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Essay On The Play Doubt

We live in a world that is thoroughly permeated with moral issues. Short stories also use a moral and basically it is quite impossible to write a story where the moral aspect is absent. A parable is story that pictures the moral lesson or some true facts about life to its readers. This kind of stories usually is created in a short form. Often these stories have some indirect meaning and use various literary tools like analogy or comparison for illustration. John Stanley’s managed to create a short story Doubt: A Parable that serves as one large parable and also includes a few internal parables told by Father Flynn. Father Flynn explains to Sister James that he “makes up little stories to illustrate, in the tradition of the parable.” (Stanley 1956) But answering the question why he does not use the true life facts, Father Flynn claims “what actually happens in life is beyond interpretation. The truth makes for a bad sermon. It tends to be confusing and have no clear conclusion.” (Stanley 1956)

Preface plays a significant role in the whole play, because it pictures the role of doubt in people’s lives. Author tells the audience in the Preface that “we are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment, and of verdict.” (Stanley 1939) Preface describes many ways of dealing with doubt; it may be recognized by some of people, when others search for the truth their whole lives and it’s really rare when the recognition and understanding comes.
The major concept of the play is of course the doubt or certainty issue. Have Father Flynn molested a boy or haven’t he? Sister Aloysius suspects Father Flynn of sexual abuse and therefore she charges him with unproven allegations which is a complex situation not only for the accused priest himself but for Sister Aloysius as well as she is in the constant doubt. Author uses a mystery and also uses a historical background (as the story takes place in the Bronx, 1964). The reader isn’t certain in the truth until the end. In the Preface to Doubt: A Parable Stanley indicates that: “When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he’s on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first like a mistake; like you’ve gone the wrong way and you’re lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar”. He also notes that ‘Doubt is nothing less than the opportunity to re-enter the Present.”

Doubt: A Parable includes many important themes in it, such as scepticism and faith, the abuse of power by priests, the certainty and the nature of doubt, repressions, problems in school system. Also an important theme that is underlined by the author of Doubt: A Parable is the abuse of the power. Author suggest an up-to-date topic, taking into account a number of scandal about the Catholic Church’s priests who had had sexual relations with young parishioners. And John Patrick Stanley manages to use this shock of the abuse of trust in his play in an unusual way. Other themes are the attitude to education; traditional is represented by Sister Aloysius and progressive is represented by Father Flynn. And also Doubt: A Parable emphasizes the important role of parables in the literature. In addition, it needs to be indicated that Stanley tells his audience throughout his play that certainty isn’t an easy thing to do. Not at all, it’s so complicated and so difficult to be certain even for the major characters of this play, people who have strong believes, people who serve God – Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. They are divided by this doubt, which consequently leads to the tragic end. This is the story with no proofs and it’s up to the audience to judge whether the priest is guilty or not. As Sister Aloysius in the final act of the play: “I have doubts, I have such doubts”. (Stanley 1968)

As for the internal parables used by Father Flynn in the text of the play, two stories could be named. The theme of the first act of the play is uncertainty. The priest depicts the ethical dilemma; he explains that the faith is the most important thing and that where faith there is no despair and no isolation. The first internal parable could be found in Father Flynn’s speech when he tells about the story about the sailor. This story has a moral: the faith in the truth has saved the sailor who as lost at sea. He sum ups to the audience: “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.” He adds “When you are lost you are not alone.” (Stanley 1939) The second internal parable is described in the Act 3 of the play when Father Flynn speaks to the boys during basketball. He tells them about the strategy of the basketball: “The shooting from the foul line has a psychological aspect in it; at the foul line it’s you against yourself.” (Stanley 1944) And then he suggests boys a story with a moral about the personal hygiene about his childhood friend Timmy who had died from spinal meningitis because of his neglecting of the hygiene.

March 26, 2015 |Free Essay Sample Papers|Tags: moral issues

Shanley’s thought-provoking, multi-faceted play, Doubt, can be described simply as a battle of diametrically opposed wills and belief systems (mainly that of Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn), appropriately staged primarily in a “court-room style” setting. Those reading and watching the play are, in a way, forced to come to terms with and confront their principle beliefs as they grapple with the enigmatic concepts of judgment, morality, and of course, doubt. In the contest of wills that ensues as the play progresses following the aspersions cast upon Father Flynn by Sister Aloysius, Doubt calls to attention the difficulties of navigating one’s way in a modern world enveloped in dramatic changes and moral dilemmas. By not making clear who the protagonist and antagonist of the story are, and who in fact is in the right, Shanley instead endorses a complete, bold rejection of absolutes—of all that is dogmatic, straightforward, and black and white. One scene that encapsulates the play’s central theme of conflicting mental practices, those of dogmatism/certainty and doubt, occurs early on in the play, when Sister Aloysius is speaking with Sister James about the way in which she should teach and conduct herself in front of her students.

Although the relationship between Sister James and Sister Aloysius is not the fundamental focus and subject of scrutiny in the play, this brief encounter clearly shows how irreconcilably different the convictions of the two women are. Sister James, in her gentle and oftentimes passive way, is a more subtle form of Father Flynn. In this scene, the women are discussing William London in Sister Aloysius’ office. Sister Aloysius, continuing her relentless line of criticism and cynicism, urges Sister James to be skeptical when it comes to the origin of William London’s ostensibly spontaneous nosebleeds. She tells her not to let compassion dictate her judgment, and instead to practice disconnectedly cold pragmatism: “Liars should be frightened to lie to you. They should be uncomfortable in your presence. I doubt they are…the children should think you see right through them” (12). Taken aback by this and dubious, Sister James asks, “Wouldn’t that be a little frightening?”, to which Sister Aloysius unblinkingly responds, “Only to the ones that are up to no good” (13). These words carry incredibly strong implications related to the play’s main plot.

When she speaks of William London, she is, by virtue of insinuation, speaking of Father Flynn. She adheres to the notion that only the guilty flinch and are disconcerted when accused of having done something wrong. Since Father Flynn shudders at her unwavering suppositions, she assumes, without consideration, that he is lying, and thus guilty of bringing about an “improper” relationship with the vulnerable Donald Muller. She is of the understanding that intuition and faith are infallible guides that facilitate the discovery of truth. She is blinded by her deeply entrenched beliefs about human nature and behavior, and because of this, she refuses to see the possible innocence and humanity in Father Flynn until the very end, when she laments, “I have doubts! I have such Doubts!” In conjunction with her ultimate adoption of doubt, it could even be said that she begins to doubt her religious faith and vocation in general.

In his revealing preface, Shanley expresses his notions of certainty and uncertainty: “Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite—it is a passionate exercise” (ix). Doubt, he explains, has a dynamic, malleable nature that allows for change and growth, while certainty is an emotionally expedient refuge for those who are too scared to admit that they, in reality, “don’t know…anything”. Father Flynn, coinciding with this perception of obstinate sureness, says to Sister Aloysius, “even if you feel certainty, it is an emotion and not a fact” (55). Hypocritically, Sister Aloysius preaches emotional disconnectedness and concrete logic, when she does not practice them herself. While it can be said that Father Flynn and Sister James evidently represent doubt and Sister Aloysius certainty, it is unquestionable that Shanley does not endeavor to predispose an individual to favoring one side over the other.

He prevents one from establishing pat conclusions about the characters, their motives, and the validity of their arguments. In doing this, he creates an interactive experience for the reader and audience member; the play is, in large part, a reflection of oneself and one’s core beliefs, and therefore, interpretations will vary from person to person. One thing, however, is certain with regard to verdict and truth: “There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time”. Doubt warns us not to lose sight of the truth by seeing only what we expect or hope to see. Rather than admonishing suspicion, it admonishes lack of humility and the ability to view things through a different lens.

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