed. Chris testified he pulled the trigger with Emily’s hand held on his, thus that’s what she really wanted but she was too afraid to do it herself. To make matters worse Chris was unaware she was pregnant with their child at the time. Did justice prevail when Chris was found not guilty by a jury? In his heart he would always be haunted by his fatal decision.
Often, women who are the victims of sexual assaults are subjected to statements like “she was asking for it…” or “look how you are dressed”. Although it may seem that women’s liberation is on an all-time high and we’re no longer as victimized as before, in the U.S alone a rape is reported every six minutes. The 1993 movie of The Accused starring Jodie Foster deals with the aftermath of a sexual attack on a woman who decided to drink at the local dive bar her friend worked at.
Foster plays Sarah Tobias, a run of the mill women who after a night of drunken debauchery winds up being gang raped while non-participants looked on. Sarah survives the ordeal even though no one did anything to help her, including her friend. Sarah had reveled in her sexuality before the event, similar to the character Dinah in Naomi Wolf’s “The Slut”. In that tale Dinah didn’t subscribe to the norm dictated by society for young women at the time. She scoffed at rumors and dressed inappropriately, just like she wanted. Her social status also mirrors Sarah Tobias’; they did and said what they pleased devoid of the circumstances or social status.
During “The Accused” The assistant D.A is pressured by higher-up’s to giving the rape suspects a plea bargaining that only involved “reckless endangerment” charges. This angered Sarah because she was being considered a poor witness and being labeled a bad girl type like Dinah, and this would hamper her search for justice and deny her day in court. The D.A then agrees to go after the onlookers who did nothing to stop it. The gawkers were convicted of criminal solicitation and although total vindication for Sarah was impossible it gave her closure and a platform to tell her side of the story.
The right for a woman to say no regardless of how they dress or how they’ve acted is at the heart at what Tobias’ tale stands for. No matter how she acted or dressed it didn’t give others the right to violate her like they did. Foster’s tough-as-nails attitude sometimes can portray her in an unsympathetic fashion but that makes the viewer ask tough questions like “what was she thinking?” to “does she deserve this?” But that is the core of this injustice that all people even of questionable character are due and deserve the same justice and laws as everyone else. Sarah’s sexual demeanor and heavy drinking aren’t grounds for being raped. What would’ve happened if a man was raped by a group of men in the same instance? Would public outrage or media coverage increase?
Snow Falling on Cedars depicts a time of deep anti-Japanese sentiments following the events WWII. Even though the story takes place a decade after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this Washington State island community still harbors deep but quiet resentment of the local Japanese American population. After a local war hero is found dead in his own fishing net, an investigation that was initially leaning toward an accident becomes murder when the victim’s blood is found on another fisherman’s spear. The murder weapon belongs to another WWII vet, but this one happens to be of Japanese descent.
The murder suspect, Kabuo Miyamoto, had fought on the American side but he felt the guilt of killing Japanese soldiers on behalf of his current homeland. A quiet, hardworking man Kabuo was a nonconformist who was not overly concerned with being liked by the local townsfolk. Kabuo and his wife felt that he had no chance at a fair trial and the search for the American dream would end in an unfair conviction. His search for justice was quietly being suffocated by the silent resentment held for the Japanese Americans invading the town. Years earlier the mostly white populace didn’t lift a hand or say a word in defense of these Japanese who were being escorted to detention camps, but now they were uneasy neighbors.
During the trial we see glimpses of the past and the difficulty with which the Miyamoto family attempts to achieve the American dream. From being cheated out of land they had almost paid off to the current circumstances, it seems as though there will be no happy ending. Miyamoto is a man at conflict with his own past decisions but he is more than willing to follow his own path in order to ensure his family’s future. Emerson wrote “To be great is to be misunderstood” and I think that captures Miyamoto’s spirit and motivations. Even if the locals hate the idea of a Japanese family owning land in San Piedro he will continue his endeavors. The story concludes with the Sheriff finding evidence that another boats wake had tossed the victim onto the spear and then over the side. Kabuo was exonerated of the crime and continued his pursuit of the American dream.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a complex tale of how justice works and how the evils of racial prejudice can mire those efforts. In the book Harper Lee uses everyday characters to illustrate the inequalities of civil rights and racism in the American south of the 1930’s. Through the perspectives of Scout and Jem Finch we are made aware of the plights of their town and the legal battle their father Atticus is about to embark on. Atticus is an attorney built on ideals who believes that no man can be totally evil and vice versa. The main story unfolds when Atticus is confronted with a case involving a local black man, accused of raping a local white woman, who he believes is innocent.
Atticus may have been respected in the town but he took much flak from the community for siding with Tom Robinson against Mayella Ewell. Atticus and his children even had to diffuse a bad situation they had when a lynch mob showed up at the jail for their own form of justice.
After the trial even though Atticus proves Tom Robinson’s innocence, justice isn’t served because no white jury at that time would ever side with a black man. This disgusting verdict showed how racism superseded justice in the town of Maycomb. The trial showed you that you could be white and poor like Mayella Ewell and lie under oath and get away with it, while Tom who did nothing wrong suffered the consequences of his skin color.
Later in the novel a significant sub plot that concerned Boo Radley surfaces when he stops Bob Ewell from taking revenge by potentially harming Jem and Scout. Bob Ewell was furious with Atticus for making his family lose face and he desired retribution. Outside the Finch’s house during a dark scuffle, Boo killed Bob to ensure the children’s safety. Following this altercation, Atticus and the sheriff, realize what has transpired. They both agree to circumvent true justice by deciding to say Bob Ewell dyed by his own blade. Whereas Tom is found guilty even though he is innocent, Boo is left free even though he committed murder. The outcomes for both Tom and Boo are different but both avoid true justice. Do the Trayvon Martin’s and Eric Garner’s of the world have something in common with Tom? Recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri show that this racial tension is still prevalent in our society today.
The pattern running through these tales is a search for justice, a search that comes from many angles at many costs. Sexist and racist views are all around us—on the net, in print, off the lips of the modern day crier, so that means it persists even though there is a great effort to extinguish it. The search for the American “and justice for all” philosophy may be flawed but it’s a start. If there weren’t people who stood up to the tyranny of injustice we wouldn’t have heroes. A history of social repression in this country does not mean we should succumb to it. Real life and fictional heroes provide a source of hope against a world that still lynches people based on color even in our present. Real life heroes like those civil rights workers who lost their lives in Mississippi Burning, and fictional characters like Atticus Finch can inspire people to change and do better.
Emerson’s non-conformist ways challenged the societal norms at the time. “The world is nothing, the person is all”. In respect to all the tales I’ve discussed I feel as justice was fickle depending on the circumstances and person involved. It took extraordinary individuals like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. to change hearts and minds but nothing separates them from us or and of the characters in these stories.
In the end this eternal search for justice has had its equal share of triumphs and tragedies. A very smart man once said “Moral sense is man’s biggest defect” but I would respectfully disagree. If Atticus or the sheriff hadn’t used moral sense in their quest for justice bad situations would’ve become worse. Atticus became the town’s moral compass for the tale and even if he didn’t change the soul of the town or win Tom’s freedom, he became a light for change in the future. Maybe the next Tom would have a fairer trial due to these efforts. Maybe the town culture would finally change now that their seedy underbelly was shown. Moral sense failed Chris when he pulled the trigger on Emily. Neither he nor Emily considered the consequences of their actions because of their naïve youth. Basic human morality failed Sarah when nobody attempted to stop her being raped, but that never halted her pursuit of justice. Justice is fueled by common morals and virtues and when that fails us we need to rise above our lesser natures and strive for something better.