John Grisham’s legal fiction takes readers to a thrilling land where attorneys are the new heroes, fighting against the dark forces of injustice, corruption, and greed. Alas, in these masterfully crafted thrillers lies a force darker than all: Grisham’s writing has negatively molded our perception of women in the law and beyond. “[F]ictional portrayals can have a powerful impact on perceptions of real-life professionals.” Applying feminist theory to a text can unearth such portrayals and the ideology that “Western culture is fundamentally patriarchal” in literature in order to effectuate change. Analyzing text through the lens of feminist theory requires asking a panoply of questions in an effort to unveil, amongst other things, female stereotypes, their roles, how male characters talk about and treat female characters, representations of authority and power imbalances, attitudes suggested towards women, and which characters work behind the scenes as opposed to calling the shots. As such, this Article will use feminist theory as a tool to code the following themes to unveil Grisham’s depiction of female characters as attorneys and beyond: the scarcity or lack thereof of heroines; impeding the character’s chances of success at a legal career throughout the character’s journey or at the novel’s resolution; male gaze and objectification; stereotyping; sacrificing behind the scenes for the benefit of the hero through, among other things, mutilation and disguise; and the use of passive language/behavior and predominantly male viewpoint which subtly reinforces the negative view of women in the law and beyond. These themes, found throughout Grisham’s writing career from his very first novel, A Time to Kill, to one of his most recent, Gray Mountain, attest to Grisham’s failure to create a female character who is treated equally and rises to the level of one of his revered heroes.
Viviana I. Vasiu,
On the Basis of Sex: Examining John Grisham's Legal Fiction Through Feminist Theory,
Fla. A&M U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://commons.law.famu.edu/famulawreview/vol13/iss2/3