What is gossip?

The answer can be found in Doubt, the 2008 film adaptation of the John Patrick Shanley’s stage play Doubt: A Parable, which won a Pulitzer Prize:

A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew – I know none of you have ever done this. That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O’ Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. ‘Is gossiping a sin?’ she asked the old man. ‘Was that God All Mighty’s hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?’ ‘Yes,’ Father O’ Rourke answered her. ‘Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.’ So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. ‘Not so fast,’ says O’ Rourke. ‘I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.’ So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. ‘Did you cut the pillow with a knife?’ he says. ‘Yes, Father.’ ‘And what were the results?’ ‘Feathers,’ she said. ‘Feathers?’ he repeated. ‘Feathers; everywhere, Father.’ ‘Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.’ ‘And that,’ said Father O’ Rourke, ‘is gossip!’


One thought on “What is gossip?

  1. This was first posted on 11 April, 2010.

    Charley said: very good.

    K said: “it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went.” …
    Then people start gathering those feathers and painting them in different colours. Then they add other feathers to the mix and claim they had come from the original pillow. Soon everybody knows there were three pillows to start with and it was the woman who told Father O’Rourke to cut up the pillows.
    That, my friend, is a gossip.

    Shadowy figure said: I am more taken back by the bizarre catholic trappings of this event than the gossiping metaphor. Come on, surely the woman would understand the problem without an elaborate play with pillow and the feathers. The priest doesn’t come off as a wise man at all, rather someone who is drunk with the power of his position as the “father” of the parish. And the superstitious dream and the woman’s compulsive need for absolution while not knowing what she did wrong paints her as a childish moron. This quote has absolutely no insight to offer us.
    Probably an interesting movie though. I’d watch it.

    E said: interesting quote! i didn’t get to see this film though. these days i’m for more light-hearted films


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