Failure of the Legal System in Atonement, Wonder Boys and The Round House

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The code of Hammurabi, dating back to 1772 BC, is one of the oldest recorded legal codes and reflects the early Babylonians’ views of justice. The code is best known for “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” By enumerating punishments for certain crimes the code removes ambiguity and combined with its relatively harsh penalties, especially on lower class citizens, served as an effective deterrent. More profoundly however, Hammurabi’s code formally shifted justice-seeking responsibilities from the individual to the state. Today, most modern legal systems are structured similarly to Hammurabi’s code with their own codified laws and listed punishments. Capital punishment and the idea that “the punishment should fit he crime” are…show more content…
It is because justice is not rigidly defined that some opt to pursue justice by means unsanctioned by the state. In Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Louise Erdrich’s The Round House the legal system fails to produce just outcomes. In Atonement one of the main characters, Robbie is convicted of raping a young girl, when in fact he is innocent. Despite only unsubstantiated evidence from a 13-year-old girl, he is convicted. Only after the judicial system had failed did the girl wish to recant her former account, but by then it was too late. “ If you were lying then, why should a court believe you now? There are no new facts, and you’re an unreliable witness” (McEwan 82). In this unjust sentencing of an innocent man, Atonement shows that not only does the legal system sometimes err, but that these errors are often particularly difficult to ameliorate. Unfortunately this is not an anomaly. One in nine people sentenced to death row were later exonerated showing that sometimes instead of being the solvency for wrongdoings, the legal system can be the source (Stevenson). While Atonement showed the legal system’s complicity in some injustices, in both Wonder Boys and The Round House the legal system’s failure to serve justice can be seen. In Wonder Boys, the reader follows the protagonist through an erratic weekend in which he engages in several unethical and unlawful behaviors. Grady Tripp (the main character), throughout the course

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