Conflicting Perspectives Generate Diverse And Provocative Insights English Literature Essay
In construing stimuli presented to us, our opinions and perspectives on people, situations and events in literature are formed, in turn stimulating diverse and provocative insights on the conflict at hand. William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Andrew Dominik’s film ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by Robert Ford’ are texts with no ‘central’ personalities or moral absolutes; the archetypical ‘good’ and ‘bad’ clashes ferociously, mingling in unison. Additionally, Helen Grady’s BBC article on ‘The pope’s responsibility in the US sex abuse cases’ is another prime example of the elucidation of conflicting perspectives. In each of the texts, ambiguity is evident throughout the production, the authors writing with assertion to generate diverse and provocative insights into respective issues.
Written in 1599, William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar reflects the turbulent royal environment that affected the Elizabethan population, (....................). A dying Queen with no legitimate heir and a country poised on the brink of civil war would have offered an insight into the chaotic state of Elizabethan Britain, perhaps Shakespeare’s method of expressing his plea for political stability. One of the protagonists of the play, Brutus, would have therefore been conveyed in a variety of ways, whether it be as a treacherous villain or a hero. In Act II Scene I, his soliloquy in the orchard gives us a glimpse into his harrowed persona, enticing the audience to provide their insights into the ambiguity surrounding Brutus. Shakespeare includes a barrage of images such as the crown as Caesar’s ‘sting’, the ladder that represents his hubris, and the snake egg that will become ‘mischievous’ when hatched—and it is the accumulation of these symbolic images which forms a portrait of Brutus’ own fractured conscience. The audience may interpret Brutus’ hesitancy as apprehension or honourability, a code of ethics unblemished by mere affections, and it is this idea of honour and morality that is a recurring aspect throughout the text. Shakespeare, applying the conventions of tragedy, distorts these traditional virtues. Furthermore, Brutus’ eventual downfall is provoked by his own adherence to his morals, as portrayed through his allowance for Antony to speak in Act III, a bitter irony that serves to generate diverse and provocative insights into the character Brutus, hence strengthening the text’s aforementioned ambiguity.
The ambiguity surrounding the Pope’s role in the US Catholic sex scandal has rattled the religious world, generating an array of debates as well as a new train of insights into the issue. The article begins with the ironic introduction that ‘Sunday mass at Milwaukee’s Catholic Cathedral is quieter than it used to be’, setting the scene that despite the stereotype of cathedrals being quiet and solemn, it is now quiet for more shameful reasons. Additionally, the writer’s style creates an atmosphere of shock in this article through the use of abruptness. Under the subtitle Negligent, the sparse sentencing is more noticeable throughout the opening paragraphs, before suddenly being cut short by the revelation that an ‘unnamed man has filed a lawsuit against the Pope’, the uncanny circumstances of this court case triggering the emotions of surprise and disbelief among the readers. Grady’s style of writing also includes a barrage of rhetorical questions (‘Did the pope push for the court trial to be stopped?’), which are used to incite the major issues of the article, such as whether there is any hard evidence that the Pope failed to act, or whether the Pope was ‘dragging his heels’ in order to protect the offending priest. The significance of rhetorical questions is further explored in Caesar, as Portia’s expresses her frustrations through statements such as ‘dwell I but in the suburbs of your good pleasure’, hence forming a portrait of a wife suffering at the hands of an irresponsible husband. Moreover, the usage of cliché in the expression of the Pope ‘dragging his heels’ creates imagery of a Leader putting reputation before justice, hence triggering further animosity towards the Catholic Church. The variety of techniques used allows Grady to highlight the ambiguity of the debated issue, and despite Grady’s perspective leaning towards the Pope’s negligence in the sex scandal, allows us to explore the ways in which conflicting perspectives generate diverse and provocative insight.
Similar to Shakespeare’s portrayal of Brutus, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford also bestows various interpretations of the antihero, (....................). The film gains its emotional response from such fragmented representations of a single character, as James is depicted as a ‘Robin Hood’ persona (‘Jesse stole from the rich and gave to the poor’) despite his ongoing fits of rage and violence towards other characters. Moreover, the character Jesse James is plausibly re-created but made ambiguous as the narrative progresses, hence Dominik’s method of provoking subjective insights into the protagonist. When he ‘interrogates’ Jim Cummins’ nephew, the audience becomes repulsed by his penchant for violence, as portrayed through his sadistic remark: ‘your ears about to rip off, sweetie’. He has a contemptuous smirk on his face, and along with the low angle shot, disassociates us from the character that at one point carried a roguish charisma. The boy’s cries for mercy and compassion are stifled by James’ brawny arm, a senseless action that even his companion does not condone. Yet after the James assassination, these actions seem all but forgotten, another implication of the diverse insights generated by this conflict on the character Jesse James. Our contempt is then directed towards Robert Ford, who lives up to his ‘coward’ soubriquet. This shift in character perception is replicated in Julius Caesar, with Brutus’ integrity and honour demolished by Antony’s prominent oration in Act III Scene II, eventuating into Brutus’ downfall. A chiasmus is created through this transition in sympathy, and it is difficult, at the conclusion of the film and play, to objectively judge any of the characters for their vice or virtue, (....................).
Thus Julius Caesar, the Last Supper and the Assassination of Jesse James are texts which are left intentionally vague, inviting the reader to delve deeper into a text and to be enveloped by its ambiguity, simultaneously triggering provocative debates through the controversial nature of each text. The distinction between the ‘protagonists’ and the ‘anti-heroes’ are nigh indistinguishable in both Shakespeare’s play and Dominik’s film, nor does an ultimate perspective prevail in Helen Grady’s BBC article. To understand a perspective, it is crucial that one is aware of the context, and most importantly, to avoid the constant risk of interpreting an issue in a one-dimensional manner. Ultimately we are indebted to such composers for edifying and enlightening us through their productions.
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