Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Centrality of Companionship in Murder in the First

It is surprising to see in Murder in the First how Henry Young views his situation. He has just murdered a man in a very brutal way and is going to be sentenced to death. However, the only thing in his mind was that he had gained a friend. He did not care about winning the case, or saving his life, he cared about the company that his lawyer James provided. The relationship between Henry and James is exceedingly moving. In this film one sees how friendship is able to provide comfort, strength, and hope to man that could be viewed as a lost cause.

In one of the first scenes from his time in solitary, Henry Young is shown tenderly and almost lovingly feeding a spider. This is quite surprising since most people are usually inclined to avoid spiders. Nevertheless, an explanation is provided later from Young himself. When speaking to James about his years in the dungeon, Henry highlights the significance of the spider. As he described it, he felt that he had a companion. This demonstrates that he was desperately looking for some sort of company.

Henry Young was tortured and isolated for over three years, and the trauma that this caused surfaced during his interaction with the lawyer. At first, Henry appeared to be mentally incapacitated, speaking no words and showing no signs of comprehension. However, once he familiarized himself with James, he began to talk and insist on playing card games. As his case became more heated, James demanded cooperation from the Young and when he did not obtain it he got furious. Henry responded by saying that he does not care about the trial, “I don’t need a lawyer, I need a friend.” This
indicates that nothing is more important to him than friendship since it was this new bond that allowed him to enjoy life again and transform himself from an emotionally unstable individual to a more jovial and hopeful person.

At the end of the movie, James won the case and Henry was declared not guilty. Nevertheless, what made Henry more happy than anything else was that he would soon be working with James again. Some of his final words to James were “Henry and Jim together again.” Henry was victorious, but not because of the court’s decision, but because of his newly acquired comrade.

Henry Young, a troubled criminal of Alcatraz, barred from any human interaction for over three years, found a companion and with that, a reason to keep fighting.


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