American Literature essay

american literature 1

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In essence,David Mamet’s “Race” is a play, which pushes the boundaries interms of discussing matters of race, prejudice, and injustice in theUnited States. Set in 2009, the play focuses on the dilemmas of twocorporate lawyers (Henry Brown) and (Jack Lawson). According to theplay, Brown is African American while Lawson is Caucasian. Hence,their race influences each of their decisions significantly whendealing with court cases. Mamet uses his understanding and experienceof crime, punishment, and justice in the legal system to introducevarious dilemmas and situations, which reflect on the countriesactual treatment of matters of race in the legal system(Price &amp Tredell, 2008).&nbspThepaper provides an analysis of David Mamet’s Race with reference tocrime, punishment, and Justice. In addition, the paper supports thethesis of the play using two references “the adventures of TomSawyer” and “Billy Budd”.

DiscussDavid Mamet’s Race in terms of Crime, Punishment, and Justice

One of thethemes that the play portrays is the unfair legal system, whichfavors influential people while ignoring the plight of people withless influence. In addition, he uses the play to explain thedisparities between white and blacks given that the law favors whitepeople compared to their black counterparts. For instance, the mainantagonist in the play is Charles Strickland who is a prominent whitebusinessperson in his 40s. Strickland commits a crime by raping ablack woman. Following the charges, Strickland hires the two lawyerswith the hope of clearing his name. At this point, the lawyers face adilemma on whether to represent him given that their move may affectthe reputation of the firm. Furthermore, both lawyers have an idea ofhow the law works in that people with money have the ability to bribetheir way out of any situation. However, their experience alsoindicates that the law can be fair and just if approached well(Mamet,2013).&nbsp

How doesMamet treat Crime, Punishment, and Justice?

With thatsaid, Mamet uses characters like Henry Brown and Susan to provide theviewpoints of a black person in American society. As such, theyinfluence Lawson’s judgment, which in most cases is ignorant of thetrials of members of minority groups like black and women. Ideally,Lawson is well aware of the issue of race and prejudice in societyand in the criminal justice system. However, he does not havefirsthand experience of discrimination given that his background hasnot subjected him to such a life. On the other hand, Brown uses hispersonal experience as a black man in a prejudicial society to makepersonal, professional, and legal decisions when selecting clientsand cases (Price&amp Tredell, 2008).For instance, he has an understanding of the dynamics in the courtwhereby black and white jurors will vote according to theirpredispositions. Most of the time, it is difficult to apply fairverdicts seeing as lawyers, judges, and the jury have predisposedopinions of both white and black people due to their pastexperiences. Hence, the Strickland case may not be judged using factsbut through personal preferences. Mamet explains how different peoplecope with crime and handle the law. For example, he ensures thatjustice is served when a call from the DAs office revels thatimportant evidence was left out from the documents. In turn, the twolawyers learn that Charles is indeed guilty (Mamet,2011).&nbsp

What doesthis Play say about Race and Gender?

Theplay brings to light the issues concerning race and gender by talkingabout the issue of rape, prostitution, and discrimination. In thiscase, both Brown and Lawrence learn that Charles rapes a young blackwoman after analyzing the evidence and finally hearing about hisconfession. Ideally, Charles is not a reliable source hence hisclaims are not reliable. He tries to sway the opinion of the lawyersby mentioning that the victim is a prostitute. The play also depictsthe use of sexuality by various characters. For instance, JackLawson’s relationship with Susan, the new intern is questionable(Price&amp Tredell, 2008).

In this case,Jack acts as her mentor by guiding her on the legal procedure neededin the law firm. However, he crosses lines when he instructs her towear a sequence dress in court to determine if someone will tear thedress off. This statement is offensive yet Mr. Lawson, a stand up mandoes not recognize the statement and the sensitive nature of the casegiven that Susan is a young black woman. Both race and genderindicate the various forms of discriminations that women and AfricanAmericans experience. As such, one learns that it is hard for a womanof color to cope in a society whereby people like Charles can do asthey please (Mamet,2013).&nbsp

CanJustice be served within the Confines of this Play? Why or why not?

Mamet alsotalks about punishments by explaining the various disparities whendeterring judgments. After the analysis of the play, it is evidentthat justice is served within the confines of the play. While Charlesdoes everything to hide evidence of the sequence dress and his racistrants in the hotel, he does not manage to outwit the witnesses whohad him call the victim a “little nigger bitch”. In addition, thehousekeeper notices the sequence dress under the bed, which makes theclaims of the plaintiff evident (Price&amp Tredell, 2008).&nbsp

When Henrygets the call from the District Attorney’s office, they learn thatthe responding officers in charge of the evidence forgot to includethe initial reports, which had the evidence of the dress. As such,Charles had admitted to committing the rape. The play highlights thatthough Henry and Jack claim to defend the law, they were creating adefense, which would eventually result in an injustice or lack ofpunishment. Moreover, though the two lawyers attempt to drop thecase, when they realize that their firm is registered as Charleslegal representative, they come up with strategies to improve thedefendant’s image in order to appeal to a black jury (Mamet,2011).&nbsp

On readingMark Twain’s “the adventures of Tom Sawyer”, one is able tounderstand how the community in St. Petersburg Mississippi viewcrime, punishment, and justice. In the book, Tom and his friendHuckleberry Fin witness the murder of Dr. Robinson by Injun Joe.Ideally, in the 19thcentury, the law is not as established. Hence, the two boys are notsure of what to do when they witness the murder. In turn, Tom, Huck,and Joe Harper leave the town for a while given that they are afraidof their lives. On their return, to the town, Tom testifies againstthe culprit Injun Joe. Though the deeds of Injun become public, noaction is taken against him as he manages to run away. In this case,the court does not punish Injun for the murder of Dr. Robinson.However, when he attacks Widow Douglas, both Tom and Becky informJudge Thatcher that he is hiding in the cave. To attain justice, thecommunity decides to lock Injun in the cave, which results in hisdeath. This shows that the community has its own method of attainingjustice for cases such as murder (Twain,2001).&nbsp

On the other hand, Herman Melville’s, BillyBudd highlights the complexity of the legal system whereby some lawscontradict with the morals and values that people in society hold astrue. Ideally, Billy Budd, an upright member of the British navyaccidentally kills his superior. Melville uses this masterpiece toexplain the legal dilemma that individuals face when in acompromising situation. For example, Billy Accidentally kills hismentor in front of Captain Vere who loves Billy. However, Vere has toexercise the law and report the case to the authorities as per therules of the military. After the trail, the court sentences Billy todeath by hanging. In this case, the book explains that the law hasharsh punishments, which in some cases do not fit the actual crime.At the time, there was no much consideration for manslaughter. Assuch, Billy suffers the repercussions of the harsh laws leaving hisfriends to deal with his unlawful death (Melville, 2014).

In conclusion, on the analysis of the tworeferences, the reader learns about two different situations, wherebythe locals handle crime, punishment, and justice differently. In somecases, a society may take the law into their own hands while in othercases protectors of the law apply its principles despite thenegative outcomes. Mamet uses his play “Race” to explain how thelegal system applies justice in various situations. Therefore, onehas to understand how a person’s background, personal experiences,and society determine a fair judgment.


Mamet, D.(2013).&nbspRace.London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. London New York : BloomsburyMethuen Drama, 2013.

Mamet, D.(2011).&nbspThesecret knowledge: On the dismantling of American culture.New York: Sentinel.

Melville, H. (2014). BillyBudd Sailor. New York. Pocket Books.

Price, S., &ampTredell, N. (2008).&nbspTheplays, screenplays and films of David Mamet.Basingstoke [England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Twain, M.(2001).&nbspTheadventures of Tom Sawyer.New York: Modern Library