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Essay about Sister James Doubt

Sister James, a nun in her twenties, consistently deals with multiple problems in the play Doubt: A Parable by John Shanley. She is at the heart of the focal conflict in the play, but deals with personal conflicts. She is extremely impressionable and makes the audience aware of her uncertainty throughout the play, rather than full heartedly agreeing with Sister Aloysius or Father Flynn. With doubt being the absence of certainty, but still as powerful as faith, Sister James accurately represents the central theme. Therefore, the character of Sister James highlights the lay’s main theme of doubt by her inner struggle.

After reporting her suspicion and bringing up that there was “There was alcohol on [Donald Muller’s] breath” to Sister Aloysius, Sister James did not seem to want any part of Sister Aloysius’ investigation of Father Flynn (Shanley 4. 92). Sister Aloysius jumped to her own hasty conclusion that Father Flynn is having an inappropriate relationship with Donald and appears to have no doubt of her thoughts. Sister James, who felt convicted and uncomfortable about the situation wanted to simply address it, but did not want to go through confronting

Father Flynn for fear of embarrassment in her being incorrect and the embarrassment of being accurate. It is clear that once she stated her slight suspicions to Sister Aloysius there is no going back on her words. The plot can only thicken from that point. The conclave with Father Flynn only begs more questions. Instead of an outright confession like Sister Aloysius and Sister James were hoping for, Father Flynn had an alibi. Father Flynn said the reason Donald Muller had alcohol on his breath was that he had been caught drinking wine, but instead of taking im off the altar boys, he just had a stern talking to him.

In a way to erupt guilt within the two women, he says that since the secret is out he can no longer be an altar boy. It works for Sister James. Turning on her superior, Sister James yells at Sister Aloysius that her doubt of his integrity is her simply not liking him for not being as tight knit as her. Once the two sisters have accused Father Flynn, he decides to confront Sister James in a non-threatening and relatable way. Aware of how credulous she is, Father Flynn has a conversation with her that seems to convince her that he is innocent in the ituation.

He sympathizes with her about her sick brother and sleeping troubles in scene six. Father Flynn attacks the idea that Sister James is merely an extension of Sister Aloysius, this provokes her thoughts once again of what is the truth and what is seen as smoke and mirrors. By playing on her heartstrings and her inner pet peeves he is able to manipulate her, just like Sister Aloysius. Sister James is pure and wants what is best for the boy, herself, and her class. Since she is a nun and helping others is a part of her vows and religion, she presumably wants the best for Donald Muller.

She does not want a scandal to arise, but also wants to make sure that he is not being taken advantage of in a difficult adult situation. This is why she brings up her information concerning Donald Muller to begin with, as well as Sister Aloysius asked her to be on alert for matters of concern within the school. By looking out for her students’ best interest she is also looking out for herself. She is obviously not as experienced as the other nuns, and more than likely wants to be able to gain experience and respect from her superiors.

Therefore, Sister James looks ut for herself while yearning to impress Sister Aloysius can lead to her being manipulated by her superior as well. Sister Aloysius is feared by her sisters, students, and other members of the church. She uses that to her advantage by manipulating those around her, especially Sister James. With her several years of experience, it is possible that she was able to put ideas into young Sister James’ head that were not matters to begin with. Although Sister James usually agrees with others, it was difficult for her to fully agree with Sister Aloysius after the quickly escalated conference with Father Flynn.

With both Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius being canny individuals, Sister James is unknowingly being taken advantage of to an extent. As a character, Sister James is defined as wholesome, pure, innocent, trusting, and kind. Her personality plays a large part in how the overall dilemma is looked at. Other character’s decisions are made on how she relates to their struggles and opinions. Although she is sweet, she has certain pet peeves hidden in her character that make her tick, such as having doubts in Sister Aloysius’ assumptions after talking with Father Flynn and Father Flynn states that she occasionally just acts to please her superior.

These components of her personality lead her to inwardly come to a decision throughout the story. The lack of evidence on both sides leads Sister James to her own suspicions. However, with her heart of gold she picks the side that is outwardly kind, much like herself. She never fully states that she agrees with Sister Aloysius, but does make it a point to tell her thoughts on the matter. In a way, Sister James grows throughout the story to draw her own deductions despite eing told what to do by Sister Aloysius, which is possibly what pushes Sister James from agreeing with her.

Her too trusting heart could also have lead Father Flynn to playing her heartstrings like a violin for his troubles. One statement in the play made the theme and title stand alone. Father Flynn gives a sermon in the beginning of the play that sets up the theme and the reason Sister James exists in the play, which is “I want to say to you, doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty” (1. 27-28). If doubt is as powerful as certainty, than the quote explains why Sister Aloysius is fixated on her first thought of Father Flynn’s actions.

In reference to Sister James, she is the character who questions doubt, rather than ignore it. She brings the concept of doubt to adamant Sister Aloysius, and bonds with Father Flynn over having doubt in one’s decisions. By the end, it is Sister Aloysius who admits she has doubts after Father Flynn is transferred with a promotion to another church, and Sister James who has found certainty through doubt. Sister James seems to be the clear choice for a character that represents the theme doubt.

She depicts questioning those who are certain, doubting one’s self, doubting others, and discovering what is believed as truth. Since there was not any proof of the sexual misconduct, Sister James saw Father Flynn similar to herself, which was kind, modern, and loving towards the students. In the end, we do not know who was right, and nothing is truly resolved. Sister James did not give in to suspicion, but remained firmly in doubt until she was able to draw her own conclusions, which makes her the most crucial character since she represents the significance of doubt.

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