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Book Review for University Students

BRUS Books that you most likely will find in your academic plan

The Comparative Analysis of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare and Lysistrata by Aristophanes


Throughout the history of human civilization, society has always assigned women roles subordinate to men. Under patriarchal social structures, women are often regarded as inferior compared to men and, consequently, subjected to social prejudice, mistreatment, and inequalities. For instance, the value systems of most traditional societies required women to show modesty, submissiveness, and obedience to men. Thus, women lived under the authority of men with the latter using their social perch to dominate and exploit women. One way through which women were exploited was the objectification of their bodies by treating them as sexual objects for the satisfaction of men’s desires. Thus, women were valued in terms of their beauty, the extent to which their physical endowment aroused men’s sexual fancies. Not surprisingly, therefore, Elizabethan literature written in a period when patriarchy was dominant portrays the exploitative way in which women were treated in traditional societies. In The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare portrays the position that women held in medieval England. Women were regarded as properties to be owned and used by men as they pleased. However, since the ability of a man to dominate a woman’s life was very important to men, assertive and independently thinking women, pejoratively referred to as “shrews,” were often despised and ignored by potential suitors. Consequently, societal values promoted the subjugation of women’s rights by allowing men to mistreat their women in the name of “taming” them, which simply involved the use of violence to control women. As a part of this “taming” process, women were denied access to better education because it would empower them and threaten male domination. In Lysistrata, Aristophanes portrays the condition of women in Greek’s ancient Athenian and Spartan societies. However, unlike the total triumph of patriarchy portrayed in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Lysistrata showcases female rebellion and triumph over the influence of male dominance. In particular, Lysistrata portrays the revolution of women not only to rise to positions of influence and tilt the balance of power, but also to play important political roles in determining the destiny of their communities. In reference to the major characters in the two texts, this essay provides a comparative analysis of the portrayal of women in terms of the position they held in traditional societies, with particular emphasis on women sexuality, power, and education.

The Taming of the Shrew represents the exploitation of women in the society by highlighting social values that promote male violence, female submission to male authority, the objectification of women’s bodies as well as keeping them ignorant. The glorification of women’s ignorance is exemplified in Bianca and Katherina’s father’s decision to recruit a music teacher for them instead of taking them to school. Teaching women art skills like dancing and singing agrees with patriarchy’s goals of tutoring women in areas that enable them to entertain men. The fate of the play’s major character, Katherina, is testimony to the entrenchment of patriarchal values in society. At the beginning, Katherina displays independence and ability to stand against male chauvinism. She readily attacks men who challenge her independence and always have a view of her own on many issues. In Act I, she tells Hortensio and Gremio that Iwis it is not halfway to her heart: But if it were, doubt not her care should be To comb your noodle with a three-legged stool, And paint your face and use you like a fool (1.1.61–65).

The men around her misinterpret her attitude as a sign of the lack of respect; she frequently insults, degrades or physically attacks any man who offends her. This male-view, however, is blind to the real issues behind her rebellious behavior. Katherina is evidently a victim of societal expectations of women. Society glorifies women who are beautiful to attract the attention of men and humble enough to submit to male authority. Katherina’s independence and intelligence puts her at conflict with male chauvinism. Men in her society want a woman they can control, and these are the qualities that she lacks. In contrast, her sister Bianca embodies feminine qualities that the society expects of women. She is unassuming, soft-spoken, and physically attractive. She exhibits the virtues that society approves: she is candid, innocent, and humble (Beiner 102). Consequently, because of her independence and willingness to challenge male authority, Katherina has grown out of favor with her father, who shows bias towards her younger sister, the beautiful and humble Bianca. Similarly, Bianca attracts more suitors than Katherina. These factors are responsible for making Katherina feel out of place; she does not fit in a society with patriarchal values. In this regard, The Taming of the Shrew reveals the society’s aversion to women who wield power, either through their intelligence or independence. Due to her independence and intelligence, Katherina refuses to play the role the society has assigned to her – the role of a maiden daughter to her father and a submissive wife-material to the men around her. Her potential as a wife is limited, because she fails on these scores, thus presenting possible cause for her anger and rebellion towards men. She hates society’s expectation of her to be a dutiful daughter and display courtesy and grace toward her male suitors.

In addition, society has degraded female sexuality down to the role women play as sex objects (Bean 65). As such, physical beauty is a major factor in a girl’s getting a potential marriage partner. Katherina understands that beauty and sexual attractiveness determine her chances of getting married. However, she equally understands that she does not fit in this definition of a potential wife. At the same time, she is conscious that this perception of women as sexual objects degrades her dignity. Thus, her self-awareness of her physical undesirability compels her not only to loath the men around her, but also rebel against the society’s designation of a woman’s role and place in society. Nevertheless, she recognizes the rigidity of social values that dictate her role in society (Beiner 104). Since she finds it hard to compromise her independence and surrender to whims of men, she ends up becoming ill-tempered and miserable. Unfortunately, the more she becomes angry toward the rigidity of society’s values, the more she reduces her chances of getting a husband and alienated from her own society. Thus, she eventually surrenders her independence by playing the role of an ignorant and submissive wife to her husband, Petruchio. From their first encounter, Petruchio makes it clear that he will marry her regardless her wishes. He uses force to assert himself and force Katherina to conform to her role as a woman. Finally, she gives up her resistance to male domination to escape from the cold disapproval she receives from the society due to her reputation as a shrew. Any social role, even that of the exploited wife becomes more appealing and attractive than living under social rejection. This is shown in Scene II of Act III, where Petruchio tells those present that Katherina is his rightful property to do with as he pleases. He says:

I will be master of what is mine own. She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house, My household stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass, my any thing (ll.231-234).

Not surprisingly, Katherina gives a speech in the play’s end espousing the need for women to obey their men, which shows the final triumph of patriarchy.

Katherina’s situation, therefore, shows that society only accommodates women who surrender their independence by submitting to male authority as well as conform to the male-perspective on female sexuality, the treatment of women as vessels for satisfying men’s sexual desires (Rackin 2005). Her husband, Petruchio, attempts to put her in her right place by torturing her and attempting to diffuse her independence by forcing her to agree with everything he says regardless how absurd or awkward it is. For instance, she agrees with his claim that the sun is the moon, saying that "if you please to call it a rush-candle, Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me" (4.5.14–15). This situation portrays Petruchio’s desire to control her intellectually as a means of taming her dealing with her independence, intelligence, and assertiveness. In this light, Petruchio’s attitude shows that female independence is an attempt to disrupt social order (Duthie 59), and society resists such attempts by alienating those who try to assert their independence or rebel against tradition.

Lysistrata, the heroine of Lysistrata, contrasts with Katherina by rising above the challenges of patriarchy. Whereas Katherina allows her sexuality to be used against her, Lysistrata uses it as a weapon to gain power in a male-dominated society. The play’s opening scene portrays the traditional and stereotypical representation of women in Greece; domestic-oriented and content being under male authority. This is exemplified by Lysistrata’s neighbor, Kleonike, who explains to her that women are late in coming to the meeting Lysistrata has called for, because they are tending to their children. However, Lysistrata is portrayed differently from the rest of her womenfolk; she has no husband to whom she is answerable and is not keen to play a housewife’s role.

Athens and Sparta are at war, and all the men have gone to the battle. Traditionally, war and all issues to do with it were the preserve of men (Hunt 73). Lysistrata departs from this traditional view by convening a meeting of women to discuss about ending the war. From the onset, therefore, the play shows a transformation of women’s role in society. Lysistrata represents the rise of women to positions of power and influence. She shows anger at the women’s failure to come out and talk about serious issues affecting their society (war and peace). Equally, she is angered by their unwillingness to stand up to the negative/demeaning stereotyping of women, exclaiming that “I'm positively ashamed to be a woman- a member of a sex which can't even live up to male slanders” (15-16). This is because women in Greece were regarded as irrational creatures that needed protection from their feminine shortcomings (Murray 215). Concerned about the effects of the war, however, Lysistrata engineers a coup in which women literally take over Greece, forcing the warring states of Athens and Sparta to begin peace talks.

Lysistrata’s success in overcoming patriarchy and male domination is centered on her deviousness in employing women’s feminine features to prey on the men’s sexual urges. However, Lysistrata is different from The Taming of the Shrew, because Greek women use their bodies as objects of sexual attraction to control and manipulate men rather than satisfying male lust. She convinces women to use their bodies to their own advantage by making men desire them. Aristophanes’ treatment of female sexuality, therefore, is different from Shakespeare’s portrayal. In Lysistrata, the female body is a powerful weapon that helps women gain power in society. It reduces the assuming men (the view that it is the right of a man to use a woman’s body for sexual satisfaction) into beggars who pleads with the women to allow them have sex. Thus, Lysistrata sees women’s feminine features as the assets that could be exploited to control men. For instance, she examines women’s bodies for their strengths to arouse desire in men; the curves on Ismenia’s genitalia and her hairless vulva, and the Korinthian girl’s monstrous buttocks. The women remark how men will find it difficult in resisting this exhibition of raw eroticism. This approach contrasts with Katherina, who allows her femininity to be used against her. The scheming of women around their sexuality, therefore, becomes a source of power rather than being a source of exploitation and objectification of their bodies as seen in The Taming of the Shrew. The women in Lysistrata gain power by playing upon male stereotypes ? the idea that men cannot resist sexual temptation or control their lust. This development shows a remarkable departure from the submissiveness of Katherina and her womenfolk, who surrender to their fate as sexual objects. In this regard, Lysistrata shows masculine qualities by adopting a male perspective on sexuality (exploiting the female identity to control men). She looks at the women as sexual objects that could be exploited to counter male power. This is evident in the scene where, upon Lysistrata ‘s urging, Myrrhine tempts her husband with a promise to have sex, but eventually abandons him in mad desire without satisfying the sexual fire she had ignited.

Nevertheless, Aristophanes asserts the continuity of patriarchy by excluding women from future leadership roles in Lysistrata’s idealized Athens. The omission of women from positions of power suggests that even for a feminist like Lysistrata, women have their socially dictated roles to play. This conclusion of the play agrees with Shakespeare’s closing views in The Taming of the Shrew on the role of women in society. Both texts concur that political and leadership roles (positions of power) are the preserve of men. This concurrence asserts the traditional values and beliefs of patriarchal societies, where women are regarded as the subordinates of men.

Works Cited

Aristophanes. Lysistrata. London: Wildside Press LLC, 2008. Print.

Bean, John. “Comic Structure and the Humanizing of Kate in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.” in The Woman's Part: Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare, Lenz et al., (Eds.). New York: University of Illinois Press, 1983. Print.

Beiner, George. Shakespeare's agonistic comedy: poetics, analysis, criticism. NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1993. Print.

Duthie, George. Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, 1951. Print.

Hunt, Peter. War, Peace, and Alliance in Demosthenes' Athens. London: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.

Murray, Oswyn. “Life and Society in Classical Greece.” In The Oxford History of the Classical World, Boardman, John, Griffin, Jasper, and Murray, Oswyn, (eds). London: Oxford University Press 1986. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew. London: Plain Label Books, 2008. Print.

History book review


Development of Modern Western Culture

Edward Peters translates the primary writings of Fulcher of Chartres from Latin into English. Fulcher of Chartres was born around 1059 AD. He wrote chronicles of the First Crusade in Latin. Edward Peters translates these chronicles into English without altering the original content. The Chronicles of Fulcher of Chartres by Edward Peters is a primary document of the works of Fulcher in English. Fulcher was present at the Council of Clermont in 1095 during preaching of the First Crusade by Pope Urban II. He was a cleric in the Catholic Church and left Europe with an army belonging to Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders and Stephen of Blois. He was also a chaplain of King Baldwin of Jerusalem. The presence of Fulcher in all the expeditions, his close connection with French Princes and the king, and his ability to organize complex motives and experiences makes his chronicles perhaps the best primary source for the First Crusade. Edward Peters, a famous historian, exhibits a great expertise in giving a full translation of the chronicles.

Thesis Statement

The main objective of this essay is to prove the thesis statement that the First Crusade has not only affected the relations between the Muslims and the Christians but also fundamentally shaped the modern Western culture. It gives evidence from the primary source of the First Crusade, namely The Chronicles of Fulcher of Chartres by E. Peters. The essay also derives evidence from the modern Western civilization and relates it to the medieval Crusades.

Importance of the work in development of modern Western Culture

Fulcher gives an account of the eleventh century, when it was common for the Christians to go for pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He explains that increase in religious fervor and encouragement by the Church made the Christians go for pilgrimage. The Holy Sepulcher was one of the most holy places. It was situated in the Muslim-dominated kingdom. The Fatimid Kingdom was friendly to the Christians who visited the region. However, the Seljuk Turks were less tolerant. They even tormented and persecuted the Christians. These actions came to the attention of Pope Urban II. He called for the Council of Clermont to give a speech on energizing the church. Fulcher writes down the Pope’s speech addressing the need to assist Constantinople and free Jerusalem.

Many nobles and the general public responded to the Pope’s speech and united in an attempt to liberate the Christian Holy Land from the Muslims in the East. Fulcher reports that the titled knights and kings joined for their souls’ salvation in assisting the church. The landless knights joined for fame and liberation of the church. This act raised a lot of questions in the modern Western civilization about the motives of the Christians. The Muslims viewed it as an act of greed from the Christians in an attempt to grab their land and gold. The Christians, on the other hand, viewed this as an act of liberating their Holy Land from the Muslims. The Muslims argued that many joined not with an aim of liberation but rather to fit in the rigid feudal system and social structure, which required the great riches. Therefore, they argued that the poor took this as an opportunity to find riches in the faraway lands like Jerusalem, which had a rich history and a great fame.

Many armies joined the First Crusade to free the Holy Land. They consisted of people from different social backgrounds. The armies committed atrocities against the Jews on their way to the Muslim territories in the name of the Church. Fulcher reports that some Christians even murdered their fellows to reduce competition for the expected riches. Therefore, majority of the crusaders in the first wave did not make it to the halfway point. Some of them succumbed to diseases, while others lost their purpose or lacked money to fund their journey. Finally, the Christians made their way to the Byzantine capital, where other crusaders from Constantinople joined them. They attacked the Muslims in Antioch, Nicaea and other smaller cities. Many soldiers and horses were lost in the desert, which significantly weakened their army. The soldiers raped and stole from the Muslim villages. The food and money were received from Christian communities in Europe and Asia.

The Jerusalem siege began in 1099. Their victory in Jerusalem has also raised questions on their massacre in Jerusalem and has influenced modern perspectives and differences in the Western civilization. The crusaders with the help of the Franks led a siege in Jerusalem, which lasted forty days. They killed men, women and children during two days. They also murdered civilians in the region as they regarded this as the Pope’s directive. The Franks killed most of the noncombatants revenging for Christian massacre in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by Muslims. They also killed all the defenders in the region, including people from different ethnicities and religions, such as Jews and other Christians. This act played a key role in influencing future western culture as it marked the beginning of the Holy War.

The accounts of the First Crusade presented in The Chronicles of Fulcher of Chartres show that it was militarily successful in meeting the objectives of Pope Urban to liberate the Holy City from Muslims. The Frankish invasion was the most successful siege since the Muslim Caliphs were unprepared due to the religious infighting. It shaped the Western culture as the Muslims viewed it as a formal declaration of war between the Muslims and the Christians. It is evident in the current Western countries, especially the United States of America. Different terrorist bombings associated with Muslim terrorist groups, such as the Al Khaeda, show that the war is still in place. American declaration of the war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks shows that the Crusade has gone a long way in influencing Western culture.

Despite religious differences, the Crusade had other influences on the relations between the Christians and the Muslims. It opened the trade routes between the East and Europe. The European knights, who fought in the war, settled in the East. The Catholic Church also asserted its Christians of uncooperative nobility. Fulcher reports that the Crusade helped in increasing the influence of the Catholic Church as a unifying force at that time (Peters 34). The war had a religious mission, according to the clerics and Christians. This shaped future western attitudes toward religion as a discipline. Moreover, it presented the idea of religious warriors and the concept of chivalric ethos. The primary source of the records about the First Crusade translated by Edward Peters gives reliable information about the war without bias in a familiar language. It also assists the reader in comprehensive reading the historical accounts.


This essay proves the thesis that the First Crusade has not only affected the relations between the Muslims and the Christians but also fundamentally shaped the modern Western culture. The Crusade, as stated in The Chronicles of Fulcher of Chartres, contributes in the current negative attitudes towards the Pan-Arab region and the Americans (the West). The negative perceptions and attitudes have adverse impacts on the Western and American economic policy, foreign policy, military actions and modern Western culture in general. The primary source presents information about the First Crusade, the motives and perceptions of different leaders, knights, the Christians and the Muslims. It gives the original account of the situation, which further influenced other Crusades and the Western civilization in general.

Work Cited

Peters, Edward. The First Crusade: "The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres" and Other Source Materials (The Middle Ages Series). 2nd ed. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. Print.

Review of “Palestine” by Joe Sacco


“Palestine” is one of Joe’s novels, whose themes and characters are displayed through both text and photographs. Some of the themes include hostility, cruelty, torment, and injustice. It is a unique way of writing, whereby most of the graphics make the novel be more interesting and easy to comprehend. The use of graphic technique also brings the real picture of life, as most of the things displayed in are book are real. However, most of the themes are intermingled, as one theme can be understood under the other. In most cases, the reader encounters the pictures and symbols of hostility or illustration of cruelty, especially in the story of the moderate pressure, where there is a character called Ghassan. He is blamed for getting involved with a strange group that has its whereabouts under investigation; although, it is not easy to confirm this is in the text. As the investigation goes on, he is then required to either sit or stand at a given position for a long time, while receiving beatings. Moreover, there was no permission to rest at night or to access any medical attention, when the need arose.

Every time he goes to court to learn his verdict, the case is always postponed to remove some evidence provided against him. There seems to be no fair justice against him up to some many days, when he is set free, because there was not enough prove of the claim. While in custody, he goes through a lot of brutality, cruelty, and pain. This is clearly shown in most of the pictures and through words; Sacco has used many illustrations to show the brutality, violence, hostility, as well as injustice. He explores another theme called hypocrisy, which is particularly enhanced by the Palestine’s action on the Israelites. This is well-evident with the help of images. The Israelites appear to be hopeful, brighter, and livelier, unlike the Palestines. This is best illustrated by the way Tell and Nablus appear. Sacco is lying on the seat, next to the two beautiful women, and it seems to be a sunny humid day, in Nablus. Sacco appears to be with a group of Palestines, they are afraid, and there is another group of threatening military at the back of them (Hedges and Sacco 29).

The author refers to the films of hostility to be similar to the real life in the past and the contemporary life. When Sacco reaches the Saleh’s place of work, he meets Saleh’s managers, who then try to enquire on the pictures that were taken by Sacco. He then uses some quote to describe violence. Then, in the end, his pictures are not purchased, since the faces could not be clearly seen. The theme does not come out clearly like other subjects, a reader can only identify this clearly from some of the examples given at the cover. Sacco creates an outstanding peak, so as such incidents are amongst the true structure mass of history. The course of what occurred was slow to understand well, and outshined by the new growth in the Suez crisis. Sacco’s image as of a reporter-cartoonist was recognized with “Palestine” and “Safe Area Gorazde”, has saved them from darkness, since are just “like countless past disasters more than many years that hardly speed annotation rank in the wide clearance of the past, although, they always had the tons sorrow and rage that form contemporary proceedings” (Said 23).

There are several additional topics represented in this work of fiction, which an individual can explore into, though already mentioned earlier. Sacco’s picture narrative is enjoyable to read and to comprehend. This means that an individual can be caught up in the whole narrative, even though in general the book appears to be a bit discouraging. It may be hard for many readers to really understand what the book is all about. A person can say it is about the fight over land, but, the circumstances, the chaos, the real level of cruelty, or yet what appears like a shape of apartheid that was enhanced in the Saccos novel, the book is informative though most of the narratives that show hostility and cruelty in the Western countries. Most of the descriptions support this idea that an individual cannot see clearly at first. Joe is exposed to deverity taking photos of violence, though he does not act in response. Saleh, when he is there, is shown with his camera ready, waiting for the various form of fighting to arise. There is a brilliant portrait of Saburo on page 54; his camera lens appears big, just like a telescope. On the other hand, Sacco is chatting with another reporter. Saleh says he is exhausted of his present position, since all of the cruelty of the intifada is coming up slowly and the photos are not good anymore.

Given that all the Jews have gone through pain from other people in the different societies and that they have been discriminated against, it easy to think that they could not imagine wreaking anybody in the same way. He uses the quotes that appear to be evocative to the one given during the period of Holocaust; the quotes like the Jewish are not human. The situation of hypocrisy is clear in the whole novel. Another theme of scandalous nature of the press, Sacco is expressing the way his intensions are, to actually see the chaos happening, since they can contribute more to his writing, so as to get the market though. Sacco really did not understand the way it all has started. The way he comes across Saburo, the Japanese reporter, who never wanted to take photos about cruelty or have the photo that seemed to be “Too Heavy in some way”, Sacco confesses to be a “vulture”; though, he cannot really feel sorry for being so self-centered (Sacco 45).

Both the government and the press seemed not to remember that slaughters are still alive in the minds of many that were affected. Sacco then uses Abed El-Aziz El-Rantisi as the head of Humans, who were staying in Khan Youn He is talking about the way his uncle was murdered. He says it with bitterness in his heart. The brilliance and speed of Sacco’s pictures paired with an extremely well-versed and clever verbal story, work very well in narrating the tale. In fact, it is hard to picture the way another kind of reporting can create such events to appear interesting. Many papers or TV journalists know that the beginning of the present catastrophes lies in unclear, unpublicized actions. However, they also know that their information editors are most engrossed in what is latest and are expected to release distraction into the past, as journalistic decadence liable to bore and confuse the viewers (Sacco 34).

The author’s detection of Palestinian and Israeli is persistent and inspiring. He gives the information about the people, who assist him, particularly his fixer Abed, and conveys back the two eras about Gaza Strip, which is a town that was full of refugees in 1950s, just like it is now. Khalid inquires from Sacco to know about the happenings in the West. This then touches him so much, though they appear normal to community from the West; for example, in terms of the issues about sex. This personality of immorality has an effect on a person’s own opinion of right and wrong. In Palestine, for instance, the reader is exposed to a variety of characters and individual views of what evil or good is. For example, the body of Suddam Hussein, to most people (Westerners, Israelis); Hussein is portrayed as a bad person. On the other hand, to some of the Palestinians characterized, Hussein was a strength of excellence and freedom, and to some extent the resort of the last hope. Wickedness in the narrative is represented to the person, who reads in many situations that our people, cultural customs, and ethics can appreciate. Cruel violence, deficiency, apartheid, and suffering are all signs of the evil doings. Sacco assumed the work of ignored pre-photography war performer, when exploiting the tale and the textual devices of the humorous book. Other authors have included humor in their writings in order to break the monotony of narration and to relieve tension. This makes him unique; though, it could have been more enjoyable, if he had employed it as a constant style of writing.

The novel handles the ideas of the rest of the world’s cultural norms and ethics. Individual ideas being evil means doing something that does not appear pleasant to the other human being, culture, or the principles. Some parts of the novel deal with variations in the values of a given culture. For instance, the manner, in which the command of the murder of a treacherous woman is issued. According to the people from the West, this sound inhuman, but to the Palestines, it is their faith and belief; hence, they have the authority to do so, as assigned with respect to the family. The book shows many dirty actions of the Palestines, which is a direct reflection of the contemporary world.

Works Cited

Hedges, Chris, and Joe Sacco. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. New York: Nation Books, 2012. Print.

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. London: Jonathan Cape, 2003. Print.

Said, Edward W. The Question of Palestine. London: Jonathan Cape, 1980. Print.

Fundamentals of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View by Steven E. Barkan [Book Review]



Criminology and criminal justice elicit much debate across different societies as a result of the differences in the application of theories that help to explain these areas. While in some societies certain practices might be considered as criminal, in some others such crimes have been legalized and do not attract the kind of backlash and objection witnessed in some societies. As such, criminal justice is tentatively assumed to be a relative practice that is depended on the sociological perspective of what constitutes a crime. This paper is a book review of Steven E. Barkan’s Fundamentals of criminal justice: A sociological view. The paper identifies the theories and practices in criminal justice as explained by the author and how the theories are applicable in a sociological perspective of criminology.

Keywords: criminal justice, criminology, sociological perspective, crime

Book Review: Fundamentals of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View by Steven E. Barkan


Criminology has been at the center of study for a long time, during which a number of theories have been put forward by different researchers. It is also a dynamic part of the society which has precipitated the formation of fields such as criminal justice and criminological theories. In this paper, I provide a review of Steven E. Barkan’s book titled Fundamentals of criminal justice: a Sociological view. Specifically, the paper identifies the theories and practices in criminal justice as explained by the author. It also examines how the theories are applicable in a sociological perspective of criminology.

Barkan explores the social understanding of what constitutes a crime. He observes that crime is relative depending on the social values and virtues. He notes that it has presented some challenges to the interpretation of the criminal justice and the theories and practices in different sociological settings. The author identifies three categories of crime which are sociological recognized by crime experts. They form the premises on which all criminal justice systems are founded; at least in countries where law and order are maintained.

One of the categories is that of crimes that are committed against a person. The theory behind this form of crime states that the crimes involve acts of violence perpetrated or threatened against a person. Examples include robbery with violence and mugging. The second category according to the sociological theory is that of crimes against property which include theft, and particular kinds of damage maliciously caused by other persons such as arson. The third category that the author identifies and which presents a dilemma to criminal justice is what they call victimless crimes. These forms of crime do not involve injury or harm to the person, but the society abhors them only because social tenets consider them to be a crime. An example is prostitution. The author notes that it has been difficult to argue for charges of prostitution in many countries. Indeed, some countries have even gone ahead to legalize prostitution even though a large percentage of the people in these countries still believe that prostitution is a crime.

Barkan, a sociologist and a professor who specializes in criminology and the death penalty, expounds on the sociological factors that contribute to the committing of crime and how these factors are relayed in the delivery of criminal justice. An interesting area that the author dwells on is the criminal profiling, whereby similar crimes committed may attract different criminal justices. Barkan also notes that profiling of the criminal in terms of age and gender can help in identifying the causes of crime and deviant behavior. It can also help in identifying the kind of criminal justice system applicable as well as the criminal theories to be used in meting out the criminal justice. Other factors that the author identifies as influential in the interpretation and application of criminal justice and practice include race, ethnicity, and social class. An interesting fact, which might be explored further, is the claim that age determines the likeliness of one committing a crime. That is, the premise that older people are less likely to commit violent crimes as compared to the youth. This is an interesting fact because the criminal justice rarely recognizes this trend. Whether this is a hint for policy makers to come up with different legal enforcement for people of different ages remains an issue of debate.

However, according to the author, age is an important factor in formulating the trend of social criminology. It can help in understanding the motivation for crime and how the criminal justice should be applied. On the part of gender, the author notes that men are more likely to be arrested for violent and property crimes compared to women. The theories that help to explain this disproportionate crime commission between genders is that the society allows men more freedom than women. Thus, men have higher chances or many opportunities to commit a crime compared to women. In other words, the commission of a crime is a formulation of the society especially on the part of men since it allows them to have more freedom than women. Someone can then ask himself about what would happen if the social freedom favored women. That is, would the cases of crime be reversed so that we have more women engaging in crimes than men? This is a great topic for discussion given that many societies across the world are increasingly giving women more freedom than were hitherto allowed. It brings the question as to whether the society actually permits some people, the men folk, to commit crimes than women.

The other theory explaining this phenomenon is that conventionally, the criminal justice system, led by the police and courts, has been less willing to see a woman as a criminal. Therefore, fewer women are actually arrested and convicted of crimes than they actually commit them. Interestingly, Barkan notes that the gap between men and women who are involved in crimes is narrowing. This is possibly as a result of gender equality, which is generally encouraging women to commit crimes. Barkan’s argument borders on the controversy already identified. Indeed, this could explain why people commit crimes and may have great ramifications on the application of criminal justice and understanding of criminology by the police and the courts.

Barkan raises more questions than answers when it comes to understanding of dynamics of criminal justice and criminology in general. One of the areas that he dwells on is the role that media plays in propounding the problem of crime in society. It is agreeable that given the author’s profile and the scholarship, his work is based on insightful and intensive research. For instance, his argument that though there is a general public perception that the rate of crime commission has increased in the last ten years is a creation of the media. He adds that the statistical analysis of the available evidence shows that crime rates have decreased rather than increased. However, one can argue that media reports from the empirical evidence collected at crime scenes and from court reports do not exaggerate anything when it comes to incidences of crimes. Furthermore, it could be interesting to know exactly the reason why the media in general would be fascinated with crimes to the point of wanting to exaggerate. This is so noting that the criminal justice system itself expects media to assist in sensitizing the public about the dangers of crime and even to help in fighting crime.

From the author’s experience, it is evident that sociological analysis of criminal justice is a multifaceted field. It incorporates different factors that come into play to determine the testability of any criminology theory. Thus, it helps to further or deter the application of criminal justice effectively. It should be noted that sociological perspectives and even the understanding of what constitutes a crime varies across the society as well as through different ages and genders. This is why the author states that there is a need to have different versions for these groups. However, he admits that what is challenging is that the administration of justice is supposed to be a universal practice. This would ensure that people who commit crimes anywhere around the world can be subjected on the same criminal justice.

Barkan uses his extensive experience in the area of criminology to theorize on the factors that influence the sociological perspective of what a crime is. He goes ahead to explain how these factors can be incorporated in the criminal justice to ensure maximum justice to the offenders and the victims of crimes. He explores topics such as punishments and corrections, courts and sentencing, and crime and victimization. His discussion reveals that criminology is an ever-changing field. He also reveals that application of any set of laws in punishing or apprehending crime offenders will take more than just good enforcement by the police of courts. In fact, the society plays a crucial role in ensuring that what is projected as a crime is indeed a crime. This must be agreed upon by the majority of people in that particular society.

However, this does not imply that everything and anything that is designated as a crime is a crime to everyone. Barkan identifies this is the general assumption that the society tends to attach to victimless crimes such as prostitution or same sex marriages, which to others is not a crime at all. Some criminal justice systems have even laws that legally criminalize such acts yet the interpretation of what is and what is not a crime is relative to the individual involved.

The Author’s profile

The author, Steven E. Barkan, is an accomplished scholar in criminology and a professor at the University of Maine. He has served as the president of the Society for the Social Problems and chaired the Law and Society Division of SSSP. Barkan has also been an editor of both Social Problems, a journal of the SSSP and the American Sociological Association’s newsletter in the Collection Behavior and Social Movement section. Barkan’s areas of focus include criminology and a collection of social behavioral movements. He is also involved in feminism, punishment and racial attitudes, as well as public opinion. Barkan has over time published in many notable journals including his “Research in Crime and Delinquency”, “Social Problems”, “Sociological Inquiry”, and “Race and Society”. He has been instrumental in the introduction of statistical analysis to understand trends in criminology, as well as the application of criminal justice theories. One of the interesting findings that he made in his Ph.D. dissertation titled Protesters on trial: Criminal justice in the Southern civil rights and Vietnam antiwar movements was that the government publicized trials in order to exert social controls on the society in general.


Generally, Barkan offers an intensive analysis of how society influences the crimes and also the criminal justice systems that are put in place. The book offers a great source of information for anyone who wants to deeply engage in understanding the dynamics that lead to crimes commission. His work is also instrumental in understanding how the society’s perspectives help to shape the criminal justice system. The book is highly researched and offers illustrations, examples, and case studies of criminal cases that have challenged the criminal justice system in the United States. It emphasizes on what qualifies as a crime and why it is important to explore all the avenues that are available before meting out judgment for a given crime. In general, Barkan’s book remains a good reference material for any person who wants to divulge further in the understanding of how society conspires to bring about the kind of criminal justice systems that we have in different countries of the world.


Barkan, S. E. (2011). Fundamentals Of Criminal Justice: A Sociological View. New York: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Independence Lost [Book Review]


Certainly, the rebelling colonists in the North and the residents of the Gulf Coast treated the revolution in different ways. Initially, they saw the revolution as the one more imperial war for getting more lands and treasures. Even though the Gulf Coast was the only one site that was outside the rebelling colonies, later, it also joined the United States. The British, Spanish, French, and Native Americans inhabited that area. The population was truly diverse and it should be noted that a vast majority of the people living there had no interest in the British attempts to regulate its colonists. Moreover, they did not want to rebel. However, when the war began, many people started to consider is as the source of dangers and opportunities for them and their families. Therefore, they started to satisfy their own ambitions, as well the ambitions of their families and ethnic groups.

In her famous work, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution, a talented historian, Kathleen DuVal, presents a vivid and detailed analysis of the war and its consequences for the people living in the territories with the crossing interests. Noteworthy, the fundamental long-term need of all nations was to gain more lands, where the extended population could live. In the short-term perspective, these people had to decide whether they needed to get involved in the conflict or not. Besides, they had to choose the side to support and understand how to protects their lives and property.

In the 18th century, independence was not the common goal. Of course, for most people living on the continent, interdependence was a much more realistic goal. However, on the Gulf Coast, the Native-American leaders tried to achieve the sovereign independence. After winning the American Revolution, the rebelling people improved their varieties of independence at the cost of Native Americans, whose ancestors inhabited this land for many ages. Despite the fact that they lived on this land for many years and had the rights to use these lands as they wanted, the Indians were not invited into the significant meetings, on which the questions of the end of the war or joining the union of sovereign states were discussed.

In some cases, the war allowed to get the individual liberties and even freedom from slavery, though, it was not a direct path to the overall abolition of slavery. The status of white women did not undergo the significant changes, neither positive nor negative, and only the men could take the life-changing decisions. Although the official documents say that almost a half of the population was female, only a few women are mentioned in terms of building the nation. Kathleen DuVal masterfully relates the fates of her characters to the history of the whole nation. She tells that the major part of the lands in the region was under the possession of Indians. Therefore, the success or failure of the French, British, or Spanish troops was dependent from the decision of the Native Americans to join the war or not. In this regard, the author mentions two famous Indians. The first one is Payamataha, a leader of Chickasaws tribe, who took multiple life-changing decisions. He was a good diplomat and a spiritual leader of his ethnic group, who strived to get the independence for his people taking the position of the peaceful coexistence with other tribes. During the 1760s and 1770s, he tried to maintain peace with other tribes even the ones that were their long-time enemies. The forces that were beyond his control later became the source of problems. The other leader discussed in the book is Alexander McGillivray, who supported British during the war. What is more, he promoted Creek independence and supported a confederation of Indian nations that wanted to protect their land.

As for the other characters, one should also mention Oliver Pollock, a prosperous merchant in Havana and New Orleans, who did business successfully both with the French and Spanish. He was appointed by The Continental Congress as a commercial agent in Louisiana. Pollock invested all his faith into the rebels in the American Revolution. However, his wife, Margaret O’Brien, believed that her husband’s decision negatively changed the life of their family. Isabella Chrystie and James Bryce supported the British. They lived in West Florida and firmly believed that the independence was no more than the result of the order set by the British.

Although Petit Jean was enslaved, he played a much more significant role in post-1763 compared to other slaves. He was a cattle driver, who knew the peculiarities of the whole landscape around him, and thus, was entrusted with the great responsibility. Indeed, the slaves were loyal to their families and the common goal but not to their masters.
One more character, Amand Broussard, was a Louisiana rancher. His family was expelled by the British from Acadia. Though the Acadians succeeded in doing business the British in West Florida, they did not forget the bad treatment they received from the British.

To summarize, in this book, the author writes, “Struggling for the American independence really meant struggling for the right balance of dependence and independence. Both the European empires and Native Americans wanted to reach different balances and, therefore, both lost in North America.” This story is truly incredible and it should be noted that Kathleen DuVal tells it brilliantly.

James Baldwin’s Another Country [Book Review]


Love was a country he knew nothing about.

James Baldwin, Another Country

James Baldwin’s Another country remains a “country” people know almost nothing about so far. This country mixes such a wide range of problems people have been facing since Baldwin’s times until the present moment. But what if it is simply the other side of prosperous America, where racial problems, problems of sexual minorities, family problems, finding oneself questions still turn around? The novel inwardly puts into shivering, hence deserves to be marked as an admirable guide to the backstreets of dark souls of humans and society they live in.

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