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An innocent man wronged


Sometimes there are events in our lives that we cannot control. These events occur, more or less, due to our own actions. Sometimes, however, we must come to terms with our inability to handle certain situations and also to reach our goals. These events are facts of life everyone: some people can't run as fast, or lift as much, or write as well. It is during these times that we must focus on what we can do well, and try to direct our goals around those features that make us good at something. In David Mamet's Oleanna, John loses his job and his house due to Carol's ignorance, lack of self-confidence, and overall inability to come to terms with her own short-comings as a student. This play epitomizes an act of complete degradation based solely on one individual's failure to accept that she just might not be good at school--or at least John's class. In an attempt to help a young student named Carol, a professor named John loses his house and his job. All of the blame rests on Carol's shoulders, for it was she that allowed her delusions of grandeur and success (being without the necessary skills to attain them) to ruin the life of man who has dedicated his life to helping students do just that. Carol's ignorance plays a big role in this tragedy. From the very beginning of this play, it is apparent that Carol does not understand the information given in class, but it is her unwillingness to even try that makes her at fault. "People who came here. To know something they didn't know...To be helped...So someone would help them (12)." Carol is begging John to understand that she is stupid. She doesn't want help in the sense that someone might want help writing a paper. She wants it hand fed to her, and education is a process that involves the teacher pointing the way, not carrying someone to the end. Carol's misconceptions of how college is supposed to work can only be result of not having been exposed to the realities of higher education, but I believe that she just doesn't have the skills she needs to succeed. "Nobody tells me anything. And I sit the corner. In the back (14)." This is an example of the total lack of motivation that Carol has to learn. Her ignorance leads her to believe that a college education is supposed to hand fed. She just sits there, in the back, without an attempt to even try to learn on her own. We all need help form time to time, but there is an effort that is required of all of us the Carol seems unwilling to give. Her apparent refusal to put together any kind of effort whatsoever is even more apparent later in the play. John and Carol are having a conversation about various topics and John tries to get Carol to express some kind of opinion on the subject: John: Well, let's address that. What do you think? Carol: I don't know. John: What do you think, though? (pause) Carol: I don't know. That exchange of dialogue on page 29 sums up Carol's lack of self-confidence. She won't even take the plunge, and try to talk about a subject brought up in class. John tries to get her to give an opinion on a subject that carol obviously doesn't understand, in an attempt to help her comprehend. Carol doesn't believe that she has any ability, or else she would have at least tried to answer his question, a question that isn't hard in and of itself to understand--What do you think? Other examples of her total lack of self-confidence can be found earlier in the play: "...and I walk around. From morning 'til night: with this one thought in my head. I'm stupid (12)." What kind of person thinks of themselves as stupid, all the time? Carol obviously has no confidence in her abilities to do anything, and she feels that everyone around her thinks she's stupid as well. On the very next page even, Carol accuses John of calling her stupid. She is so deliberate in her belief that she takes what John says out of context, and turns it into an insult against her. Carol says, "You think I'm stupid," and he replies, "No. I certainly don't." She counters, "You said it (13)." What Carol is referring to is when John was reading an excerpt from her paper, he ask her, "What can that mean (8)." John was talking about her paper, and Carol thought he meant that if she didn't understand something, it meant she was stupid. Her lack of self-confidence forces her to hear what isn't being said, and it makes John look like the bad guy. Finally, Carol can't seem to cope with her own shortcomings as a college student, and this leads her to find a group of people that will help her. She needs to feel secure in her own abilities, even though she readily admitted that she was stupid, and the evidence points to her lack of self-confidence. This group seems mysterious at first but later she reveals, without knowing it, the identity of this group. The first reference to this group appears on page 54, when carol says, "My Group...The people I've been talking to...." She has apparently been in contact with some organization that decided to back her interests in deciding to accuse John of sexual harassment. The charges against John, which Carol filed, cost him not only his job, but the tenure that he did not receive as a result cost him the extra income that would be used to pay for his house. All of this took place because Carol cannot comprehend that some people are just not cut out for college. Later, we find out who Carol's group is: Now. The thing which you find so cruel is the selfsame process of selection I, and my group, go through every day of our lives. In admittance to school. In our tests, in our class rankings...(69). It is a group of students just like Carol. All of them have struggled at what they have never been good at--school. They have lived their lives fearing that the system of education has decided that they are failures. This group has only one goal, and that is to succeed. Their success, however, has a price. Those people who stand in the way re their enemies. John's fate was a result of Carol finding this group, and allowing them to use her as a pawn in their own sick, twisted agenda. All the members of this group suffer from the same illness that ails Carol: ignorance, lack of self-confidence, and an ability to cope with their own shortcomings as students. Carol represents a group of people that are the destruction of the higher education system. Their complete disregard for societal structure cost a good teacher his job and his home. It seems that today, when we are unable to get what we want by earning it, we have to destroy and tear down the barriers in our way. This is exactly what Carol does, and the manner in which she executes her plan would leave most students to wonder: why even try?

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