Lady Justice can be a cruel mistress and since writers thrive on the pain and confusion of their characters, there are a number of famous lawyers and court scenes to be found in fiction.
The Merchant of Venice (1596-1598?), William Shakespeare
Though justice be thy plea, consider this-
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.
Bleak House (1853), Charles Dickens
The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
A Passage To India (1924), E.M. Forster
There is no harm in deceiving society as long as she does not find you out, because it is only when she finds you out that you have harmed her; she is not like a friend or God, who are injured by the mere existence of unfaithfulness.
The Trial (1925), Franz Kafka
I see, these books are probably law books, and it is an essential part of the justice dispensed here that you should be condemned not only in innocence but also in ignorance.
The Stranger (1942), Albert Camus
Thus, I always began by assuming the worst; my appeal was dismissed. That meant, of course, I was to die. Sooner than others, obviously. ‘But,’ I reminded myself, ‘it’s common knowledge that life isn’t worth living, anyhow.’ And, on a wide view, I could see that it makes little difference whether one dies at the age of thirty or threescore and ten– since, in either case, other men will continue living, the world will go on as before. Also, whether I died now or forty years hence, this business of dying had to be got through, inevitably.
The Crucible (1953), Arthur Miller
We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Harper Lee
The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.
In Cold Blood (1966), Truman Capote
Those fellows, they’re always crying over killers. Never a thought for the victims.
2 thoughts on “Reading List: The Law”
If I may be so free, I’d like to suggest adding E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel to the list. I have never read as fine a book about the law as that one.
Keep up the good work with the blog
Excellent suggestion, and thank you!