In John
Patrick Shanley’s play “Doubt: A Parable”
he introduces Father Flynn as a loved and talented priest, while introducing
Sister Aloysius as a stern, intolerant, disciplinary nun of St. Nicholas Church
School.  “Doubt: A parable” was written in 2005, but takes place in 1964 in
the middle of a period of corruption within the Catholic Church and derision of
the Catholic Church. Father Flynn’s character becomes in doubt when Sister
Aloysius makes allegations that Father Flynn had forced an inappropriate
relationship on Donald Muller, the first black student at St. Nicholas Church,
but also because of Sister Aloysius’s character the allegations against him are
in doubt. The constant doubt John Patrick Shanley creates in “Doubt: A Parable” forces a deeper
understanding of the concept of doubt. He uses foreshadowing and
Characterization to depict the main theme of the impact of doubt and
uncertainty on faith versus morals.

Foreshadowing
helps demonstrate the impact of doubt and uncertainty on faith versus morals. For
example, when Father Flynn gave the sermon on doubt in the beginning of the
play and tells a story about this one sailor who survived a cargo ship sinking.
He says, “The message of the constellations had he imagined it because of his
desperate circumstance? Or had he seen Truth once, and now had to hold on to it
without further reassurance? That was his dilemma on a voyage without apparent end.
(Shanley 1431)” This foreshadowed Father Flynn’s circumstances towards the end
of the play because of Sister Aloysius allegations against him. His reputation
and character would be constantly in doubt because of the uncertainty Sister
Aloysius had on his intentions with Donald Mueller and the uncertainty of his
guilt. The doubt in his character and reputation he would receive due to the
uncertainty of his guilt is well warranted. Sexual abuse and child molestation
was a major problem for the Catholic Church. The first priestly sexual abuse
case to capture broad national attention in the U.S. was probably that of
Gilbert Gauthe of Lafayette, La., who pleaded guilty in 1985 to sexually
abusing 11 boys and admitted to molesting dozens, but prior to that case the
problem had caught the attention of many within the Catholic Church. Catholic
officials acknowledged that when suspicions had been raised about Gauthe more
than a decade before. Although the doubt in Father Flynn’s character and
reputation are warranted due to the uncertainty of his guilt this uncertainty
caused Sister Aloysius to challenge her morals because she lied to Father Flynn
about calling the last parish he was assigned, but weaken her faith because she
implied at the end of the play with saying, “I have doubts! I have such doubts!
(Shanley 1459)” that she had “… look for God’s direction and can’t find it” as
that was what doubt was in the words of Father Flynn (Shanley 1431).

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Characterization
helps demonstrate the impact of doubt and uncertainty on faith versus morals. In
“Doubt: A Parable”, doubt and uncertainty
are significant due to the characterization of both Sister James and Sister
Aloysius. The characters’ stance on certainty versus doubt divides the
characters’ personalities. Sister Aloysius has a confident and strong-willed
character throughout the story while Sister James is shown to have a very
insecure personality and is usually shown to be unclear about situations. This
characterization is shown when Sister James and Sister Aloysius talk about
William London’s bloody nose. Sister Aloysius is convinced that William
London’s bloody nose was self-induced while Sister James believes that William
is innocent. This foreshadows the reactions taken by both Sister James and
Sister Aloysius when it comes to determining Father Flynn’s credibility.
Shanley does this to give the reader an idea of how Sisters James and Aloysius
will react in the sense of certainty versus doubt. Sister James doubts Father
Flynn’s suspected behavior while Sister Aloysius is certain that Father Flynn
is guilty throughout the story. At the end of the story, Sister James claims,
“I don’t think Father Flynn did anything wrong.” (Doubt, DVD) While Sister
Aloysius is certain he is guilty by saying, “Yes. But if he’d had no such
history, the lie wouldn’t have worked. His resignation was his confession. He
was what I thought he was. And he’s gone.” (Shanley pg 57) This personality
difference is consistent throughout the entire story. The theory of doubt
versus certainty in Doubt is important because it differentiates the two lead
characters. In this way, the author can illustrate the conflict between the two
female characters that is crucial to the story.

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