Literary analysis on "Doubt: the Parable" by John Patrick Shanley.

Doubt: A Parable

Doubt, a tale by Patrick Stanley, opens with the question "what do individuals do when they are unsure? So inquires Father Lynn, a beloved priest at St. Nicholas Church in the Bronx" (Shanley 13). The play begins with the priest speaking to his audience about the value of skepticism. He claims that scepticism is a link that keeps a person's certainty alive (Shanley 13). The majority of the characters in the novel are shown to be walking a fine edge between truth and ambiguity. Sister Aloysius (the school principal) believes that Father Lynn is molesting Donald Muller (a young African American Student) and therefore, she recruits a young nun (Sister James) to help in monitoring the priest. Mysterious circumstances makes the sister believe that the Father was purportedly sexually assaulting the little boy. Most of the information provided about the Father is hearsay and conjuncture. On one instance, Aloysius confronts Father Lynn directly in the presence of sister James. The father angrily denies the accusation and he insists that he was only disciplining Donald for taking altar wine. In fact, he claims that he was protecting the boy from harsher punishments. Dissatisfied with Lynn’s explanation, the school principal meets Mrs. Muller, Donald’s Mother. Despite the sister’s attempts to shock her, Donald’s mother ‘supports’ the boy’s relationship with Flynn and hints that her son was better placed at school than staying at home where Mr. Muller would be beating him regularly. Basically, there is no actual proof whether Father Lynn is innocent or guilty. As such, the reader is left to wonder. Therefore, thesis seeks to justify the different possible interpretations of the priest’s innocence or guilt based on the evidence from the play.

Interpretations of Innocence or Guilt

Principally, we are used to the phrase, people are innocent until proven guilty but realistically, it is common knowledge that people are actually guilty until they proven innocent. From the narrative, it is possible that Father Lynn is helping Donald because he is less fortunate than most the students in the school. On the other hand, it could be possible that he was molesting the child (Shanley 15). Essentially, the author leaves the reader at a suspense and leaves us to become the jury. It is quite challenging to decide whether Father Flynn is innocent or guilty. Patrick Stanley conceals the truth in an intelligent way. For instance, the scenes about the camping trips and undershirt causes a lot of confusion, as narrated in the analysis of the story. It makes the reader to go back and forth as the play goes on (Gale 5).

The Ambiguity of the Father's Motives

The author writes; just like dancing ballerina that spun in circles Father Lyn gave Donald Miller the toy. It was not that big of a deal. Donald found it quite fascinating that he was actually getting a toy and yet he was from an underprivileged background. Father Lynn may have given the toy to Father Lynn because he was compassionate (Gale 12). On the other hand, he might have given the gift with ulterior motives, or perhaps he gave him the toy just for the fun of it. The question that the reader seeks to answer is, why give a girl’s toy to a boy? Being a priest, giving a little boy gifts may seem inappropriate especially if the motive is not clear. John Patrick Stanley leaves the audience at a suspense by writing. “Every perfect gift has its origin from in God- It come from above.” The author leaves it completely unclear and anyone can interpret it in any way (Shanley 16).

The Ambiguous End

In contrast to the father’s alleged ulterior motives, there is a scene in the story where the toy had been broken by the other kids will Donald was at school. Flynn is featured helping pick it up and then he gives him a hug (Shanley 19). On one hand, the hug may seem inappropriate and on the other hand, it seems compassionate. The ambiguous end to the play receives immense attention because the audience does not get a clear cut answer on whether the Father was blameless or guilty. A brief biography of John Patrick Shanley shows that he was born in Bronx (1963) and then attended a Catholic school in New York but he was expelled. He then enrolled in Moore Prep School in Harrisville. He later attended the New York University (Page 1). His successful career as a playwright and most especially in writing doubt may be attributed to his life experiences.

Inconclusive Verdict

To conclude, the reader’s assumptions and conclusions about Father Lynn will therefore be based on personal experiences, upbringing or gut feeling. Patrick uses inferences to create doubt on the audience’s mind. The verdict is therefore somewhere between guilty and not guilty. There are signs in the narrative that the father may be violating the child, but this is unclear. Also, Father Lynn is shown to be loving and compassionate to the young boy. It is blurred whether which one of the two options is absolute. Essentially, the reader is left to become the jury and judge.

Works Cited

Gale, Cengage L. A Study Guide for John Patrick Shanley's "doubt," Excerpted from Gale's Acclaimed Drama for Students. Farmington Hills: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016. Internet resource.

Page, Suzy. Doubt, A Parable: Characters, Settings and Themes. Lone, Kingwood, 2016.

Shanley, John P. Doubt: A Parable. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, Inc, 2005. Print.

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