From the play written by John Patrick Shanley and titled Doubt: a Parable, the readers get a central question, asking whether certainty can be equated to truth or not. From one side, some hints outlining the fact that certainty can be equated to truth are evident. On the other side, there are doubts as to whether certainty can be equated to truth. The doubt is thus left unresolved. The play begins with father Flynn’s sermon lecturing regarding certainty as he claims, “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. ”(871) The play was set in 1964, approximately one year after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In a way, it was a response to the dark times being experienced by the United States. In order to highlight this doubt, the play doubt was written using a different approach. The play had no certainty equating to truth leaving the doubt, which existed to be unresolved. This is portrayed thought Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius’ differences in Roman Catholic Church traditions, the ambiguity of the charges of Father Flynn who is suspected of defiling a black alter boy, and the significant role of both Sister James and the alter boy’s mother in the play. One of the central characters of the play doubt is the church priest, Father Flynn.
He is a progressive priest who is very devoted and friendly. Sister Aloysius is the principal of a catholic school, St. Nicolas. The students see her as terrifying and unsympathetic as she will not allow anyone to break the rules she has established. Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius represent an oxymoron, which is progressivism vs. traditionalism. Sister Aloysius was a widow before entering the covenant, as she claims “ My husband died in the war against Adolph Hitler”(879), she therefore represents the church’s strict traditions and she follows the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.
She objects any modernity’s trying to be added to the system. She overanalyzes everything and believes that in order for the kids to follow a right path in life they must fear and follow strict rules. Father Flynn insisted on a more progressive way of life, he did not dedicate himself to the outdated church traditions. He was very tolerant of differences, he believed more secular songs should be played at Christmas and he also coaches a basketball team for boys. Father Flynn engages in friendly talk with the boys he coaches as he states, “ You try to talk to a girl with those filthy paws, Mr.
Conroy, she’s gonna take off like she’s being chased by the Red Chinese”(878). He also takes care of the only African- American student in the school, Donald Muller. For these reasons, Father Flynn is suspected of pedophilia and of defiling Donald Muller. However Sister Aloysius suspicion and intuition also questions the ambiguity of her charges. The ambiguity of the charges is very pivotal in the play. Father Flynn’s first sermon was about doubt. When Sister Aloysius and Sister James meet in her office, Sister Aloysius demonstrates her doubts about the meaning of his sermon as she states, “ Well, Sermons come from somewhere, don’t they?
Is Father Flynn in Doubt, is he concerned that someone else is in Doubt”(877). After being approached by Sister James, she learns that Father Flynn “ Has taken an interest. Since Donald went on the Alter Boys”(880), he took Donald for a private meeting in the rectory and when coming back to class there was alcohol on his breath and he seemed frightened. Sister Aloysius said to Sister James “ I told you to come to me, but I hoped you never would”(880). Sister Aloysius was already frustrated due to their different approaches to the traditional rules of a Roman Catholic Church.
After hearing about Father Flynn’s interest in Donald she links her doubt to the truth and approaches him in an unacceptable manner. Sister Aloysius is convinced that she is right as she says, “ But I have my certainty, and armed with that, I will go to your last parish, and the one before that if necessary. I will find a parent, Father Flynn! Trust me I will. A parent who probably doesn’t know you are still working with children! ”(901). Sister Aloysius’ doubts seem truthful, however Father Flynn’s explanations also seem truthful.
The play therefore questions how far doubt is from the truth. Sister Aloysius failed to resort to the right person, who would have been Donald Muller, instead she involved both Sister James and Donald’s mother. Sister James, an innocent nun and Vila Davis, the alter boy’s mother play a significant role in the play doubt. Sister James was a fairly young nun at St. Nicolas School and she played a pivotal role as she brings her suspicions to her superior. The readers are obligated to make conclusions based on Sister James’ doubt and uncertainty. The mother of the Alter Boy’s name is Vila Davis.
When Villa hears about Sister Aloysius doubts about a sexual relationship between her son and Father Flynn she states, “ Things are in the air and you leave them alone if you can…My boy came here because they were gonna kill him at the public school… But do I ask the man why he’s good to my son? No, I don’t care why. My Son needs to some man to care about him and see him through to where he wants to go”(898). This quote shows that Mrs. Muller believes that the uncertainty of ones suspicions are better not said or looked over. She rather provide her son with a better future then take someone’s suspicions to a greater extent.
Consequently, the central disagreement in the play Doubt is limited to ones views of the world and capability to admit the ambiguity in day-to-day living. In this case, we will never know many things regarding this world, while at the same time we will not be in the position of controlling much regarding our futures. The best thing for us therefore, is that of anticipating and expecting the worst and therefore, preparing so as not to be caught unawares when the worst comes. The other best thing is that of not only believing in the best but also embracing the risk of being let down when the best fail to come.
That is why the priest asks, “What do you do when you’re not sure? ”(6) Furthermore, the play had no certainty equating to truth, which left the doubt unresolved. This was seen though the idea of progressivism vs. traditionalism, the uncertainty of the charges and through the understanding of both Sister James and Mrs. Muller. As seen through the character of Sister Aloysius doubt is so prevailing, that is causes her to consider it as the truth. Nonetheless, doubt may also be consequential both good and bad. Sister Aloysius doubt ended up being self consuming, she states “ I will fight you.