Deconstructing Bruce Springsteen's album, "Nebraska," Levine demonstrates how Springsteen's songs challenge modern paradigms of crime, punishment and the American criminal justice system. Professor Levine deconstructs the message of the album by introducing the reader to the three categories of criminals who appear on the album: The enigmatic criminal; the sympathetic criminal; and the "criminal as brother." Professor Levine first examines the enigmatic criminal who materializes in Springsteen's title track, "Nebraska." This criminal shows no remorse for his crime and makes no attempt to justify or explain his actions. The enigmatic criminal demonstrates how an exploration of the criminal mindset may not yield any insight into the mysteries of senseless criminal acts, their causes, or their motivations. Professor Levine next examines the sympathetic criminal who manifests himself in three separate tracks: "Atlantic City"; "Johnny 99"; and "State Trooper." These criminals regret their wrongful acts and provide the listener with sympathetic explanations for their conduct and resulting hardships. Such explanations include a man who turns to crime because he is unable to pay his debts though legal means, a criminal whose jail sentence will cause great emotional hardship on his family, and a criminal whose actions stem from a life filled with loneliness, desperation, and despair. Though one does not excuse their conduct, one begins to understand the motivations underlying the criminal's actions. Lastly, Professor Levine examines Springsteen's portrayal of the "criminal as brother" in the track "Highway Patrolman." This criminal does not openly seek forgiveness or mitigation of his punishment through explanation. Instead, he avoids punishment from the American criminal justice system all together because the patrolman charged with pursuing him is his brother who allows him to flee the country. Professor Levine concludes that "Highway Patrolman" fuels debate over the boundaries of law, loyalty, and the complexity of striking the appropriate balance between justice and mercy.
14 Widener L. Rev. 767 (2004-2005)
14 Widener L. Rev. 767