September 20, 2005

In the eye of the beholder: Dead Man Walking

I really enjoyed reading the screen play to "Dead Man Walking," because it is so different from the previous plays. So far, we've read play scripts, but this was a movie script. Even though they're both dramatic pieces, this work played itself out differently in my head; I've never seen this film, so I don't have anything concrete to base these images on. All I have is the dialogue and "stage directions" in my head--but that's enough to form the movie in my mind.

Since this is a true story, I find myself believing in the characters more. I'm glad this wasn't a "happily ever after" tale; I'm sorry that two innocent kids died, and I'm also sorry Matt died. I do not condone his act of murder, but I am also not a supporter of the death penalty. (I won't even go into that subject...that's a whole other blog entry.) Whatever the outcome, it was refreshing a piece of true literature/drama. I sometimes reach a point where it seems innane to continually discuss the motivations of individuals that don't exist, except on paper and in our minds. Dr. Jerz actually brought that reality back into my "literaturized" mind. After a heated debate in Am. Lit., he reminded the class that the characters aren't real people and we should keep that in mind as we study literature. It's energizing to read a piece based a true events, like "Dead Man Walking" and "Machinal."

Posted by KatherineLambert at September 20, 2005 12:56 AM

I hope you will consider writing that blog entry. Denamarie invited comments on the death penalty.

When you look at the historical events that are reflected in literary works, don't stop at simply identifying details that the author changed or left out.

It's fine for a blog entry to list and talk about the important differences, but as you start thinking of a thesis statement for a future paper, make sure that your treatment of the true story behind the creative work goes beyond a list of differences. What can the creative author accomplish that a reporter, who was sticking to fact, cannot? If learning detail X from the historical figure supports claim Y about the fictional character, you are comparing apples to oranges. More intellectually productive is an observation such as "The playwright left out detail X from the historical source, and instead created fictional detail Y." A list of such observations won't be sufficient, unless you build to making some claim. "Fictional character Y is more sympathetic than the historical figure" or "The contrast between fictional characters X and Y is more carefully defined than the relationship between the historical figures" because the author makes these specific changes.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 20, 2005 01:12 PM
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