On May 7th, 2000, in the parking lot of Hotel Ramada Inn in Jacksonville, Florida, Mary Ann Stephens, a 65-year-old woman and her husband were approached by a black man who held them at gunpoint and asked for the woman’s pocketbook. Mrs. Stephens gets shot in the head before her husband. Ninety minutes later, a 15 year old black American teenager, Brenton Butler, gets accused of robbing and murdering the elderly white tourist. The police arrested the first black American guy they came across, a boy who was on his way to apply for a job at a Blockbuster Video outlet.
They had no evidence to tie him to the crime other than the positive I. D by the sole eyewitness to the murder, husband of the woman. Mr. Stephens was sure about one thing only; the shooter was a black guy. Butler gets interviewed by an intimidating police officer, Michael Glover, son of Sheriff of Jacksonville. Detective Glover took Butler deep into the woods allegedly to find the murder weapon but instead he hit him a couple of times to get a confession. Later, the case came into the hands of a lawyer, Patrick McGuinness. McGuinness investigated with another lawyer, Ann Finnell.
On his meeting with his client, Butler confessed to him that he was innocent and was forced to confess murdering the woman. McGuinness’ skepticism forced the investigations to look into the trivial evidence which he collected. Patrick McGuinness fought a battle for Brent Butler’s rights by proving that the case showed incompetence and prejudice shown by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He pointed the accusing finger at the corrupt and shameless culprits: Detectives Williams, Glover and Darnell. McGuinness disclosed that there was no physical evidence, DNA tests, weapons or other witnesses tying Butler to the crime.
He interrogated policemen on the stand and challenged their own words. The police admitted that they did little to investigate the crime and didn’t follow up any other leads. At the same time, Brenton Butler’s family had faith in his innocence and firmly believed that God will set Brenton free. They stood by him and encouraged him. In the end, McGuiness succeeded in proving his client innocent and the jury declared Brenton Butler not guilty. The film acts as an eye-opener to the deceits of the police investigation and suggests rebalancing of the justice system.
Stevens’s lifelong conviction that poetry and poets must take the place of religion and priests to provide form and meaning for human life is implicit in “Sunday Morning,” not explicit, as it would become in his later poetry. “Sunday Morning,” however, does clear the way for those poems, and it establishes basic themes that Stevens would employ in all of his subsequent work.
The most important of these themes is the idea that human perception of beauty requires the recognition that everything earthly is temporary. Everyone will die, everything will change; permanence must be recognized as an illusion. Christianity, Judaism, or any religion promising permanence is false because it envisions a paradise that is something like our earth but without the inherent changes in earth’s life and circumstance.
This does not mean that religious emotion must be stifled, only that it must find a more appropriate outlet. This new form is presented in the seventh strophe, and it amounts to the worship of nature and the integral connection between humans and the rest of the natural world. The men in this image, dancing in an orgy, celebrate the sun as the natural source of life, present with them, and the tune they chant is composed of the objects in the world around them.
At the time he wrote “Sunday Morning,” Stevens had not yet developed fully the idea that all systems of order are necessarily fictions, fulfilling a need all humans have for fictions that will make life seem comprehensible. Since religion, in his view, had failed to provide a meaningful order, poetry would have to do so. This idea would receive extended treatment in works such as Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction (1942). While celebrating “chaos,” “Sunday Morning” also anticipates the later theme by suggesting that aspects of religion, such as worship and ritual, are important to human existence.
“Sunday Morning” has remained one of Stevens’s best-known poems. Written at the beginning of his career as a poet, this poem introduces the themes that would dominate his verse, and it establishes a unique poetic manner. It is most memorable, finally, for its vivid use of color and action imagery and for its romantic evocation of the natural world.