From Spoon River Anthology, who is John Cabanis and how might I best portray him as a character for my acting class? What is the emotion associated with this man? What's his deal?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Cabanis is a political leader. Whereas many of the sonnets are of an emotional or intimate nature, Cabanis' speak from a political frame of reference. His leadership of the liberal party emerged from his abandonment of the party of "law and order."  He rejects a traditional political reality for a more inclusive notion of the civic good.  In embracing a more anti-establishment platform that embraces freedom and wage equity, Cabanis is passionate about social justice and the transformation into what can be from what is.

When portraying him, I think that the swelling of rhetoric, as one delivering a speech to a crowd, would be powerful.  Reflect on some of the best political leaders who have given speeches.  When we think of speeches from leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, there is a passion and sense of intensity in purpose that can be channeled here.  There is a natural swelling of language that emerges in specific points in Cabanis's words.  For example, lines like "Fellow citizens! I saw as one with second sight/ That every man of the millions of men/ Who give themselves to Freedom," and the last five lines are moments where a sense of passionate rhetoric can be adopted in reading.  There is an emotion in Cabanis that believes that political justice leads to social justice. He is passionate about this idea and this becomes one of the emotions that I think would be quite appropriate in reading.  His deal is the idea that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Incorporating this into the reading might help communicate his sense of purpose and focus.

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