Clarence Darrow for the Defense Analysis

Irving Stone

Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Clarence Darrow for the Defense, by Irving Stone, is a study of one man, his profession, and some of the most exciting events in American history from the 1890’s to the 1930’s. The man is Clarence Darrow, whose gradual rise to fame is documented in the book’s first two chapters by author Stone. Subsequent chapters are based on famous trials in which Darrow was involved. Stone makes clear all along that a major contribution of Darrow was to bring idealism to the legal profession, a profession which, Darrow stated, lacked both idealism and ideas.

Darrow first received national attention as a liberal in his defense of Eugene V. Debs, a labor leader (and later a Socialist party leader). Debs led the American Railway Union, a group that supported other workers in their 1894 strike against the Pullman Company (a company that made sleeper cars for trains). The federal government sent troops to Chicago to protect railroad property, against the protests of Illinois Governor John P. Altgeld, and the strike was broken. Debs and other union leaders were charged with conspiracy. The book shows how this strike sparked Darrow’s awakening idealism; he resigned his job as a lawyer with a railroad in order to defend Debs. He made the transition in the 1890’s from defending property rights to defending human rights.

After establishing Darrow’s idealistic position, Stone moves the lawyer along to other famous trials, most of them outside...

(The entire section is 561 words.)