Great Debaters Essay

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The recent film The Great Debaters boasts a superb spectrum of characters, loosely based on historical counterparts. The movie propels the viewer into the South of the 1930s, taking place at the small, wholly-black Wiley College; it centers on the fervid Melvin Tolson, professor, and his desire to distinguish his debate team in the hope of setting a ground of equality for black and white students. The world of The Great Debaters is most emphatically and lucidly seen through the eyes of the teenage James Farmer, Jr. – an extremely intelligent youth who holds the status of college freshman at the ripe old age of fourteen. His interest in the debate team is aroused initially due to the feelings he develops for hopeful Samantha Booke; but following his admittance into the team, his ambitions escalate. The ongoing discrimination against African Americans ignites ardent sentiments within the hearts of the Wiley debaters, a passion which manifests in their debates. Farmer Jr.’s true motivation is revealed following his unfortunate witness of a ghastly lynching one night: the boy is thoroughly devastated by the horror, to an extent which prompts him to demand the opportunity to debate. Battling Harvard College, an honor acquired by the team after several successive victories, he directs his pain into a brilliant and moving debate speech on the pristinely polished Cambridge stage – and wins. James Farmer Jr.’s role as the brilliant young student places an inevitable diminutiveness upon him, a trait which serves to belittle others’ impressions of him. One situation in which Farmer Jr. is continually plagued by his youthful innocuousness manifests in the boy’s infatuation with fellow student and team member Samantha Booke, a resolute beauty three or four years his senior. Farmer Jr.’s decision to join the debate team began with his hopes of establishing a closer relationship
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