A Band 6 Justice Game sample essay.
“At the heart of representation are acts of deliberate selection and emphasis.”
How do the texts you have studied demonstrate this in relation to conflicting perspectives?
Composers of texts attempt to influence and manipulate audiences into adopting their perspective of events, personalities and situations, in order to convince audiences of the veracity of their arguments. The fact that truth is subjective means that the representation of truth will also be subjective. In particular, it becomes clear through examination of texts such as The Justice Game, by Geoffrey Robertson, and Julian Barnes’ 1991 novel Talking It Over, that bias is inherent in every perspective that is presented by a composer.
Geoffrey Robertson’s non-fiction text, The Justice Game, is a clear example of a composer deliberately selecting and emphasising various facts and events in order to influence a reader. Through The Justice Game, Robertson presents his perspective of the British legal system, which he believes to be archaic and unjust, with too much potential for the transgression of human rights, through an evidently biased, subjective view, using the techniques of selection and omission to highlight various arguments to persuade readers. The Trials of Oz recounts the obscenity trials of the editors of Oz Magazine, highlighting the issues of freedom of speech and censorship, as well as the overarching concept of conflicting perspectives which are inherently present in every event or situation. The conflicting perspectives that are present in this case are instantly clear, as the avant-garde editors of Oz are challenged by the significantly more conservative character of Judge Argyle, whom Robertson views as a personification of the legal system. Judge Argyle, who presided over the case, is immediately presented in an unfavourable light, characterised as a conservative, out-of-touch and perhaps backward man, who Robertson implies sees his judgeship as “a career consolation for the Tory MP he had tried several times to become”. In his recount of the trials of Oz, Robertson expresses disdain for Judge Argyle, describing him in a condescending, sarcastic tone, effectively mocking how old-fashioned Argyle is- for example, highlighting his lack of familiarity of contemporary colloquial, “revolutionary” language, when Judge Argyle confuses the term “right on” with “write on”. In contrast, a more progressive value system and way of thinking is epitomised in the editors of Oz, which Robertson emphasises through pop culture references, such as to the iconic singer Bob Dylan, to appeal to a progressive audience. Hence through The Trials of Oz, Robertson clearly establishes his perspective, favouring the more modern, forward-thinking editors of Oz Magazine, through the careful use of selection and omission of evidence. Thus it is evident that Robertson’s representation of the characters involved in the events of the obscenity trials against Oz is underpinned by deliberate selection and emphasis, in order to persuade audiences of the tenacity of Robertson’s perspective.
Similarly, in Michael X on Death Row, Robertson attempts to persuade readers of the inhumane nature of the death penalty through the use of selection and omission to support and emphasise his argument that the Westphalian legal system is outdated and unjust. Immediately, Robertson establishes his human rights credentials and values, aligning himself with a liberal humanist audience, beginning with the statement “I’m in favour of abolishing the death penalty.” Furthermore, sympathy is evoked when Robertson explains that while waiting at the airport, he “could not afford to pay the full fare, and Michael X could have been executed at any moment, while his impoverished lawyer was waiting for someone to cancel their Caribbean holiday.” This barbed contrast assists Robertson to represent himself as a selfless saviour for humanity. Robertson begins the chapter with the use of emotive direct speech, highlighting the injustice of death row, such as “the uncovered light bulb (which) burned all night” and the “small sadistic pleasure” the governor took in reading death warrants to inmates. The cruelty of death row is reinforced as Robertson uses animal imagery to describes how the inmates are suffering inhumane conditions emphasised by emotive language such as “screeching” and “monkey house”, thereby appealing to the audience’s sense of pity. This is then followed by an establishment of legal context, with Robertson declaring “common law offered very little encouragement”, once again, like in The Trials of Oz, discrediting the historical British legal system. Michael X, who is clearly guilty of murder, is portrayed by Robertson in a more favourable light, with selection of descriptive terms such as “softly and carefully”, “light-skinned” and “clean shaven”, followed by the suggestion that “Michael was now a different man”. Robertson chooses to select parts of information to influence his readers to see the abhorrence of the death penalty, completely omitting any alternative perspectives, seen through his failure to discuss Michael X’s guilt in any substantial detail. By adopting a liberal humanitarian stance, Robertson emphasises the concept of forgiveness, not only reiterating his own credibility and authority, but also evoking emotion in the reader and highlighting the injustices of capital punishment. Therefore, through careful selection and emphasis, Robertson constructs a representation of the death penalty which is obviously subjective, ultimately convincing the reader to adopt Robertson’s perspective.
Like Robertson’s The Justice Game, Julian Barnes’ novel Talking It Over demonstrates conflicting perspectives as it explores the varied perspectives of four key characters caught in a complex situation of misunderstanding and disloyalty. The concept of conflicting perspectives is established most predominantly through the use of multiple first-person narration, with the narrative voice alternating between Stuart, Gillian, Oliver and Mme Wyatt, with each presenting their opinions and perceptions of events and characters according to their own perspective, emphasising the complex nature of conflicting perspectives. Furthermore, Barnes employs various tones of voice to exemplify the conflict between the perspectives of the characters. For example, Oliver’s tone is condescending when he refers to Stuart, with mocking questions such as “Isn’t (he) so sweetly unstylish?”. The juxtaposition of the character’s perspectives, such as Stuart’s assertion that his advantage over an awkward, somewhat inept man at a social event “gave me more confidence”, while Gillian instead suggests “Stuart was the shy one… trying painfully hard to overcome it” in addition to Stuart’s characterisation of himself as “Dumb Stu” and Oliver as “Sophisticated Ollie”, as well as Oliver’s extensive use of foreign terms such as “Bienvenue chez Ollie” and “dummkopf”, reiterates the disparities in the characters’ attitudes towards and perceptions of each other. Overall, Barnes presents a complex situation of vastly differing perspectives between the characters, demonstrating the subjectivity inherent in each perspective as each character selects and emphasises certain facts or peculiarities about another in order to construct a representation of themselves and the other character which is persuasive to the audience. This therefore reiterates the concept that deliberate selection and emphasis underpins a composer’s representation of conflicting perspectives and truth.
In conclusion, a composer is inherently biased in their representation of a series of events, characters or ideas, despite their attempts to remain objective, or appear to do so. Composers attempt to influence readers to adopt their perspective and opinions of events and characters, through the deliberate manipulation of evidence in order to convince audiences of the veracity of their arguments. This is evident through The Justice Game, specifically The Trials of Oz and Michael X on Death Row, and Victoria Pitt’s documentary Leaky Boat, both of which clearly establish a purpose and opinion of particular issues, and select and emphasise certain aspects in order to represent their perspective.
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