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1. How the writer or filmmaker has presented the issue of conscience. How has he/she developed conflict among characters or groups to demonstrate the critical decisions and personal sacrifices demanded of a person who insists on remaining true to his or her conscience?
Conscience refers to the individual sense of right or wrong, which affects one’s behavior. The theme of consciousness has been featured in films and books to provide meaningful moral lessons to the viewers and readers. This first section of the essay analyzes two films and a book, which clearly depict the topic of consciousness.
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A Man of All Seasons by Robert Bolt illustrates consciousness in its wide variety of aspects using different characters. Some of them demonstrate a high level of self-consciousness while others have never been ruled by consciousness. The main protagonist, Thomas More exemplifies this issue by deciding to give up his life rather than sacrifice the commitment to his consciousness. He, therefore, refuses to betray his own ideals even in the face of death. He decides to remain silent about his objection to King Henry VIII’s plan of divorcing his current wife and remarrying another woman to give birth to a male heir. He only reveals his true opinions after Cromwell condemned him.
Conversely, a character by the name of Common Man lives without thinking of the consequences of his actions. As a result, he ends up betraying his own personal moral values. However, he finally demonstrates guilt consciousness but consoles himself with the fact that he is alive. The conflicts between different characters in the play portray each person’s perception of consciousness. For instance, King Henry VIII does not follow his conscience, but he is, however, worried by what More thinks of him. This is because he considers More a person of high moral values.
The People vs. Larry Flynt is a drama movie that shows the life of Larry Flynt and his clash with the law over the pornographic magazine Hustler. Flynt is totally convinced that Hustler magazine had everything good to offer. He, therefore, defends it using all means possible. Though the magazine shows nude pictures of women including those of the former first lady, he tries to convince everyone that the magazine should continue its operations.
The director portrays the conflicts in Flynt’s life after he got shot outside the courtroom. He decides to give up Christianity and spends the next few years taking painkillers and any other drug he manages to get. However, after undergoing an operation and giving up drugs, he goes back to his business where he gets involved in a series of court cases involving a violation of individual privacy. Flynt, therefore, represents individuals who are determined to fight and defend American liberties following their consciousness.
Antigone is one of the powerful and subversive books. This book review serves as an inspiration to a generation of rebels and dissidents. The book clearly shows the conflict between consciousness and law. Antigone decides to bury her brother, Polyneices, despite the order of King Creon to dispose of the body on the battlefield to be eaten by vultures and worms. Antigone exercises his conscience by invoking divine law to defend her actions. She openly questions the king about the morality of the verdict and her own actions. She, therefore, becomes a threat to the status quo. The king decides to bury Antigone alive. It should also be noted that fear has made people stop exercising desires of their conscious. They fear the harsh rule of the king. The author presents the viewer with conflicts between Creon and Harmon, Antigone and Ismene, Euridice and Creon, and Tiresias and Creon. These conflicts involve one character exercising his consciousness and the other abiding by the status quo. However, the results of abiding by the status quo have negative consequences on society. As a result, these characters end up regretting their conformity to the status quo as was the case with Creon.
2. How racial bias has been presented in different ways?
Racial bias refers to actions, beliefs, and practices that divide the human species into races with shared abilities, qualities, or characteristics. Racial bias has been evident in the application of law and delivery of justice in the United States of America.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who sacrificed everything to fight segregation policies in America. He sought to condemn racism and incite black people to fight for their rights in Birmingham. At that time, racism was evident in the administrative systems. All the rulers were whites despite 40% of the population consisting of blacks. Additionally, only 10% of black people were allowed to vote. Moreover, their protests were repulsed ruthlessly. For instance, 42 blacks were arrested during one of the demonstrations. The subsequent demonstrations were also characterized by arrests of black protestors.
The courts also perpetuated the vice. Injunctions on federal demonstrations were issued without following required legal procedures. Moreover, the police also used every means to separate Martin Luther King Jr. and Abernathy and cut their contact with the outside world. The whites also supported segregation by bombing blacks’ homes and churches. However, the blacks retaliated with mob violence.
The film Twelve Angry Men describes issues of racial discrimination. The community holds certain stereotypes about minority groups who live in slums. These stereotypes are reflected in the courtroom, where a panel of 12 judges ignores the principle of innocence until proven guilty while deciding on a case of a slum boy suspected of his father’s murder. Consequently, the evidence presented before the jury is not taken into account in this case. Bias is also illustrated where the judges only seek information that ought to lead to confirmation of the charges while, at the same time, ignoring any information that might result in dismissing the charges.
Racial bias is also evident where the judges overlook evidence on the charges against the boy. For example, the noisy train could have prevented the outsiders from hearing the quarrels happening inside the house. The presupposed idea drove the judges to an opinion that children who grow up in slums are predisposed to committing crimes. Slums are usually inhabited by African Americans and other minority groups. The boy is almost denied justice because of belonging to the minority groups inhabiting the slums. This film, therefore, emphasizes stereotypes relating to minority groups.
Racial bias is also featured in the film, To Kill a Mockingbird. The protagonist of the play, Scout notices that prejudice and stereotyping are real in his community. Scout encounters discrimination from her teacher who denies Scout an opportunity to read or write. Additionally, the teacher refuses to change her teaching styles to incorporate Scout. On another occasion, Scout and Jem accompany Calpurnia to church. The congregation becomes outrageous to Calpurnia for bringing the other two boys into the church. This shows that racism was also perpetuated in places of worship.
The other sad case is the court convicting Tom Robinson of an attempt to rape Mayella Ewell. The judge overlooks the evidence of a black man over two white witnesses. Atticus confidently asks the judge to look past stereotypes and race and serve real justice to the accused.
The three case studies underlie the issue of racial bias and discrimination. They focus on the legal and administrative system. The aspects of legal discrimination are different from the ones in the administrative system. However, they are interrelated as they point towards denial of rights to the minority groups.
3. The changes in attitudes toward the relationship between crime and punishment.
There has been a notable transformation in people’s perception of the relationship between crime and punishment. This change has been reflected in the types of punishment given to criminals convicted of criminal acts. Advancement in technology has facilitated the development of instruments for exercising capital punishments, as well as social instruments that aid in reforming the convicted criminals. Foucault recommends a transfer from public execution to a more humane treatment such as reforming and incarceration within the prison walls. He considers prisons as part of corrective organizations that demand strict adherence to the internal hierarchy. As a result of these reforms, criminal activities and behaviors can be refined.
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Casilda is an evolutionary character in the novel The Judge’s Wife. Casilda is the name of a woman married to a ruthless judge. She acts as a catalyst to the changes witnessed in every character in the story. She helps in the growth of the other two characters; Hidalgo and Nicholas Vidal. Judge Hidalgo rules the town with an iron fist. He decides cases with extreme harshness irrespective of the offense. However, his marriage to Casilda transforms the judge into a warm, caring father and husband. This story shows that bad people can change into hospitable persons, as is the case with judge Hidalgo.
These changes have been facilitated by the realization that prisons only serve to make people harder. Scientific research and new technologies have also facilitated this development. These changes are part of the reforms taking place in the justice system. This includes the drafting of new laws to facilitate the changes being advocated. Moreover, community-based programs have been enhanced by being provided with experts. These experts should assist in the process of incarceration of the convicts.
The prisons have also been reformed from being centers of punishment to correctional centers. These changes reflect major transformations taking place in ethics and perceptions of law and justice. Additionally, there has been a change from using an individual’s body as an object of punishment denying rights to that body. Thus, in addition to corrective measures, a person assumes responsibility for the offense.
One of the main focuses in reforms is professional ethics. Many nations of the world have established laws and agencies that provide a guideline on professional ethics. International laws have also been strengthened to ensure world peace and cooperation. Globalization has made the world a global village and, therefore, clear rules of interaction need to be established. The reforms of court and prison systems reflect the many reforms taking place to ensure effective administration of justice.