Rules, they are something we have been told to follow since we were little kids; They are put into place to keep people in lince, and generally to prevent chaos.We have rules put in place that if we break, then we must suffer the penalty of the law, but we also have societal “rules”. These societal “rules” go as follows: Don’t do anything that isn’t normal. But what is normal? How do we define such a broad word? Who gets to decide what is normal and what is not? 

As our society grows and changes, so do these societal “rules”; The “rules” in the 80’s are much different than the societal rules that we have today. These ever changing “rules” that Not Sydney faces change constantly throughout the novel. Such as when he travels to Atlanta and he is prosecuted simply for being black. Societal “rules” can often change based on the location of the person, and in Not Sydney’s case, being in the south and being black was breaking one of their societal “rules”. In Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, our protagonist Not Sidney is already breaking many of those societal rules simply by having the name of Not Sidney. Not Sidney was often beaten by his classmates just because of his peculiar name, although he was not breaking any actual rules, his name was out of the ordinary so Not endures the “punishment” of breaking the societal rules. Even before he was born, Not Sidney was breaking all of the societal “rules” of a normal pregnancy. His mother, Portia Poitier, had a hysterical pregnancy and Not Sidney ended up having a 2 year gestation period because of this. This already made Not not “normal” from the beginning of his life. His neighbors would often gossip about him and his abnormal gestation period, he was often given nicknames such as “Elephant Boy and on occasion Late Nate” (Everett 5) . These were all given to him simply because his own mother had bestowed this odd gestation period upon him. 

Beyond the real world lies the cinematic world; this world also contains a whole new set of rules and things to follow in order for the piece to be up to a certain standard. Most films follow the Freytag Pyramid, which is the general way a story should be presented in order to properly captivate the audience. This includes many norms; such as the guy winning over the girl, or the superhero kicking the villain’s butt, and at the end and the whole city was saved. It generally goes that there is rising action, then a climax, then falling action.  In the film The Defiant Ones, a black man and a white man are criminals on the run from the law, but they are chained together making it extremely hard for them to do so. The film mainly follows the Freytag pyramid where there is the rising action of them running from the law, and the general climax of them running to the freight train, and barely missing it. The only thing that does not follow the Freytag pyramid is that in the end the pair ends up getting caught. This ending seems to break all the rules! They were supposed to end up escaping the law, and live long and happy lives! By breaking these so called “cinematic rules” I think that the film makes more of an impact on the audience. The pair getting caught rather than living happily ever after is something that is more reasonable and realistic, rather than them truly escaping the law. By breaking these rules, we come to a much less satisfying conclusion, but a more realistic one nonetheless.  By going beyond the normal, this film is much more entertaining to watch.

Rules, they constrain us to be people who we are not. Although they do prevent general chaos in society, the societal rules are causing much more internal chaos than if there were no rules at all. Everyone feels constricted to follow these “rules” set upon them, to be “normal”.  If someone dares to break these rules, they are shunned for doing so. I think that breaking these rules allows one to be who they truly are, unconstrained. The laws should be followed, because no one wants to have a criminal record, but I think that if more people were unafraid to break out of the norm, our society would be more interesting today. Maybe even interesting enough for Percival Everett to write a novel about. 

An example of Freytag’s Pyramid.

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