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My understanding that Professor Crawford, Jamal Wallace's English teacher, was bitter about losing the Pulitzer Prize to William Forrester, Jamal's friend. But I'm confused as to how he made the connection between Jamal and Forrester, given the latter's reclusiveness. And while Jamal may have been guilty of "plagiarism" by copying the title and first paragraph from one of Forrester's works, I don't see how Crawford would have known, given that Forrester never published anything after winning the Pulitzer, decades earlier. Were there concrete revelations that I missed, or was the audience asked to suspend disbelief and just assume that Crawford somehow knew?

And was there something earlier in the movie that triggered the bad blood between Crawford and Wallace? Ethnic "rivalry" perhaps? For instance, Crawford was played by an "obviously" Jewish actor named F. Murray Abraham. Was this incidental/accidental, or was the "backstory" that Crawford had anglicized a Jewish surname, and was otherwise insecure about his English language credentials?

  • I would guess that Crawford's presumption that the writing was plagiarized was mostly due to the combination of impressiveness and style of the writing. And the professor, was obviously very familiar with the writing of Forrester that was published, so whether subconsciously or not, the re-emergence of the style in Jamal's writing was enough to trigger him, But sure, I think the fact that Jamal was black and from the bronx and decidedly outside the 'institution' of fancy pants learning didn't help his chances either. – maxwell Apr 1 '15 at 4:17
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What triggers the bad blood between Crawford and Wallace?

Crawford is a know-it-all intellectual, used to humiliating rich kids who haven't had to work for anything. So when suddenly faced with someone at least as intelligent, or perhaps more so, he feels threatened and must do all he can to prove that Wallace is beneath him.

You bring up the possibility of ethnic rivalry. While I think there was possibly some of this implied as well, there isn't any concrete indication of it in the movie. I think the primary factor was Crawford asserting his superiority over others intellectually since he seemed to treat all the students this way.

The following scene is a great example of this conflict.


How did Crawford know about the alleged plagiarism if the story was unpublished?

Answer: it was published in The New Yorker

Crawford: We were hoping you might clarify some points concerning your submission. "A Season of Faith's Perfection." Your piece, correct?

Jamal: Yeah, that's it.

Crawford: It is standard policy to ask students if they wish to credit any source material or acknowledge any other writers when turning in an assignment. Do you wish to do that?

An essay titled Baseball's Best Year...with a subtitle that reads: "A Season of Faith's Perfection." Published in the New Yorker and written by William Forrester.

Your version is quite original, but there is the title and first paragraph to consider. Isn't there? Either you happen to have William Forrester's permission or have you some other explanation?

Jamal: No. That's my paper.

So Crawford recognized the title from when William Forrester published the essay in The New Yorker. Jamal was unaware of this when he turned in the paper, but he had also promised to keep his relationship with William a secret.

Jamal: Why have me rewrite something you published?

William: Be careful.

Jamal: Why didn't you tell me some magazine ran it?

William: Why the hell should it matter? ... You promised me anything we wrote in here would stay in here.

William of course shows up to redeem Jamal by telling everyone in public that he in fact gave him permission to use his work.

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Crawford has a long term animosity with Forrester. Forrester - already a recluse - was contacted by Crawford who wanted to write an biography on Forrester. Forrester declined and so Crawford who already had done a lot of research on Forrester decided to go ahead a write it.

Forrester upon hearing this called several publishers and indicated to them that if they did not take up Crawford's work then Forrester 'might' consider writing a sequel to 'Avalon Lost' - his award winning novel. This left Crawford bitter and in a teaching position, rather that the heights of an acknowledged writer.

Crawford is used to ruling supreme over his students as well as being a professor in an elite school. Unfortunately when Jamal arrives Crawford is NOT impressed and feels that a 'black boy form the Ghetto' would not have the necessary knowledge to be in his class. That Jamal does have talent is a direct affront to the professors perceived superiority - and puts him on a dangerous path where the professor will look for any excuse to kick Jamal out.. thus proving the professors viewpoint - Jamal did NOT belong there.

Enter the essay.

Jamal - stumped for words - uses a title and a first paragraph from Forrester's own writings. After the first paragraph everything else is Jamal's creation. However unknown to Jamal - Forrester did publish this piece in an obscure book years before. Crawford spots this due to his extensive knowledge of Forrester - and knows the chances that Jamal would have found it by himself were slim - therefore he must have had contact with Forrester. This enrages Crawford who not only feels maligned by Forrester (And Forrester had warned Jamal of Crawford hatred) but Jamal's refusal to verify his link with Forrester can only mean one thing.. Jamal was in league with Forrester against Crawford, and that Jamal's brilliance must be from coaching by Forrester.

All this is a slap in the face to his pride. From there Crawford takes every opportunity to discredit Jamal and force him from the college. Even when finding the truth that Jamal DID write the essay himself and his promise not to expose Forrester - Crawford continue to stand his ground against Jamal.

The board overrules Crawford and accepts Jamal's entry.. even asking if Forrester might want to replace Crawford (Have you ever considered a teaching position). As such we do not know the fate of Crawford as there is no mention in the rest of the film of him.

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