Comparative Analysis: A Few Good Men

Comparative Analysis Essay 250 pts.

Description: 4-5 pages, double-spaced, plus a separate MLA-format Works Cited page Skills: Analysis of a test object through the theoretical lens of two source texts

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Sources: A Few Good Men; 2 of the following WRAC articles: The Milgram Experiment (p. 58); The Stanford Prison Experiment (p. 65); Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem (p. 78); The Follower Problem (p. 86); My Lai Massacre (p. 88)


Analyze a “test object” using the theoretical lenses provided by at least two source texts from our chosen unit in WRAC. Your focus this time is on better understanding the object of analysis-for our purposes the obedience unit, the film, A Few Good Men, about obedience and disobedience in the military.

In the course-of your essay, you must bring in a comparison with two or more of the Obedience to Authority readings. Keep in mind that you are bringing in the ideas in these texts because doing so enables you to address the issue raised for you by your primary “test object”, A Few Good Men. Overall, the essay is likely to be a weighted comparison, which means that one of your source texts may prove more useful than others and, finally, because your analysis is more concerned with the primary text, the test object, rather than with the secondary texts.

Your paper should:

Generate and focus on one interesting problem or question raised by the film. Imagine that this problem or question could be interpreted or answered in more than one way.
Put sources in conversation with one another to shed light on the question raised or to help you answer the question.
Use the film to test the findings and principles raised by the WRAC articles, for instance, by Milgram and Zimbardo, or raise new questions not accounted for.
Criteria for Evaluation:

Introduction sets up the problem or issue under discussion – in the culture, the film, and the sources.

55 points

Focused thesis that goes beyond the obvious commonplace to make an interpretive claim developed by the source-based analysis.

Analysis (of details in representative scenes) that expands and complicates readers’ understanding of cinematic representation of [obedience] and of the issues of [obedience] in the larger sense.





Logical flow of ideas in developed paragraphs with transitions.


Correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and appropriate paraphrase, quotation, and citation of author’s ideas that make clear which ideas belong to you and your sources.




250 points



Comparative Analysis Strategies:

Using Sources Analytically: The Conversational Model (WA Chap. 7)(6th ed. Chap. 13): What we’ are not asking you to do is find places in the WRAC texts that provide the “final answer” or “match” your thinking. You are engaged in the question and answer process along with authors in what WA calls “a chain of thinking.” While you don’t have to come up with an entirely original point of view that refutes the sources, you should orchestrate the conversation, not just “dump” the sources in to speak for themselves or for you.
(WA pp. 186-94, “What to Do with Secondary Sources”) Consult the strategies in this section to assist you in answering your question. Particular sources may help your frame the question or contribute to how you answer the question.

TIPS for Getting Started:

Formulate an issue, a question that takes several pages to address in your introduction. You are more likely to come up with such an issue or question if you focus on something that puzzles you, something that isn’t clear for you right away in the film. Indeed, you might spend several paragraphs elaborating what is puzzling about this element, and then spend the rest of your essay on your analysis/explanation.
Using Notice and Focus and The Method, you are better off examining several specific scenes (representative examples) than in settling for general overstated claims about the film.
Go beyond your first response to less commonplace interpretations. Especially useful with Hollywood films is the formula, “It seems to be about X, but it could also be about

Which scenes have meanings and implications that need to be teased out? What details, definitions, reasons, examples leave you puzzled or curious?
Consider alternatives — what the people in the situations do and don’t do.
Seek complicating evidence to test your thesis and make it more fully responsive to the evidence in the entire film (WA, Chap. 6).
Comparative analysis on the movie A FEW GOOD MEN, below are essays like examples. U can try to take some of the ideas and re word it if you want. Directions from teacher are above, basically talk about why they(Marines) were wrong/obedience from general to lower rank/ Marines follow codes of honor, code, loyalty. My claim is that the Marines actions to kill the Marine was not justifiable, and that everyone should be responsible for their actions
in a lot of circumstances
Important- I don’t need any sources unless the ones provided either in the essays or

Why do Marines obey their superiors atrocious and inhumane orders on command, and are their acts defensible? In particular, was the murder of Private Santiago justifiable by just orders of the “Code Red,” or was Corporal Dawson and Private Lt. Downey’s acts inhumane and cruel.


Example of following orders (from My Lai)

“Lieutenant Calley steadfastly maintained that his actions within My Lai had constituted, in his mind, carrying out orders from Captian Medina.” (Kelman & Lee Hamilton 94)
Calley only was following orders from Medina; however, committing several atrocities in the way.

Example of obedience (from Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem

“Obedience to a person, institution, or power is submission; it implies the abdication of my autonomy and the acceptance of a foreign will or judgment in place of my own.” (Fromm 80)

“Antigone is the classic example of this dichotomy. By obeying the inhuman laws of the State, Antigone necessarily would disobey the laws of humanity.” (Fromm 80)

Example of following orders (from The Milligram Experiment)

“People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and / or legally based.”(McLeod 61)

Overview of Idea/Conclusion
Corporal Dawson and Private Lt. Downey should be charged for the murder of Private Santiago. Their actions were not definable; they were given an order; however, orders do not justify the action. Obedience is something we all endure; we also all have free will and can say “no .” Corporal Dawson and Private Lt. Downey should have reported the “Code Red” instead of fulfilling it. People should be accountable for their actions, unlike in the My Lai Massacre.

Before Kaffee confesses to ordering the code red he says the Marines follow codes of honor, code, and loyalty and the Marines use these words as a “Backbone of a life defending something” (QUOTE FROM MOVIE) to protect from innocent lives being taken. Irony is his actions got an innocent man killed

Why do Marines obey their superiors atrocious and inhumane orders on command, and are their acts defensible? In particular, was the murder of Private Santiago justifiable by just orders of the “Code Red,” or was Corporal Dawson and Private Lt. Downey’s acts inhumane and cruel.
Studies have shown that people tend to harm others when the blame is shifted off themselves. For example, in the Milgram experiment, people were told will hurt others via electric shock. However, an instructor in the room gave orders to the volunteer saying quote “This experiment requires you to continue” (McLeod 61), and almost invariably, people obeyed. The instructor told them they must keep on going; the first response would be I do not want to blame for hurting the person, soon as the instructor took the responsibility, they would continue to cause pain. A movie that takes a closer look into this situation is A Few Good Men, was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Joanne Galloway is part of the team with Kaffee to defend Marnie in the murder case, James Marshall, who played Pfc. Louden Downey is the marine who is trialed for murder and disorderly conduct. To quick run over the movie, it was about two marines officers who gave another.
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Essay 2 (INTRO)
The film A Few Good Men portrays a story about two Marines on trial for the suspected murder of a fellow Marine. Lance Corporal Dawson and Private Louden Downey are charged with the murder of Private First Class William T. Santiago. Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, a renowned General, is on the stand fighting for the freedom of the Marines, their argument being: they followed the orders given for a “Code Red.” The question of why people follow any order given has attracted much speculation from “The My Lai Massacre: A Military Crime of Obedience.” According to these authors, “American military law assumes that the subordinate is inclined to follow orders…” (Kelman, Hamilton 270). The soldiers in My Lai, although possibly interpreting the orders differently than intended, ultimately did what their commanding officer ordered. The Marines in the film may have also been under the impression that they would not be responsible for any harm Santiago may endure. Again, Milgram could attest to this argument. He states, “The essence of obedience is that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions” (Milgram 222). Dawson and Downey did not view themselves as responsible for Santiago’s death because they carried out Jessup’s wishes; they followed the orders assumed. The Marines also believe deeply in the concept of a “Code Red.” Saul Mcleod, an author for Simply Psychology, affirms that people obey orders only when they think it is legitimate (Mcleod). Another reason why Dawson and Downey obeyed the “Code Red” may be the location in which they were stationed: Guantanamo Bay.
While on the stand, Jessup comments that every day he eats and sleeps with Cubans, who are trained to kill, 300 yards away. He suggests Guantanamo Bay is a dangerous place for a soldier; this is why orders must be followed. Jessup says, “We follow orders, or people die” (Reiner). Does this statement justify the means of what and how these orders are carried out? This is comparable to the situation the soldiers in My Lai experienced. In Vietnam, soldiers were always on guard for guerilla attacks and saw everyone who was not an American as an enemy. In her review of Stanley Milgram’s experiments, Diana Baumrind, a psychologist, says the setting and location affects a person’s obedience level. She states, “The laboratory is unfamiliar as a setting…Because of the anxiety and passivity generated by the setting, the subject is more prone to behave in an obedient, suggestible manner in the laboratory than elsewhere” (Baumrind 225). This could explain why Dawson and Downey followed an order which they knew was unethical. Along with any other Marine in Guantanamo Bay, including Jessup, they know everyone must track an order or “people die” (Reiner). Dawson and Downey shared one last motive in following the “Code Red” were merely doing their job.
Throughout the film, it is noticeable that everyone in the military is appointed to carry out a particular job. For example, in the scene in which Captain Jack Ross offers Kaffee a plea bargain, Ross expresses, “I do not want the two men in jail, but I don’t get to make that decision. I just represent the U.S. Government” (Reiner). Accordingly, Dawson’s and Downey’s job is to obey and follow any order administered. One former militarian who could attest to this is Rod Powers. In his article, Powers, who served in the military for twenty-two years, winner of the Meritorious Service Medal, and author of several works including Barrons’ Officer Candidate School Tests, states every person in the military is taught to obey orders from their superior officers without hesitation and question (Powers). According to Powers, if a soldier steps out of line and disobeys an order during wartime, that soldier may face death; this illustrates how highly the military regards obedience. The argument that Dawson and Downey were performing their job is similar to Lieutenant Calley’s defense during his trials after the My Lai Massacre. Calley, who was convicted for twenty-two murders, defended himself by arguing that he followed orders given by Captain Medina (Kelman, Hamilton 271). Calley’s interview with George Latimer, his attorney, sheds light on military obedience. When asked if he was informed of the principles of obedience in his training, he answers, “That all orders were to be assumed legal, that the soldier’s job was to carry out any order given him to the best of his ability” (Kelman, Hamilton 271). The military leaves no room for the soldier to determine whether or not an order is ethical or not until the actual order is carried out as Calley specifies. Calley argues that his job that day was to destroy the enemy, and he followed his orders (Kelman, Hamilton 272). Like Dawson and Downey, he believes he acted as he was ordered; he achieved his job by following orders.
Obedience is a subject in which many psychologists study. People follow the rules, regulations, and orders is a daunting one, both in the military and society. What is Dawson’s and Downey’s reasoning behind the “Code Red”? These Marines believe the fact that they followed orders from a superior justifies their actions. Similarly, Calley uses the defense that he merely followed orders during the My Lai massacre. Even though this defense has never been upheld in court, it is a valid argument for a soldier. How may a soldier, specifically a Marine, disobey an order when they are trained to obey any order given from day one of boot camp? These Marines did not choose but to follow the “Code Red” because of what and how they were trained, and the circumstances presented; they believed they completed their job to the best of their ability as Marines.

Essay 3
“You don’t need a patch on your arm to have honor.” Lt. Daniel Kaffee, portrayed by Tom Cruise, says at the end of the movie to Lance Cpl. Dawson, after the final ruling, is read, stating PFC. Downy and Lance Cpl. Dawson is innocent but is dishonorably discharged from the military. A Few Good Men portrays the negative impact on the military personally from strict obedience. Lt. Daniel Kaffee, along with Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway and Lt. Sam Weinberg, played by Demi Moore and Kevin Pollack, must defend PFC. Downy and Lance Cpl. Dawson from being charged with committing a Code Red. However, Lt. Kaffee believes that PFC. Downy and Lance Cpl. Dawson committed the ‘Code Red,’ but because it was a direct order…show more content…
However, the ‘teachers’ did not know that the ‘student’ was not receiving and shocks but merely acting. (Milgram 358-270)
In Zimbardo’s The Stanford Prison Experiment, however, the ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’ were placed in the same facility and face-to-face daily, unlike the Milgram experiment. The ‘guards’ would tell the ‘prisoners’ jokingly to do something; however, the ‘prisoners’ would do what they were commanded to do to hang on to their identity. (Zimbardo 393) By the end of the experiment, most ‘prisoners’ showed increased stress levels in the ‘prisoners’ within days; some ‘prisoners’ could not handle the stress-induced and had to be released early. The ‘guards’ were equally changed due to the scenario they were put in. One journal of the ‘guards’ showed how a passive person became a person shoving food down another person’s mouth and locking them up in solitary confinement (Zimbardo 389-399).
The role of obedience is widespread in the movie A Few Good Men, as demonstrated in The Perils of Obedience and The Stanford Prison Experiment. In the film a Few Good Men, the theme of obedience is prevalent and most commonly repeated. This movie was released on December 11, 1992, directed by Rob Reiner, and starring Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Pollack. Lt. Daniel
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Essay 4 (BODY)
“Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem” and “The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment”: Honor in A Few Good Men
The unit, corps, God, country: the moral code followed rigorously by Marines. Either live by it or suffer the consequences. However, it isn’t all that simple. Fromm reveals that humans must be disobedient if they are to succeed in life. Fromm explains that man continues to evolve by acts of disobedience. The advancement of man is not achievable until freedom through obedience is achieved. However, Konnikova expresses that by treating humans inhumanely, they begin to act inhumanely and become disoriented from reality. In A Few Good Men, personal pride is more important than what’s morally right. Fromm expresses that man is responsible for his actions, supporting the psychoanalyst’s argument that every man is free to make his own decisions without society’s influence or even his conscience. Without disobedience, humankind would proceed nowhere into the future and instead remain slaves to the “few” who govern. “If mankind commits suicide, it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons…” (684). He believes that most of the humankind obeys because of the safety and security that obedience brings. However, every man should instead develop the courage to stand up against society, against obedience. Psychologist Konnikova emphasizes just how great an effect the environment has on our behavior, capable of trumping our steadfast moral and behavioral guidelines. Individuality melts away as the social climate begins to define the individual.
In the film A Few Good Men, this is revealed by Colonel Jessup’s speech about Santiago’s death. He is notorious for attempting to justify his actions that although the code red that was ordered by himself had resulted in the death of Marine Santiago, it had served a bigger purpose. That although Santiago’s death was tragic, it had potentially helped save lives. The two Marines responsible for Santiago’s death, Private First Class Downey and Lance

Essay 5
Dawson and Downey, regarding the future of their trial. Kaffee was able to get a plea bargain that would allow the two accused Marines to bet sent home after six months. However, Dawson and Downey wouldn’t agree to the deal because they believed that they did nothing wrong, that they were following the orders of code red. They think that they did their job, and if that had consequences, then they’ll accept them. They won’t say they’re guilty because they believe they did nothing wrong, and they don’t want to be honorably discharged from the Marines. Dawson also stated that signing the plea will say that they have no honor and they don’t qualify to be Marines. They wanted to accept whatever punishment the court gives, rather than listening to their attorney and taking the deal. Kaffee and his assistants also had difficulty finding out who exactly ordered the code red because no one will admit that they gave out the order, let alone whether or not there was an order at all. They deal with these difficulties by finally agreeing to take on the case at trial and looking around for information from witnesses about where the order came from and what happened the night of the murder.
The defense counsel faced many difficulties with a few of the opposing counsel. The prosecution’s first witness, a Special Agent Investigator, stated that there was an accusation that Dawson fired at the enemy without cause. However, Dawson was

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