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Oleanna by David Mamet - Book Report/Review Example

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In the play, Oleanna by David Mamet, the author creates a powerful and bright character of university professor, John. John is a tragic character whose destiny and professional career is ruined by his student, Carol. John's honesty and truthfulness are admirably displayed in his readiness to answer openly any charges related to his classes and views on education, and he even welcomes the inevitable public confrontation as a way of restoring balance between his private and public lives…
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Oleanna by David Mamet
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Download file to see previous pages When John appears in person for the first time he is accompanied by Carol, whose hatred has already been impressed on readers in the preceding scene. In this context Carol's sudden change of tone before John and her hypocritical talk of conscience and absence of iniquity establish Carol rmly as a scheming and resentful figure. John for his part appears totally unsuspecting of her ensign's insincerity, takes Carols words at face value, and treats her as a promising student. Normally, that is, in real life, positions of a professor and educator require a disposition, involving as it does a pragmatic attitude toward life and the ability to act efficiently in new, unexpected situations. This quality also entails a certain degree of opportunism, a readiness to cut corners and bend the rules, which clearly do not square with John's admirable integrity and principled stance. John says: I'll make you a deal. You stay here. We'll start the whole course over. I'm going to say it was not you, it was I who was not paying attention. We'll start the whole course over. Your grade is an "A." Your final grade is an "A." (Mamet 7). Psychological realism of the character is thus artistically bent by David Mamet to achieve a dramatic effect of the tragic fall of a professor, charismatic man whose honesty, nobility, and trusting nature are unscrupulously exploited.
From the very beginning, John tries to avoid a conflict but fails. He is deeply frustrated, resentful, and embittered in auxiliary and dependent positions, where his organizational talents cannot be fully realized. During the trial, Carol's description is slanted by hatred, primarily motivated by being passed over for promotion. The two incongruities are thus responsible for a peculiar relationship between John and Carol: the socially superior professor is inferior to his subordinate in respect of dynamism of character, and despite his stateliness, dignity, and position John is psychologically dependent on this ensign. From the first time the two characters appear together it is obvious that the trusting John is totally unaware and unsuspecting of Carol's insincerity, and of being manipulated by him into a potentially compromising and damaging confrontation. The most disturbing fact is that the Committee and John's collogues do not support and defend him. They step aside and isolate from this trial. John talks to Carol:
You said you came in the class because you wanted to learn about education. I don't know that I can teach you about education. But I know that I can tell you what I think about education, and then you decide. And you don't have to fight with me. I'm not the subject. I don't want to fix you (Mamet 60).
Carol's malicious plan to compromise the professor before the Committee miscarries on this occasion. A responsible man, he knows that he will not allow his life to get in the way of his public duties, an argument that no doubt will carry some weight before the Committee. After he patiently and tactfully withstands the racial insults, John offers a calm, composed, and dignified self-defense before the Committee, confident both in his innocence of any dishonorable action and in justice.
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