Too Little Too Late Essay Research Paper

Too Little Too Late Essay, Research Paper

Too Little, Too Late

The story of American History X follows an intelligent young man named Derek Vinyard

and his decline into the world of disillusion and hate known as White Supremacy. Once a

thoughtful and easy-going teen, he soon begins his change when his father is shot and killed by a

black man, while trying to put out a fire at an alleged crackhouse. Derek becomes a smart,

articulate, and an utterly committed monster who assumes a leadership role in the white

supremacist movement of suburban Los Angeles. Alienated young men, including Derek s

younger brother Danny, respond to his hate and are eager to act out against anyone who isn t

white and Protestant, or the people who they think are plaguing society by their mere existence.

While the local movement grows, Derek s soul withers further and further away, polluted more

and more by hate. This moral deterioration culminates when Derek kills two out of the three black

gang members trying to steal the truck that use to be his father s. This act of rage and hate lands

Derek in jail where he would soon come to a realization that would surely undo what his

environment had taught him.

In jail, Derek is quick to try an develop friendships with those involved in similar beliefs as

him, alertly knowing it was the right way to go if he planned on remaining alive. This was the only

reason needed to lead Derek right towards the white supremacists who provided him with

protection that came as a result of their prison gang. Fresh from the streets, Derek was set in his

beliefs, beliefs that stemmed from his learning of bigotry at the kitchen table to the words of a

radical hatemonger (Cameron) who flourished by subjecting alienated youth to the easy answers

provided from neo-Nazism. However, Derek was becoming disgruntled at his fellow skinheads for

their associations outside the group and was building relationships with two black man essential to

his well-being. During this time, Derek begins to understand that the propaganda he was being fed

in and out of prison was worthless and that the beliefs he once stood by, were not honorable, but

just simply ways of people to manipulate the minds of those most vulnerable to it.

As Derek approaches the realization that he needs to change, he is led towards this

decision with the help of two friends and the love and concern he has for his family, especially his

brother Danny. His first step towards recognizing he has to change are provided by his old teacher

Dr. Sweeny. Now his younger brother s principal, Dr. Sweeny points out to Derek that he is way

to smart to be wasting his life in jail, and that he should see the holes in his whole system of belief.

Furthermore, Dr. Sweeney tells Derek of the insurmountable influence he has on the life of his

little brother and the fact that his own hatred leaked through to the mind of his young,

impressionable brother. Derek realizes the racist gang life and the act of following Cameron all

influenced his brother, who simply worshipped him as both a friend and father-figure. While he is

in jail, his negative influence starts Danny down the same path of self-destruction that has taken

away three years of his life. Now through the advice of Dr. Sweeny, aside from trying to leave the

world he helped create, he is also trying to save his brother from making the same mistakes he


Another essential part of Derek s reformation in jail was the friendship he formed with his

black work partner. After years of folding sheets and small talk, there was no barrier anymore and

Derek saw past the color of his partner, recognizing the character of the person instead. He was

helped by this same friend to step out of the environment that had shaped his views and to use his

own intelligence to judge someone. Part of his realization is when he judges his work partner as a

friend, a friend with whom he owes his life. At this moment, along with being raped by the

skinheads, and Dr. Sweenys reminding him of the strong influence he has on his family, Derek

grows a newfound distaste for his old ways.

The end of the story becomes very ironic because of the way Danny dies. Derek s little

brother is gunned down in the bathroom at school by a black student. Just the night before, Derek

had explained what he went through to his younger brother and was on his way to directing his

brother down a more promising path for the future. It is ironic that the root of their evil comes

back to ultimately devastate them, making Derek unable to get off the hook for his actions and

making both of them the victims of the investment that always pays back, hate. Although he

learned the hard way, Derek was growing up and putting his mistakes behind to prevent what

eventually might be his brother s future mistakes. The accounts of his miscues sent an influential

message to his little brother, one that was received and portrayed in the last lines of his brother s

homework paper, which read:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion

may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords

of memory will swell again touched as surely they will be by better angels

of our nature. – Abraham Lincoln

This is a message suggesting there is a better side of people that will overcome the animosity and

the hatred they once possessed. This better side was brought out in Derek, whose realizations

then helped instill it in Danny, only to be disregarded by the devil of one s nature.

American History X is a tough film to watch. The various scenes of brutality and

violence are shocking and at the same time effective in showing the rise and fall of the main

character. The characters, actions, and ideas are fascinating and compelled me to try to look

further and become more involved. The movie itself was very entertaining and is well worth

seeing because it kept me glued to the television screen demonstrating how fear, poverty, and

neglect spawn racism of all kinds. The main reason I was able to see it numerous times was

because the film has something to say and it says it quite clear, that hate is a virus that affects us

all, a virus that is equally as destructive as any known disease out there. The film is also smart

enough not to offer a clear cut answer. It instead leaves that for the audience to ponder and to

ultimately try to hear the better angels for themselves.


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