A Time to Kill Movie Analysis


Tradition is a priceless component to any culture, as it has been 
shaped and developed by time itself. Tradition passes from generation 
to generation, exercising its influence through the actions and 
thoughts of a people. The tradition that has materialized from the 
history of the American South is no different. It remains a pillar of 
hope, faith, and pride for those southerners who embrace it. 
Tradition of the South dictates a way life with roots in the very 
foundation of the United States. While this may act as a testament to 
the strength and courage of the people of the south, the fact remains 
that the principles laid down by this tradition defy civil rights and 
respect for humanity. In this sense, the old ways of the South do not 
compliment the rapid changes that occur in society each day. At 
heart, this realization is the overall theme of "A Time To Kill". The 
convictions of the South are detrimental to the civility of the human 
race and yet, remain unchanged after 150 years because they rise from 
the tradition of the Southern culture.

 The realization listed above haunts each of the principal 
characters in "A Time To Kill" as the story of racial injustice 
unfolds. Centered around the brutal rape and assault of a young black 
girl, Tanya Hailey, "A Time To Kill" immerses itself into the intense 
emotions that are involved in hatred. The rape, committed by two 
white men, epitomizes this blind hatred that stems from the racism of 
the South. Influenced by the pain of his loss, Tanya's father, Carl 
Lee Hailey, lashes out in a passionate state of retribution, slaying 
both assailants. Charged with two counts of murder in the first 
degree, Carl Lee is trapped in a judicial system that is greatly 
swayed by the racism of the world beyond. He is assigned the young 
and idealistic Jake Brigance, as lead council, one of the few white 
southerners who believes that he is still able to receive a fair 
trial. The incident becomes a platform for social outcry, as white 
and black, poor and privileged take a stand for what they believe in. 
The emotional tension and social distress heightens as Ellen Roark, an 
energetic Boston law student, comes to Jake's assistance. They seem 
to be a very lost few among the surrounding hatred of the South. As 
trial proceeds, it tears the community apart with controversy, and 
takes its toll on the lives of all those involved. The most 
significant relationship in this twisted story is that of Jake and 
Carl Lee, for they are forced to find a way to transcend their 
fundamental differences and work together for the same cause, equal 
justice. Somehow, this justice is found, as an obviously partial jury 
searches deep within to produce a compassionate verdict of "not 

 "A Time To Kill" was both dramatic and accurate in its depiction 
of a small southern community. Prevalent throughout "A Time To Kill" 
is the presence of the Ku Klux Klan, both as an antagonistic force and 
as the embodiment of blind hatred that existed in the form of racism 
in Mississippi at the time. This modern presence has been the root of 
many crimes of hatred and racism. Conversely, the NAACP's presence in 
opposition to the Ku Klux Klan is significant, yet its true nature and 
power was not shown; rather the movie focuses on the interracial 
relationship and its impact in a southern society, in which equality 
is undefined. It is evident that the producers of this movie truly 
understand the mechanics of modern society in this respect. Finally, 
"A Time To Kill", faces segregation head on, displaying its 
psychological effects on a society of the south, and its judicial 
system. Today, nearly 40 years after the civil rights movement made 
the first steps towards racial equality, segregation remains a part of 
humanity that we must all face.

 "A Time To Kill" speaks to all people, versed and unversed in the 
hatred of racism. Above all, it calls the individual to examine their 
convictions, and then ask themself if they have sought the just 
principles for life. Jake Brigance eloquently calls the jury to 
imagine the acts brought upon Tanya in these final words, "Can you see 
her? Her raped, beaten, broken body, soaked in their urine, soaked in 
their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want 
you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she's white." This 
movies serves as a reminder that in governing our country, and 
ultimately in living our lives, we must look past race, color and 
creed, and seek equality in its purest forms. If this cannot be done 
in the present, it cannot be a hope for the future.

Sources Cited:

{Source 1} Newton, Michael, And Judy Ann Newton. The Ku Klux Klan: An 
Encyclopedia. Garland, 1991.

{Source 2} Harris, Jacqueline L. History And Achievement Of The NAACP. 
Franklin Watts, 1992.

{Source 3} Haskins, James S. Separate But Not Equal: The Dream and the 
Struggle. Scholastic, 1997.

{Source 4} A Time To Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew 
McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey. Warner 
Brothers. 1996.


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