Updated: Sep 13
Benjamin D. Cox is the esteemed Dean of Ambrose College's Faculty of Law.
The Dean sees Sam as a nail that needs to be hammered down, while Sam finds the Dean to be beyond irritating and a control freak, especially with how the Dean is concerned with more than just getting him to pass his classes.
The Dean is a “moralist” who wants to “help” Sam by moulding him into what he thinks a “normal” student should be. He wants him to join the football team (although Sam is not athletic and doesn’t want to), go to church and join a Protestant Bible study group (although he knows Sam’s an atheist from a Jewish family), etc. The Dean subconsciously sees his beliefs and preferences as the “law” the students should obey.
What angers Sam the most is that Dean Cox has an an implicit bias against non-Anglo immigrants and their second-generation children. Dean Cox represents the how law school was at the time (during the 1920s) an “old boys club” dominated by rich Anglo-descended families who have been in the USA for at least 5 generations. Dean Cox’s family has been in the US since the Mayflower and he can trace his ancestry back to the original settlers and colonies of the 17th century.
Sam, as we know, is a second generation American with Yiddish-speaking, atheist, left-leaning Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. He grew up in a mixed class neighbourhood dominated by Jewish and Italian (mostly Sicilian) immigrants. He is proud of his Russian-Jewish-American identity and his Yiddish language.
Dean Cox, however, is someone who implicitly thinks most immigrants come from a "less advanced" culture and believes they should totally assimilate and leave non-English languages and cultures behind to “become true Americans.” This is in spite of the Dean's claims that he is open-minded towards all cultures.