Characters As Symbols In “Nine-Ten” Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Life, People, Criminal Justice, Crime, Literature, Audience, New York, Public Relations

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2021/02/28

Warren Leight’s “Nine Ten” features an ensemble of four characters and as the play unfolds it is difficult to pick out a main character or even a protagonist. There is no intricate plot, no conflict or resolution, just four people casually making small talk. It is early morning in a courthouse jury duty meeting room in New York City. The story seems extraordinarily banal, until the date is revealed at the end of the play, September 10, 2001, a day before 9-11. Looking back at the dialogue, the audience realizes that the everyday conversation had extra significance. The play is very short, less than ten minutes. Leight is not trying to tell a complex story, get laughs, or develop the four characters, he is using them as symbols for everyone who died on 9-11, and to encourage the audience to think about the fragility of life.
The play is heavy with foreshadowing, which retrospectively becomes full of meaning. John tells his fellow potential juror Lyris, that “where you are is where you are supposed to be” (6) Nick talks about how in his neighborhood, they are always filming a “sequel to a disaster flick” (65-66). There are some lines in the play that foreshadow 9-11. Including Kearrie commenting that the “city is inthe stone ages” (62). Kearrie works up high in a skyscraper, “up so high, on a clear day, you can see Europe” (18). He could possibly work in one of the towers. The court officer assures them that “most of you will get to go back to your life in two or three days” (89). This is an interesting line, because if any of them were to die in the attacks on 9-11, they would not go back to their lives in two days. The stage direction says that “two days is eternity” (88). The next day would certainly seem like an eternity to many New Yorkers.
Furthermore, none of the five characters want to be there. They grumble and complain, but, like John said, they are where there supposed to be. The next day, thousands of people would be where they were supposed to be, at work in the World Trade Center. They too might whine about showing up to work early on a Monday, and there lives would be irrevocably changed forever. Leight personalizes them, John eats Tuna with no mayo, Leslie wants to be in the Hamptons and Kearrie has a flight to catch, reinforcing the idea that everyone who died on 9-11 had somewhere else that they would like to be. The short play has a love story, John and Lyris are flirting, and there is a hint that something wild could develop. However, many lives would be cut short the next day, with no more flirting, loving or development.
Superficially, “Nine Ten “ is a play about stereotypical New York people, doing a stereotypical New York thing – complaining. They are also living their lives and doing what they are supposed to do. In the play, the interactions between five ordinary people mean very little, there is not much of a plot., very little conflict and no resolution. However, looking back closely it is loaded with meaning. For example, John tells Lyris that “they say eight thirty so that most people get here by nine. And around nine they start calling names” (10). The attacks on 9-11 started around nine in the morning. John is punctual and responsible, the kind of employee who is always to work a little early, therefore, he would be more likely to die on 9-11. Finally, the line about “where you are is where your supposed to be” is an existential and fatalistic lament. Tragedy can strike by being in the right place at the wrong time, and the victims of 9-11 were supposed to be at work in the towers where they died. The “calling names” can be seen as the names of people who died, and dying on 9-11 could be as arbitrary and unlucky as showing up for work early, or being chosen for jury duty. The characters in “Nine Ten” represent the victims of 9-11, and they also represent everyone. Only in hindsight does the audience recognize the meaning of the play, that today is all we have, and tomorrow could be anything

Work Cited

Leight, Warren. ""Nine Ten"" Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Eighth ed. Boston:
Kirszner and Mandell, 2013. 1236-240. Print. 

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Characters As Symbols In “Nine-Ten” Essay Samples. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 28, 2021. Accessed July 14, 2024.

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