Near the end of Christopher Durang’s satirical one-act play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, the title character shoots dead one rebellious former student in self-defense and holds three others at gunpoint before murdering one of them (the gay one). Addressing the audience during a moment of calm between the shootings, Sister Mary Ignatius insists, “Most of my students turned out beautifully, these are the few exceptions.” She then turns to her seven-year-old stage assistant, Thomas. “But we never give up on those who’ve turned out badly, do we?” she asks in obvious bad faith. “What is the story of the Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep?”

THOMAS: The Good Shepherd was so concerned about his Lost Sheep that He left his flock to go find the Lost Sheep, and then He found it.

SISTER: That’s right. And while he was gone, a great big wolf came and killed his
entire flock. No, just kidding. I’m feeling lightheaded from all this excitement.

Finally, Sister explicates the parable in earnest. “By the story of the Lost Sheep,” she states, “Christ tells us that when a sinner strays, we mustn’t give up on the sinner.”

More… “A Good Parable is Hard to Write”

Myles Weber is the author of Consuming Silences: How We Read Authors Who Don’t Publish. His literary criticism appears frequently in such journals as The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, The Kenyon Review, The Sewanee Review, Salmagundi, and Michigan Quarterly Review. He is an associate professor of English at Winona State University in Minnesota.



One fine day in the mid-’50s, the eminent British actor Charles Laughton and the brilliant (if doomed) American critic James Agee put their minds together with the aim of adapting David Grubb’s novel The Night of the Hunter into a screenplay. Agee was drunk. He couldn’t put together a coherent screenplay.  But he had the mood right — Southern Gothic — and Laughton slapped that Agee madness together with a noir look and German Expressionist approach. Most of the scenes in the movie are mean and tight. The shadows go on forever. Interiors are framed in pointy triangles of light against the gloom.

Then, of course, there is Robert Mitchum. He plays Harry Powell, the preacher with “HATE” tattooed on one set of knuckles and “LOVE” on the other. Powell has a particular hatred of women. In prison… More…