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PECKINPAH AS STRAW MAN?

The Mail

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

To the Editors of the Crimson:

Sam Peckinpah's film Straw Dogs has been the subject of much criticism recently, but perhaps the strongest reaction is Garrett Epps' description of the film as "classic fascism." This phrase is clarified as "the quest for the meta-experience of violence as a validation of existence." I'm uncertain what that sentence means exactly, but it appears at least to be neutral between repression and liberation.

Straw Dogs is neither a glorification of violence nor a celebration of rape. It's a simple morality tale about the acceptance of responsibility--responsibility for one's commitments (for example, in marriage) and responsibility for one's fellow human beings (including, in this case, the village idiot). It is the acceptance of this responsibility that marks the transition into adulthood, not the resort to violence. And it is this lesson that both husband and wife must learn when faced with the attack of the local Cornwall ruffians. Epps mentions only the defense carried out by the husband, and thereby turns it into a demonstration of masculinity, but he omits to mention the climactic scene in which the wife shoots a childhood acquaintance in order to save the life of her husband.

Epps' difficulty in understanding the film is revealed, I think, in his reference to the local ruffians as "subhuman yokels" and "brutes"--as though the evil they embody couldn't belong to fully human persons. But the facts are otherwise, and situations may arise in which one's only recourse in confronting such persons is to kill them. Kenneth I. Winston '62

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