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4 minutes

Doubt

Intentional or not, great stories emplore four different perspectives to shed context on the conflict at hand.

To tell a complete story one must consider all points-of-view. To leave one out risks writing a one-sided argument that many discount as imbalanced or unfair. When dealing with an important hot-button topic like pedophilia within the Catholic Church, taking a comprehensive look from all sides avoids any claims of attacking for the sake of anti-church propaganda. With a balanced and fair look, the narrative simply functions as an argument against the inappropriateness of the methods use to address this problem.

Conflict from All Sides

The Dramatica theory of story provides an easy way of organizing and addressing the various points-of-view used in exploring this problem. By taking the universal perspectives of I, You, We, and They and applying them to the four different ways our minds consider problems: Situations, Activities, Fixed Attitudes, and Manners of Thinking Authors ensure a totality of exploration.

As story developed over the centuries, the four perspectives found their way into narrative by means of various Throughlines. The Main Character Throughline of a story assumed the I perspective. The character who presented an alternate way of doing things to the Main Character took the You perspective. In Dramatica, this perspective is the Influence Character Throughline.

The relationship that develops between the two of them represents the We perspective and is known as the Relationship Story Throughline. Finally, the Overall Story Throughline–which accounts for everyone in the story, including the Main and Influence Characters, covers the perspective of They.

Assigning areas of conflict to these points-of-view establishes the Domain of those Throughline.

Genre and Domains

Different Genres trend towards a different arrangement of these Domains. Superhero movies and Sci-Fi action/adventure films prefer looking at problematic Actvities for the Overall Story perspective while reserving the unique problematic Situation for the Main Character. Romances and romantic comedies often trade Activities for problematic Manners of Thinking in the Overall Story, yet maintain that Situation for the Main Character.

Dramas however–particularly those played out on stage–prefer a completely different arrangement of Throughlines. Here, it is the exploration of problematic Fixed Attitudes that grabs the spotlight for the Overall Story point-of-view. The ability of characters to relate their wants and needs directly to the Audience encourages a level of insight difficult to achieve in film.

In transitioning Doubt from stage to screen, the Author maintains the arrangement of Throughlines from the original. While somewhat distancing in terms of expectations for a modern film-going Audience, this conformity ensures that the argument found in the original Pulitzer Prize-winning text carries through into the new form.

Doubt

Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) begins with a sermon encouraging doubt amongst his parishioners. As the spiritual head of his church, Flynn finds himself in a unique position to manipulate and assuage Manners of Thinking within his congregation. Nowhere is this impact felt more than within the point-of-view of Sister Alloysius (Meryl Streep)–fulfilling the narrative’s requirement for an Influence Character Throughline.

The Throughlines of *Doubt*

Alloysius interprets the sermon as an admonition of guilt and begins to cast aspersions against the content of Flynn’s character. Her prejudice clashes against what everyone else thinks of him, focusing the Overall Story Throughline on problematic Fixed Attitudes.

This conflict extends out into their relationship as priest and nun. Fathers enjoy rowdy steak dinners with wine and friends; nuns eat simple meals with milk and silence. The Relationship Story Throughline focuses on the conflict emanating from the hierarchy of the church and extends to something as simple as the Situations of who sits in whose chair.

This leaves only the problems of Activity. Sadly for Sister Alloysius these activities involve learning that one’s faith in God may potentially be misplaced. As the most intimate of perspectives, this Main Character Throughline brings us personally into the argument and wrenches our emotions when we experience the same turmoil of doubt in our own hearts.

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