In 1988, the now-bestselling author and former lawyer John Grisham had his first book published.
Entitled "A Time to Kill", the novel presented the story of a small Mississippi town that becomes the scene of a spectacular trial: After two white men rape his daughter, her black father named Carl Lee Hailey shoots them. He then hires the white street lawyer Jake Brigance as his attorney, who also defended his brother in a different case. A wave of racial tension hits the town, with its citizens taking sides, the black community organizing marches and the Ku-Klux-Klan returning to the area. As the situation escalates, the national guard is called into town, while everybody is awaiting the trial jury's decision. John Grisham himself claims that he was inspired to write the novel when he witnessed a rape trial in 1984 and was shocked by the young victims testimony. .
2. PURPOSE OF THIS PAPER.
The book offers a variety of social commentary, especially on race-related issues. Due to his work as a lawyer, John Grisham also presents a supposedly accurate image of the proceedings of the law, including the indictment, the selection of the trial jury and the preparations of both the DA and the defendant's lawyer. .
While the commonplace approach of analysing the novel would be to place it within the context of its time of publication and/or the time frame the story is set in, this paper seeks to determine its current-day relevance in terms of how racial issues are treated within the American judicial system.
3. PREVIOUS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT TOPICALITY OF THE NOVEL.
As early as 1996, when the movie based upon the novel was released, some critics argued that the presentation of the racial tension felt outdated and inaccurate. Stephen Hunter, who reviewed the film for the Baltimore Sun wrote:.
"Why is it taking place in 1996 instead of 1958? Don't ask me.
All the '58 stereotypes are in abundant supply: mellifluous judge, evil, smirky prosecutor, drunken law professor, cynical divorce lawyer pal, good ol' dog, morally pure African-American, Cro-Magnon white racists.