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Social Stratification As A Main Theme In

The Brothel Boy And Other Parables Of The Law Essay, Research Paper

“Justice is your job, not mercy.” This is a very strong statement coming from The Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law by Norval Morris. This sentence portrays a prominent theme in the decisions made in this book. Sent to Moulmein, Burma to act as a policeman, prosecutor, and judge, Eric Blair discovers that the law is not as clear-cut as it may seem. Constantly plagued by his moral and legal values, Eric Blair finds himself seeking the advice from the local doctor, Dr. Veraswami. Blair has a total of eight separate encounters in which he battles for the right answer. He soon finds out that there is not one right answer, but many different answers that could be right or wrong depending on the situation. Many sociological and socio-legal issues are seen throughout the book. My primary focus will be on social stratification and the role it plays with the legal issues and decisions. .

The study of social stratification is the study of class, caste, privilege, and status that is characteristic of a particular society. It varies according to how society is organized especially in terms of production and work. This idea is a sociological issue that seems to prevail throughout Blair’s encounters. There are many different group and individual statuses that made up the village of Moulmein, Burma. The English were ultimately the superior group because they governed Burma and because they were white. Each person among the English did have his or her own individual status as well. Blair for example had high status in the community because of his job. After the English came the Burmese villagers. Some of these people were more important than others based on their cultural and educational levels. Even though Dr. Veraswami was not Burmese, he still was integrated into their society because of the color of his skin. He had high status

in this society because he was a doctor with the best credentials. The issue of social stratification is important because it is a predominant theme. Ultimately social stratification plays a major role in the outcome of the individual cases. In this paper I am going to argue why part social stratification plays a prominent part in a three of Blair’s legal decisions.

Blair’s first encounter is the brothel boy. The brothel boy was a child born to the local brothel and kept on to work as a fanner for the prostitutes. Having no education and barely any communication skills, one would consider him retarded. The boy, not knowing of any wrongdoing tries to pay a local girl to have sex with him. She refuses and he proceeds to rape her, she ends up falling and hitting her head on a rock, which leads to her death. Blair is faced with the task of punishing the boy. The villagers want him executed because of his ghastly crime. Blair on the other hand, finds himself in a difficult situation because he feels the boy did not know any better. Taking into account Dr. Veraswami’s advice to do what the villagers would want, Blair decided to execute the boy.

The role of social stratification plays an important role in this case. The brothel boy held the lowest status in his society. Due to his lack of education, and his job in the brothel, he was held at nearly the slave level. It was easier for the villagers to agree to an execution because the boy held no place in society. It was hard for Blair to agree to this because he felt sorry for the boy, but because the other villagers were of higher class, Blair made the decision on execution. Blair made the right decision even though he was not sure of himself. The boy was at the subsistent level in society. Even if Blair had acquitted the boy, he would go back to a life that was not worth living. His job that kept

him subsisting was revolting. It was not his fault that he held that job, but that was where society had placed him. He had no formal education nor communication skills so he could not get out of his situation. He would continue to work at the brothel until he was let go. Where would he go from there? The Burmese society would shun him. The European society would shun him even more. People would probably try and cause harm to him because of the girl’s death. This would end up being more torture than his execution. Blair thought the boy deserved some mercy because of the conditions. He was right, but executing him probably could have been the most merciful thing to do. He satisfied the villagers, even though he was not satisfied himself. If Blair would have thought more about the boy’s situation and the society in which he was imposed in, Blair would probably have came to the same conclusion. In the end justice prevailed as well. Even though the crime of death was accidental, another crime, rape was committed that resulted in the girl’s death. The crime deserved a harsh punishment, and the boy was given one. Therefore, even though Blair did not recognize this, justice and mercy prevailed. Justice prevailed because he did what was permissible by law, and mercy because he saved the boy from the cruel society in which he would have returned.

Blair’s second encounter dealt with parental rights. A half Burmese, half European boy was born to a servant in one of the European households. Trying to save the woman from any embarrassment, the family agreed to raise the boy. At the age of seven the family decides to leave Burma and take the boy. The real mother of the boy wanted the boy to stay with her in her village. Blair is then faced with the decision of which family to grant custody. He ends up granting custody to the English parents. This

deals with two different cultures and two different classes of people. The English family is wealthy and wants to raise the boy in their European culture, as opposed to the real mother who is poor and part of the Burmese culture. The boy has the opportunity to grow up in a rich environment as opposed to village life. Who has more of a right to parent the boy? This was the issue that Blair dealt with. The natural parents usually have a higher claim to the child than adoptive parents. Blair even admits this as he debates. In the end though he gives the boy to the English family. Blair felt that being raised in the English family would be better for the boy. The English family was wealthier than the Burmese mother, and could give him more of a formal upbringing than the village. Was it the social stratification that decided Blair’s decision? I would say yes. Blair never stopped to think that the Burmese child may be shunned in the white English society, or that the family may be shunned by raising the child. Blair already knew that the boy was accepted into the Burmese society because his real mother would take him with her to the village for frequent visits. What Blair saw was a high-class family that could offer the boy more than his native village. On the other hand, who is to say that he would not get offerings just as rich if he stayed in the village? He may not have gotten what our society would consider rich, but what the Burmese society considers rich. Blair would not know these things because he is of the “rich” European society. Did Blair make the wrong decision? I too would have chosen the English family for the exact reasons I just discussed. I feel that the English family could offer the boy more than his village in Burma. But then again, I am from the same European society as Blair so my opinion could be viewed as biased. As one can see, social stratification intersects with cultural

neutrality making it very hard to establish the correct solution. But it is of my opinion that it was social stratification that made the decision for Blair regardless if he was conscious of it or not.

Blair’s third encounter dealt with a European man and his Burmese mistress. During one of their meetings, the man dreamt that his mistress was fornicating with one of the Burmese village men. This made him angry and in haste he shot the man. He awoke to find that he had shot and killed his mistress in his sleep. The court held that he was innocent of any crime because he was not in a conscious state at the time he committed the crime.

This scenario incorporates social stratification with racism. The European man is in the higher socio-class than the Burmese woman. Since it was taken through the English courts, his acquittal was based on the social stratification. One could argue that this could be a covert form of racism. If the situation was reversed and a Burmese man had murdered an English girl in his sleep, would he have been acquitted of the charges? No he would not. Due to the socio-class that the Burmese belonged to, and the time era, the man would probably have been executed. The fact that the charges were dismissed shows an unequal balance between the two societies. He was responsible for the girl’s death even though it happened in his sleep. He may not have intentionally meant to do it, but there are some indications that this could have been a reckless death. One aspect to think about is the gun. Why was it so easily available to him to be able to commit this crime? Also there had been some past history of him acting out his dreams and he could have received help. His complete acquittal of all the charges was morally and legally

wrong. Blair even expresses this opinion in the book.

In conclusion, “To strive for justice, one must be a person of principles. There is no single principle that one can use to achieve justice in the resolution of legal disputes.” This is true because one must use a wide array of principles that come from moral and legal perspectives in order to gain a resolution. Unfortunately society has deemed it necessary to incorporate social stratification into some of these principles. The law tends to have more leniencies to those who have higher positions in society. With as many classes as our society today, it is impossible to find a jury of peers. Each person has their own idea of cultural norms, legal and moral principles, and a socio-class in which they belong to. Therefore, I contend that social stratification, whether it is between races, or economical levels, will always have some role in legal decisions.

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