20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Way Better than Killing Time Watching TV,
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
Jake Brigance is a small-town lawyer with a small-town law practice, taking nickel & dime cases to make ends meet. A young attorney in Clanton, Mississippi, Jake's future as a big-time criminal defense lawyer is incredibly turned down a frightening path in which he encounters the desperate and grim face of racism at its worst. Because of his skill in defending Lester Hailey, Jake is hired to defend Carl Lee Hailey in hopes of obtaining Carl Lee's freedom, despite Carl Lee's admittedly pre-meditated murder of two white men, Billy Ray Cobb and Ernest "Pete" Willard.
The rape of ten year old Tanya, Carl Lee's daughter, by Billy Ray and Pete, has to be one of the most torturous events in fiction that Grisham has written; to even imagine that two men could perpetrate such an act on so young a child is absolutely horrific and incredible. Throughout, Grisham plays strongly on the premise that people who have children know exactly what they would do, were they in Carl Lee's shoes - to avenge the horror of such despicable actions in the only way such men would understand - violent death.
When I first read this novel, I was angered and irritated by the depth of hatred that exists within racism. I was angered that had Carl Lee been a white man bent on avenging his daughter's suffering, he would never have had to face trial. Grisham in fact, points this out several times throughout the novel, and this becomes a rallying point for Carl Lee's supporters. Whereas vigilante justice is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination, Grisham appeals to the emotions of parents - black or white - and succeeds in winning us over. In fact, this is exactly how the jury decides Carl Lee's fate, rejecting the pressure of the Klan, as well as the black community who thronged the courthouse chanting, "Free Carl Lee!".
A Time to Kill is a disturbing novel, aside from the raping and killing that opens the tale. It is not possible to look at our justice system the same way, especially from the viewpoint of the black community in the South - even today. It seems that although we have come far since the 1960's and Dr. King, Grisham would have us believe that not much has changed for the better.