Cool Hand Luke Essay Research Paper In

Cool Hand Luke Essay, Research Paper

In Cool Hand Luke, the movie begins with

the word, VIOLATION, across the screen. The word is

from a parking meter and sets the tone for the entire movie.

Luke Jackson, the title character, is arrested for cutting off

the heads of the town?s parking meters while drunk, or in

legal terms, for destroying municipal property while under

the influence of alcohol. When asked why he cut the heads

off the parking meters, Luke answers, ?You could say I

was settling an old score.? While it leaves the viewers

believing that he probably received a parking ticket at some

time in the past, no clues are given to what the old score

may have been. He is sentenced to two years in a road

prison, in a chain gang. His punishment did not fit the crime,

and today, such an act would probably result in time spent

in community service rather than a hard labor prison gang.

To further accentuate that his sentence is worse than his

crime, Luke Jackson dies at the end of his story. Luke is a

decorated veteran, yet left the military service just as he

went in, as a Private. This indicates that he had authority

problems while there. He received the Silver Star, Bronze

Star and a couple of Purple Hearts and that indicates that

he is brave and probably humanitarian, because the Silver

Star is usually given in recognition of a life-saving deed of

valor. That he was never promoted, or else promoted and

consequently demoted, (the story does not elaborate on the

details) indicates that his superiors, those who had the

authority to promote him, did not react well to his

achievements. For Luke, death represents ultimate

freedom. There is no doubt that he believes in God, in that

he talks to God several times throughout the movie, yet his

conversations are always more like arguments than prayers.

In one of the final scenes, the empty shell of a church

represents Luke?s relationship with God, and even the

emptiness in himself. Luke feels that God has never been

there for him. He tells God just before the end of the story

that God hasn?t ever dealt him a good hand. That military

authorities considered him a hero, decorating him with

medals, doesn?t make him a hero in his own eyes. Luke is a

tortured soul, in that he tells God that he doesn?t deserve

any good thing because he killed people in the war. Still,

Luke is a free spirit, true to himself, with no regard for the

rules and regulations of other human beings. The crime he is

arrested for is not one of violence toward any person, it is

simply a flaunting of his disdain for authority, which irritates

persons in authority more than anything. Luke?s death

made him a legend in his community of prisoners at the

chain gang. Dragline and Luke escaped together, yet

Dragline couldn?t live in prison without Luke, nor could he

live as a free man on his own. In Drag?s mind, Luke and he

are one person. When caught by the officials, he leads them

to Luke, and claims, ?We got caught old buddy,? not ?I got

caught please come back with me so that I won?t be

lonely.? Luke is the boat pulling the dragline, and Dragline is

a representative of the whole community, the other

draglines. Dragline made Luke who he is in the community

and Luke gives Dragline and the others hope and life in

return. Dragline made Luke a leader in the community

when he fought Luke after Luke told him to shut up about

Lucille. While Luke is physically whipped, his spirit is never

defeated, and he gains the respect of Dragline and the

community with his determination. Luke further made a

believer out of his fellow prisoners, when he said he could

eat 50 eggs. Bets are on and despite personal discomfort

and pain, Luke keeps his word and wins the bet. At the

end of this scene, the fellows prisoners leave a bloated

Luke on a table, in the position of Christ on the cross, yet

Luke has a slight smile on his face because he won. His

community of worshippers betray him, too, when he is

beaten and thrown into the box when he is escapes the

second time. When Luke returns to the community, the

other prisoners turn their backs to him, and Luke tells them

that he is tired of them eating off of him. Luke is the

embodiment of their own rebellious desires which they are

too weak to act upon themselves. They don?t want him to

be the weaker side of themselves, but always the rebel.

After Luke dies, Dragline continues to live off of Luke, in

keeping his legend alive, telling the other prisoners how he

was smiling as the truck drove down the road. Luke?s

death is unnecessary, except as a fulfillment of the words of

authority. He is told after his second escape, ?If you run

again, we?ll kill you.? Luke is shot as he is mocking the

captain, repeating the captain?s expression, ?What we have

here is a failure to communicate.? His death makes him a

legend in the community, but it does not reinforce hope.

Instead it leaves a defeatist attitude in the community if

Cool Hand Luke couldn?t beat the system, no one could. If

Luke had survived, he would have been defeated, as he

very much was defeated by the beatings after his second

escape. He no longer would have been the community

hero, because as a beaten man, he?d have been like

everyone else. While his death represented his personal

freedom, it served as good to none, except for a good

discussion here and there by the fellow prisoners. To that

extent, the hero lived on, but his death did not encourage

anyone else to follow in his shoes, nor did it make heroes

of the authorities. Ultimately, his death reinforces the idea

that you can?t beat the system and that is a VIOLATION

to the human spirit.


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