In the film The Long Walk Home with cast members Sissy Spacek and Whoopie Goldberg, what could someone learn that is new? What risks were involved for these characters in the process of seeking...

In the film The Long Walk Home with cast members Sissy Spacek and Whoopie Goldberg, what could someone learn that is new? What risks were involved for these characters in the process of seeking justice?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Long Walk Home with Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek traces the well-known historical events after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. On 5 December 1955, the day she went to trial and was fined $14, an all-day boycott of buses was arranged. The boycott lasted a total of 381 days and involved Martin Luther King Jr., who championed the cause. It planted seeds from which the Civil Rights Movement grew.

The movie reveals the effects of the boycott on the people of Montgomery, many of whom walked to work, organized carpools, and took taxis. Odessa Cotter, played by Whoopi Goldberg, and Miriam Thompson, played by Sissy Spacek, fulfill conventional and expected, even stereotypical, roles for that time period and area. Odessa is a maid and Miriam is her employer and the wife of a wealthy businessman.  They make life-changing decisions and sacrifices in order to ensure justice is carried out. They represent so many real people who actually faced the daily toil without giving up.  

The story may be based on an event in history which changed the face of America and it may have been repeated many times in newspapers, books, plays, novels and documentaries; however, there is always a lesson to learn as even in the twenty-first century, there are still people who do not recognize their own prejudice and who perpetuate racial tension and injustice.  

The movie highlights the struggle and the sacrifices of so many people, exposes the injustice, and also serves as a reminder of the events. It also exposes people who may otherwise have had no exposure to the real events to the reality of the struggle and the enormity of the contribution of the people of Montgomery to society as a whole. People often remark how they cannot do anything as an individual that will make a difference and this movie proves otherwise. Every person's contribution is a valuable one.

Odessa does not tell Miriam at first that she is honoring the boycott for fear of losing her job but, when Miriam finds out, she supports Odessa and faces her husband's wrath. Odessa must continue to fulfill her role and support her own family, often reaching home very late and with a difficult teenage daughter to contend with. She must also do her job, never becoming angry or resentful, always setting an example for her children. Neither she nor Miriam become radicals or activists.

Each woman's contribution is more personal than particularly significant on a grand scale and this ensures that the movie is not overtly political but centers on the efforts of ordinary citizens in ensuring that their collective voice was heard. There are good people, indifferent people and intolerant people; there are hard workers and lazy people; there are manipulative people, hypocrites and compassionate people, and this movie points out that it is up to the individual which category he or she fits in to. 

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