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A Time To Kill Movie Analysis Essay

A Time To Kill [Movie Analysis] Essay, Research Paper

“A Time To Kill”Tradition is a priceless component to any culture, as it has been shaped and

developed by time itself. Tradition passes from generation to generation, exercising

its influence through the actions and thoughts of a people. The tradition that

has materialized from the history of the American South is no different. It

remains a pillar of hope, faith, and pride for those southerners who embrace

it. Tradition of the South dictates a way life with roots in the very foundation

of the United States. While this may act as a testament to the strength and

courage of the people of the south, the fact remains that the principles laid

down by this tradition defy civil rights and respect for humanity. In this sense,

the old ways of the South do not compliment the rapid changes that occur in

society each day. At heart, this realization is the overall theme of “A Time

To Kill”. The convictions of the South are detrimental to the civility of the

human race and yet, remain unchanged after 150 years because they rise from

the tradition of the Southern culture.

The realization listed above haunts each of the principal characters in “A Time

To Kill” as the story of racial injustice unfolds. Centered around the brutal

rape and assault of a young black girl, Tanya Hailey, “A Time To Kill” immerses

itself into the intense emotions that are involved in hatred. The rape, committed

by two white men, epitomizes this blind hatred that stems from the racism of

the South. Influenced by the pain of his loss, Tanya’s father, Carl Lee Hailey,

lashes out in a passionate state of retribution, slaying both assailants. Charged

with two counts of murder in the first degree, Carl Lee is trapped in a judicial

system that is greatly swayed by the racism of the world beyond. He is assigned

the young and idealistic Jake Brigance, as lead council, one of the few white

southerners who believes that he is still able to receive a fair trial. The

incident becomes a platform for social outcry, as white and black, poor and

privileged take a stand for what they believe in. The emotional tension and

social distress heightens as Ellen Roark, an energetic Boston law student, comes

to Jake’s assistance. They seem to be a very lost few among the surrounding

hatred of the South. As trial proceeds, it tears the community apart with controversy,

and takes its toll on the lives of all those involved. The most significant

relationship in this twisted story is that of Jake and Carl Lee, for they are

forced to find a way to transcend their fundamental differences and work together

for the same cause, equal justice. Somehow, this justice is found, as an obviously

partial jury searches deep within to produce a compassionate verdict of “not


“A Time To Kill” was both dramatic and accurate in its depiction of a small

southern community. Prevalent throughout “A Time To Kill” is the presence of

the Ku Klux Klan, both as an antagonistic force and as the embodiment of blind

hatred that existed in the form of racism in Mississippi at the time. This modern

presence has been the root of many crimes of hatred and racism. Conversely,

the NAACP?s presence in opposition to the Ku Klux Klan is significant, yet its

true nature and power was not shown; rather the movie focuses on the interracial

relationship and its impact in a southern society, in which equality is undefined.

It is evident that the producers of this movie truly understand the mechanics

of modern society in this respect. Finally, ?A Time To Kill?, faces segregation

head on, displaying its psychological effects on a society of the south, and

its judicial system. Today, nearly 40 years after the civil rights movement

made the first steps towards racial equality, segregation remains a part of

humanity that we must all face.

“A Time To Kill” speaks to all people, versed and unversed in the hatred of

racism. Above all, it calls the individual to examine their convictions, and

then ask themself if they have sought the just principles for life. Jake Brigance

eloquently calls the jury to imagine the acts brought upon Tanya in these final

words, “Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body, soaked in their urine,

soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I

want you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she’s white.” This movies

serves as a reminder that in governing our country, and ultimately in living

our lives, we must look past race, color and creed, and seek equality in its

purest forms. If this cannot be done in the present, it cannot be a hope for

the future.

Newton, Michael, And Judy Ann Newton. The Ku Klux Klan: An Encyclopedia.

Garland, 1991.

Harris, Jacqueline L. History And Achievement Of The NAACP. Franklin Watts,


Haskins, James S. Separate But Not Equal: The Dream and the Struggle. Scholastic,


A Time To Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock,

Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey. Warner Brothers. 1996.