Wow! John Grisham starts his writing career off with a wallop, and a hard act to follow. Racism, threats, juicy courtroom drama, murder, revenge, and controversy.
As solid and enthralling as this work of fiction is, it wasn’t the book that launched Grisham into his superstar status, believe it or not. That doesn’t happen until the release of his next book, The Firm (which I’ll start reading shortly).
But let’s talk about the controversy in A Time to Kill.
A little girl gets raped. No… your little girl gets raped. You have a weapon and a clear shot of the rapists. What do you do?
Now you’re in the jury box. The man being convicted was just exacting revenge on behalf of his battered and bruised daughter.
Do you convict him?
I know the law states that we are not to seek vigilante justice on our own, that we must leave it to the court to execute justice. It seems plain and simple, really. The man killed. The conviction of a guilty verdict should be implemented.
But Grisham’s brilliancy is that he blurs the lines between black and white (and I mean that both morally and ethnically).
This would be one of those very few scenarios where the movie had just a tiny edge up on the book. It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but from what I remember, Mathew McConaughey’s portrayal of our defense attorney Jake Brigance, in his closing argument, describes the heinous rape to an all-white, Southern jury. And then at the very end he says something like, “Now, imagine that the victim is white.”
That sort of happens in the book, except it’s a jury member who pulls that gut-wrenching punch.
If I were in the jury box, I might have very well given the verdict to the vindictive father and let him walk free. What about you? How did A Time to Kill affect you?
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