Presentation Title

Lawyers in British and American Literature: Perceptions and Redemptions

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

HUB 260

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Abstract

The portrayals of lawyers in British and American literature have often been perceived as negative. But an examination of some of the most well known of these literary characters reveals that despite such negative perceptions, authors have often fitted them with many positive attributes. In British literature, although the Sergeant of the Law in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales “semed bisier than he was,” he was also “war and wys,” “ful riche of excellence,” and “of greet reverence.” In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare fashions Portia as a woman who assumes the role of a lawyer for an altruistic purpose. The lawyer in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House seems cold-hearted and power-hungry, but Dickens gives him redeeming qualities-- portraying him as being highly respected and trustworthy as well. In American author Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, attorney David Wilson uses negative perceptions about lawyers to his advantage in the civil process of solving a murder. Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most highly respected lawyer in all American literature, one who upholds the law in its most ideal form. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller gives us two lawyers: Hathorne, who is portrayed as being pious and trustworthy and Danforth, whose sole desire is to exercise his power and influence over others. The contrast between these two attorneys reflects the contrast that exists between the common perception and the actual portrayal of how these lawyers are characterized in literature.

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Nov 12th, 3:15 PM Nov 12th, 3:30 PM

Lawyers in British and American Literature: Perceptions and Redemptions

HUB 260

The portrayals of lawyers in British and American literature have often been perceived as negative. But an examination of some of the most well known of these literary characters reveals that despite such negative perceptions, authors have often fitted them with many positive attributes. In British literature, although the Sergeant of the Law in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales “semed bisier than he was,” he was also “war and wys,” “ful riche of excellence,” and “of greet reverence.” In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare fashions Portia as a woman who assumes the role of a lawyer for an altruistic purpose. The lawyer in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House seems cold-hearted and power-hungry, but Dickens gives him redeeming qualities-- portraying him as being highly respected and trustworthy as well. In American author Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, attorney David Wilson uses negative perceptions about lawyers to his advantage in the civil process of solving a murder. Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most highly respected lawyer in all American literature, one who upholds the law in its most ideal form. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller gives us two lawyers: Hathorne, who is portrayed as being pious and trustworthy and Danforth, whose sole desire is to exercise his power and influence over others. The contrast between these two attorneys reflects the contrast that exists between the common perception and the actual portrayal of how these lawyers are characterized in literature.