The Power of Narrative

A Time to Kill is an American courtroom drama whose climax carved itself into my memory twenty-four years ago. The story: Two white men raped a black girl. The police arrested them, but since the crime happened in Mississippi at a time when racism was still rampant, they were likely to walk free. This induced the girl’s father to shoot down the rapists in the county courthouse. The remaining part of the movie deals with the father’s trial. During the closing arguments, the father’s attorney didn’t tell the jury, “Please have pity with this man.”  Instead, he described (showed) in great detail how the girl was abducted, raped, beaten, unsuccessfully hung, and, at last, dumped in a river. And then, he asked the jury, “Now imagine she’s white.”

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