Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Sandy Stern first made his appearance as the protagonist’s defense counsel in Turow’s best-selling novel Presumed Innocent in 1987. As Turow has described the genesis of The Burden of Proof, it seems to have grown almost entirely out of his meditations on Stern’s character:I had carried around with me for years this image of a guy in his mid-fifties who was getting married again. . . . Then one afternoon . . . I realized that character is Stern. I had felt bad about letting go of Stern after Presumed Innocent, because you don’t see much inside of him in that book. I was interested in what really goes on inside this man with his exotic background and his reserved, formal exterior.

Indeed, The Burden of Proof is largely devoted to explorations of Stern’s and other characters’ psyches. While the book clearly qualifies as a mystery, it is a mystery with a difference: Not only is the victim dead from the outset, but the reasons for her death are not the obvious ones. Certainly there is enough of the usual greed and lust to propel the plot forward—the clues to Clara’s death are an uncashed check for $850,000 and a prescription for medication used to combat venereal disease—but in order to discover their connection to his wife’s suicide, Stern must investigate his own soul and the untold ways in which he had failed in his marriage.

The Burden of Proof, with its opening emphasis on...

(The entire section is 463 words.)

The Burden of Proof Themes

Like Presumed Innocent (1987), The Burden of Proof is a mystery with the death of an enigmatic woman at the center. Both books...

(The entire section is 125 words.)