Friday, October 8, 2010

Breaking points

After reading Escape from Alcatraz and viewing the film, it was quite disappointing to see the lack of emphasis on target practice as a reason for a breaking point. From Bruce’s text, we learn of the ill treatment the prisoners endured. Prisoners were not allowed to speak, given a starvation diet when acting up, tortured with target practice, etc. In contrast, the film mainly focuses on individual characters intolerance to deal with Alcatraz.

In Bruce’s text, we learn that target practice was the breaking point for some prisoners. These prisoners would scream “Stop it! Goddamit, stop it!” (70). However, in the film only seven seconds are allocated for a target practice scene. From the text we learn that this caused prisoners to crack, which may also be the reason why some chose to escape. We can imagine what would go on in their minds-maybe one day
they would be the target. It was disappointing to see in the film that there was no emphasis on target practice or a prisoners reaction to it.

However, the film does focus on breaking points for other prisoners. After painting privileges were taken away from Chester Dalton, he decides to cut off his fingers. When the guard takes his paintings we hear Dalton’s trembling voice: “Painting’s all I have,” (38:18). For Dalton, painting was a means of an escape from Alcatraz without physically escaping. Painting broke away from the monotony he had to endure
throughout his time on the rock. When this was taken away, he shares that he has nothing else. In which case, he decides to cut off his fingers. This brutal mutilation really reinforces the statement that he had nothing else. As the viewer, we know that he did nothing to have this privilege taken away from him.

For Charley Butts, his breaking point was when he learned that a guard was listening to his conversation with his wife. Butts learns that his mother is going to die and when he remarks that he cannot make a phone call to his mother, a guard tunes in and says: “You are not allowed to discuss the rules of the institution. Stick to your personal life,” (49: 37). This is Charley’s breaking point since he realizes that even a personal conversation with his wife is still controlled by what a guard says. A small comment assuring that he cannot make a phone call to his mother caused the guard to intervene. What’s surprising is that the guard chose to intervene in the conversation. This is a personal moment for anyone to learn that their mother is dying. What also contributes to Butt’s infuriating reaction was the lack of emotion in the guards comment.

Each prisoner shows a breaking point during their time incarcerated. Each of these scenarios share the dominance that guards have over the prisoners. The guards dictate what the prisoner has to endure and how their lives in prison are run. The lack of living a free life is what causes the prisoners to find some way to escape from Alcatraz.

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