In the series The Wire, the city of Baltimore appears as an ecosystem where legal and illegal institutions often mirror one another: for example, chain of command matters in the drug business just as it does in the police and elsewhere. The different institutions in the ecosystem seem to unintentionally work together to create a total system, namely a deeply flawed, dysfunctional, and often soul-crushing society. The series has been unusually interesting to sociologists (for example, William Julius Wilson and Anmol Chaddha) accustomed to reading broad institutional perspectives on class, race, and inequality.
In the various institutional parts of the system or network, each character has to learn how to deal with the hand they’ve been dealt and the available options. With an eye to FIVE of the following characters, discuss how these individuals confront, struggle against, or conform to the institutional parameters set before them in season 1: Cedric Daniels, Jimmy McNulty, D’Angelo Barksale, Lester Freamon, Russell “Stringer” Bell.
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