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Unformatted text preview: constructed and interpreted by men--has for historical and political reasons shown far too much sympathy and even forgiveness for the rapist. Unavoidably, we will need to evaluate "competing claims of victimization," and there is no magic formula for doing so without reference to extrinsic values. If we try to understand the rapist, what will result? Judge Posner says the following: "To understand another person completely is to understand the causality of his behavior, to see . . . it as determined rather than responsible. . . . If we understand a criminal's behavior as well as we understand a rattlesnake's behavior, we are unlikely to accord him much dignity and respect." Perhaps. Maybe all we will feel is contempt, loathing, and a desire for revenge. On the other hand, Martha Nussbaum praises the philosopher Seneca, who argued that a merciful attitude achieves more accurate results; it regards "each particular case as a complex narrative of human effort in a world full of obstacles." In Toni Morrison's novel, The Bluest Eye, she tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, a black girl in a society that defines goodness and beauty in terms of whiteness. Many forces converge to ensure Pecola's destruction, but her father, Cholly Breedlove, contributes far more than his share to her misery. Ultimately, he rapes her--in fact, he rapes her twice. These two acts, coupled with her mother's act of blaming her for the rapes, propel her into madness. The remarkable achievement of the novel is that the reader does come to understand Cholly--he is a product of ongoing, brutal dehumanization, described in heartbreaking detail. One cannot possibly forgive or excuse Cholly's treatment of Pecola, but neither can one ignore his humanity. Morrison has ensured that we will see him as a person--and that is an accomplishment. Law is not literature, but people are not rattlesnakes. The Court's recent death penalty jurisprudence has a decidedly political agenda--it dehumanizes the defendant in...
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This document was uploaded on 11/20/2013.
- Fall '13