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English 10 Honors
9 December 1996
The Chamber: A Look Into the Novel and Film
Stories about crime prove to be a strong part of America\'s entertainment in this day. In The Chamber, John Grisham writes about a Klansman who is convicted of murder and a grandson who tries to save his grandfather is on death row. This story is now a major motion picture.
This story carries a strong emotional following to it because it both questions and supports the death penalty in different ways. Grisham shows this when he writes: " ‘ I\'ve hurt a lot of people, Adam, and I haven\'t always stopped to think about it. But when you have a date with the grim reaper, you think about the damage you\'ve done.\' " The messages about the death penalty are brought about in different ways in the film and in the novel. Although the novel and film adaptation of The Chamber have some significant differences, the plot and character perspectives are used to convey a political message about the death penalty. (378)
The various characters in The Chamber have different traits and backgrounds that affect their perspectives on certain issues. Sam Cayhall is one of the main characters in the story whose background is filled with hate because of his connection with the Klan. "The second member of the team was a Klansman by the name of Sam Cayhall," "The FBI knew that Cayhall\'s father had been a Klansman, . . . " (Grisham 2-3). Sam, who is brought up under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, uses "politically incorrect" terms for other minorities when he talks with Adam Cayhall in death row. " ‘ You Jew boys never quit, do you?\' ", " ‘ How many nigger partners do you have?\' " " ‘ Just great. The Jew bastards have sent a greenhorn to save me. I\'ve known for a long time
that they secretly wanted me dead, now this proves it. I killed some Jews, now they want to kill me. I was right all along.\' " (Grisham 77-78). These statements reflect Sam Cayhall\'s intense hate for others which is derived from his young upbringing in the Ku Klux Klan. Sam\'s background as a Klansman is told by Grisham using Sam telling Adam about generations of Klan activity:
" ‘Why did you become a Klansman?\'
‘Because my father was in the Klan.\'
‘Why did he become a Klansman?\'
‘Because his father was in the Klan.\'
‘Great. Three generations.\'
‘Four, I think. Colonel Jacob Cayhall fought with Nathan Bedford Forrest in the war, and family legend has it that he was one of the early members of the Klan. He was my great-grandfather.\' " (123).
Adam Cayhall is a young motivated lawyer who is driven to save his grandfather, Sam, because he wants to find out about his family history as well as about his grandfather. John Grisham shows Adam\'s desire to defend his grandfather and get him out of being executed:
" ‘ I\'ve studied his entire file.\' " " ‘ I\'m intrigued by the case. I\'ve watched it for years, read everything written about the man. You asked me earlier why I chose Kravitz & Bane. Well, the truth is that I wanted to work on the Cayhall case, and I think this firm has handled it pro bono for, what, eight years now?\' " (28).
Adam\'s desire to learn more about his family through defending Sam is strong. " ‘I\'m your grandson. Therefore, I\'m allowed to ask questions about your past.\' " (Grisham 123). Adam uses his family to relate to Sam. The author shows this when he quotes Adam saying,
" ‘On behalf of my family, such as it is-my mother who refuses to discuss Sam; my
sister who only whispers his name; my aunt in Memphis who has disowned the name Cayhall-and on behalf of my late father, I would like to say thanks to you and to this firm for what you\'ve done. I admire you greatly.\' " (45).
Lee is Sam Cayhall\'s granddaughter; she has trouble getting rid of the painful memory that is her father. Lee becomes an alcoholic to deal with her pain of being the daughter of Sam Cayhall. Her pain surfaces again when Adam comes down to try to save Sam and the
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Cinema of the United States, Literature, Films, English-language films, The Chamber, John Grisham, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, Ku Klux Klan
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