Pinnacle Psychology

(ISSN: 2360-9508)

November 2014, Vol.1 (3).

© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research Article

 

Narrative As Social Change: Public Storytelling To Legally Determine The Fate Of Juvenile Offenders

Millie Jones

San Diego State University,
U.S.A.

Accepted 24 October, 2014; Available Online 5 November, 2014.

Abstract:

The rhetoric examined in this paper uses a David and Goliath-themed narrative as a lens to examine a battle over the fate of children in this country who commit crime. The different narrators, however, decide whom in their story David will represent and who or what will be represented by Goliath. These modifications in characters give the audience different perspectives from each narrator, which guide our beliefs. I seek to eavesdrop on some of the conversations about juvenile crime and punishment in America between 1995 and 2012 by tough-on-juvenile-crime supporters and those who oppose extreme sentencing of juveniles. I will apply a narrative analysis framework to this case study to show how each side is using rhetorical strategies that function to create changes in the public policies that determine how we punish children. Through this narrative analysis it will become evident that a David vs. Goliath-themed battle narrative is unfolding. This essay will demonstrate that rhetoric functions to create new realities. When words or ideas are put together, they become part of the rhetorical realm, which often shapes our mental and physical realities to create a new reality; this is demonstrated by the role that language has had in determining the fate of juvenile offenders. Inserting these narratives into a public discourse on the punishment of children becomes a way to move these judgments out of the courtroom and to engage a broader audience that will ultimately decide the fate of not just a single case or individual, but many individuals categorically and simultaneously. First, I will present the narrative analysis of the rhetoric from those who want tougher punishments for children who commit crimes, and next, from those who want to end the policies that mandate the trying and sentencing of children as adults. I will then compare how each narrative functions to create a reality that will determine how these children are punished by exploring the rhetors' use of pathos, binaries, and public narrative creation. To conclude, I will examine some possible effects of the rhetoric concerning juvenile offenders on the way we control the behaviors of children in general.





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