A Clockwork Orange: The objective characters are caught up in untenable situations: uncontrolled lawless youths terrorize society; Alex is imprisoned for murder and brainwashed through the complex machinations of those around him–his fellow droogs, a crazed writer, and a crafty politician; Alex’s bedroom and the affection of his parents has been usurped by a fawning lodger; etc.
The Age of Innocence: All of the objective characters exist in an environment governed by strict rules of behavior and dress. They find themselves in a situation where social etiquette must be obeyed at all costs. Ellen Olenska adjusts to her new environment under the close scrutiny of family and acquaintances. Mrs. Mingott tries to protect Ellen by taking her granddaughter into her home and inviting society friends to a dinner party to introduce her, but is snubbed. May Welland adheres to every convention a proper young woman should to be accepted by her peers. Newland Archer is everything expected of a cultured gentleman: he practices law, travels Europe, collects books, belongs to a men’s club, is engaged to a prominent woman of his own class. Larry Lefferts represents everything the proper gentleman should look like. Sillerton Jackson guards the established code of conduct by being an expert on the lineage of all the best families in society. Mrs. Archer and Janey act according to their station as a society widow and an unmarried woman, respectively.
Boyz N The Hood: Everyone in the hood is stuck in a bleak situation that appears hopeless (e.g. violent crime, drugs, harassment by the police, and so forth).
Braveheart: England has taken Scotland for itself, attempting to suppress the natives through harsh and unjust laws. The Scots fight for what is rightfully theirs.
Charlotte’s Web: As part of the cycle of life on a farm, Wilbur will ultimately be put to death.
Chinatown: Many years ago, Noah Cross had relations with his daughter, Evelyn, and got her pregnant. To protect Evelyn from scandal (and because he was a caring person), Cross’ business pal, Hollis Mulwray, took Evelyn to Mexico where she had her baby. Hollis eventually married Evelyn. Now, Hollis and Evelyn are back in Los Angeles where Hollis is the head of the Department of Water and Power. His interests (and those of the Angelenos) is in direct conflict with Noah Cross’ plans for making lots of money by buying up the San Fernando Valley and then annexing it to L.A. County to get cheap water for irrigation. The family troubles become intertwined with the business troubles and it is left up to a private investigator to sort the mess out.
The Fugitive: A murder in Chicago has taken place. An innocent man has been accused, tried, and convicted for the crime.
The Glass Menagerie: The Wingfields are tied to their tiny abode in St. Louis because of their struggle against poverty and the burden of Laura Wingfield’s status as a not-yet-but-soon-to-be “old maid.”
The Graduate: Ben Braddock has arrived home from college, as a hero. Everyone has high hopes for his future and seem very concerned that Ben appears to be putting off his future–wasting his time “floating around.”
The Piano Lesson: The objective characters exist in an environment that’s tainted by the piano which represents their tragic past, and serves as a reminder of the lowly station they hold as black people in America. They find themselves in a situation where they must find self-actualization within the narrow opportunities allowed them in a racist society. Avery accepts a “good” job as an elevator operator in a downtown skyscraper to have a chance of founding his own church. Doaker is content with his career as a railroad cook. Lymon hopes to improve his situation by finding a job unloading boxcars in Pittsburgh, as opposed to being fined for “not working” down home in Mississippi. Berniece works as a domestic, one of the few occupations open to black women. She accepts that this is the best that she can do, but is training her daughter to become a teacher.
Platoon: The American military is in Vietnam attempting to defeat the Viet Cong and prevent the spread of communism, which creates a state of war within this country.
Pride and Prejudice: The objective story explores the particular social customs and manners of England’s upper class in the early nineteenth century. An example of a social custom is voiced by Lady Catherine: “Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their situation in life” (Austen 179). The situation the Bennet family finds themselves in is, with five daughters and no male heir, their estate is entailed to their priggish cousin Collins. To secure their future, it is necessary for the Bennet girls to marry well.
Revenge of the Nerds: The (nerds) Tri-Lamdas and the Alpha-Betas are caught up in a situation–a power struggle in the Greek system at Adams.
The Silence of the Lambs: Faced with the predicament of a serial killer on the loose and no clues to his identity, the FBI enlists the advice of another serial killer in an effort to put an end to the situation.
The Simpsons Christmas Special: The predicament the Simpsons find themselves in is a Christmas without gifts. Homer’s Christmas bonus is denied, and the family Christmas savings are used to remove Bart’s tattoo. Marge’s sisters put pressure on the situation, contemptuous of Homer and highly skeptical that he can bring his family Christmas joy:
Patty: It’s Christmas? You wouldn’t know it around here.
Homer: And why is that?
Selma: Well, for one thing, there’s no tree.
Sula: “Sula” explores a negative situation that, once established, does not change:
The Bottom is established, beautiful but unable to nourish the inhabitants…the community must direct both creative and destructive energy inward. Since its contributions to Medallion and the rest of the world must be limited and menial, and since it cannot express the resulting frustration, the community becomes enmeshed-intensely nurturing and as intensely restrictive and destructive. (Pollock, 1986, p. 1550)
Taxi Driver: All the characters are concerned with the level of crime and corruption on the streets of America’s cities: Travis wants to flush the streets of “filth and scum, scum and filth”; Wizard and the other drivers are worried about attacks on cabbies; Sport and Iris depend on the unchanging situation for their lifestyle; Tom wants to push the issues that will change society, while Betsy wants to push the man–Palantine, who offers only empty promises in order to get elected:
PALANTINE: I know what you mean, Travis, and it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have radical changes all throughout city and municipal government.
(Schrader, p. 40)
Toy Story: All concerns, problems, and considerations exist within a “universe” where toys come alive and interact when they are alone amongst themselves, forming a community and making lives for themselves within the context of the child’s room. The fixed situation is that the toys in Andy’s Room exist for no other purpose than to “be there for Andy.” Nothing is more profoundly problematic in this universe than the threat of separation from their child master. (The prospect of newer, possibly “better” toys makes the current ones fear ending up in the trash; while Buzz and Woody are separated from Andy, it is an inequity that must be corrected at all costs.) An aspect of this state of affairs is a sort of “code” that the toys live by very strictly (albeit voluntarily) that they must NEVER be seen animating in front of humans.
The Verdict: A woman is permanently comatose and must remain in a hospital for the remainder of her life as the result of her physician’s negligence.
Washington Square: All of the objective characters are defined in large part by their social and economic situation, and it is here where problems arise. Doctor Sloper’s “easy domestic situation saved him a good deal of drudgery” (James 3), but his son and wife’s deaths have made him an unhappy widower; Catherine’s expected inheritance leaves her open to the mercenary Morris Townsend; Aunt Penniman is financially dependent upon Doctor Sloper, Aunt Almond explains to Doctor Sloper Morris Townsend’s social standing:
‘They tell me [Doctor Sloper] our gentleman [Morris Townsend] is the cousin of the little boy to whom you are about to entrust the future of your little girl.’ . . . The name is the same, but I [Mrs. Almond] am given to understand that there are Townsends and Townsends. So Arthur’s mother tells me; she talked about branches–younger branches, elder branches, inferior branches–as if it were a royal house. Arthur, it appears is of the reigning line but poor . . . [Morris] is not. (James 34-35)
Witness: The story plays out in the peace-loving Amish community, which is loath to bring in “English” such as John Book, especially when they live by the gun and fist–but the men who shot Book will come after Samuel, so they must help him; As long as the witness Samuel remains alive, the careers and criminal activities of Schaeffer and his men are endangered.
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