Masculinity and justice: Generational changes in John Grisham's The Chamber

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Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of masculinity in the Southern states of America across three generations. These three generations are represented in John Grisham's popular novel The Chamber (1994) by Sam Cayhall, his son Eddie Hall, and his grandson Adam. The Chamber denounces, as is habitual in Grisham's work, the corruption of the legal and political system in the United States, exposing in this case the cruelty of the death penalty and the wrong political uses white politicians make of it. However, the other main focus of the book is the relationship between Sam, an ex-Klan terrorist sentenced to die for killing two Jewish children in 1967, and his grandson, a lawyer trying to save him from the gas chamber in 1990. This relationship hinges on the suicide of Eddie, who concealed from Adam the existence of Sam and his crimes. An analysis of the representation of the three generations in The Chamber leads to the conclusion that the main difference between Sam's patriarchal generation and Adam's autonomous one is their capability to pass judgement on the previous generation and to opt for change. Sam cannot question the ways of his father, but his son does, which leads him to die. Since neither hatred nor death are a valid solution, Adam is forced, first, to reconstruct his past and, next, choose a moral option that is meant to be representative of the men of his generation. This is marked, above all, by a multiplication of the possibilities in which men can choose to live. Adam chooses working for the reform of the law - for implementing justice - rather than for fatherhood or commitment to a woman. This also shows that changes in masculinity need not be regulated exclusively by inter-gender relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-101
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture
Volume9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002

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