Main Ideas in the Miller's Crossing Scene

In a scene from Miller's Crossing, we encountered a surprisingly different cultural system that marks difference and values in unexpected ways. This system has its own literacy, and we found that several "codes" needed breaking as we approached the scene from the outside. An understanding of a unique power hierarchy is necessary here, as traditional white male power is fractured along ethnic lines:The "fancy-pants" Irish Kingpin, with his conservative, status-quo values, must face the challenge of the hot-headed Italian sub-boss, who values honor and "ethics' over bureaucratic stability. At stake is thelife of a Jewish bookie, a mere pawn in the power brokers' game, devalued with the linguistic weapons of slur and stereotype. Indeed, the colorfully harsh, street-wise language, delivered rapid-fire, is another code that we must work through. Looking at the cinematic context of the scene, we determined that it exists within a further code of the "gangster-movie" genre, where ethical behavior does not exclude murder, gambling, bootlegging, or fixing fights; where a double-cross in the name of a "higher good" is honorable; and where the "quiet man" is usually the true force to be reckoned with, respected, and feared.

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