The most obvious explanation for the film’ s characterization of John as important is to counter-balance the racial prejudice that has been leveled against him by the other characters in the film, as well the perceptions of a significant amount of the audience who watched the film upon its release. His wife and child are also depicted as having died in a car accident, furthering the audience sympathy for his character. In these regards, John’ s characterization removes any doubt about his personality or social worth for Joey and advances the as a discussion of race, not romance.
The film is making it blatantly obvious that the other characters resent John, not because they believe he is unfit for Joey, but that he is black. In addition to being depicted as important, John’ s character is shown to be very accommodating. He even tells Joey’ s parents that he will not marry Joey without their approval. There are a number of reasons for this characterization. One of the most simple is that John’ s actions in this regard portray him as a sympathetic and are keeping with his background as a doctor and professor of considerable repute.
Another function of this characterization is that in refusing to force the marriage without the parents’ approval allows the film to explore the complex deliberations that motivate the main thrust of the narrative. Indeed, without John’ s accommodating nature is this regard the dramatic action in the film would have no reason to occur as the outcome would already be determined. It also creates an interesting dilemma as the professed liberal parents are forced to come terms with the reality of their progressive racial beliefs in the most dramatically compelling means possible.
With its lack of action and emphasis on dialogue, the film could be a staged play. Indeed, most of it takes place in the Drayton house; however significant scenes occur in the terrace and study.
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