The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Mitchell McDeere, the protagonist, is an idealistic graduate of Harvard Law School at the beginning of the novel. He is something of an all-American boy, a former high-school football player who has always scored highly in whatever endeavor he undertook. He is happily married, and when he is offered the fantastic job in Memphis, his life would seem to be almost perfect. It is, however, clouded by several shadows: His widowed mother, whom he has not seen in several years, is a a waitress living with her second husband in a trailer park in Florida, and his brother Ray is serving a sentence in a Tennessee penitentiary for killing a man in a barroom brawl. As Ray points out when his brother visits him in prison, Mitchell is the first McDeere in generations who has made something of himself.
The Firm is to some degree a novel of initiation, for Mitchell, something of an idealist, learns many bitter facts of life as a result of his involvement with Bendini, Lambert, and Locke. When the plot reaches its climax, he has not only outsmarted the members of the firm, the Mafia backers, and their hired gunmen, but he has also hoodwinked the FBI agent and would seem to have gained the ascendancy. He, his wife, and his brother are in possession of eight million dollars, documents to use as security, and the necessary papers for a new life and new identity. Yet questions remain: At what cost has such a seemingly idyllic existence been achieved, and what are the...
(The entire section is 674 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mitchell (Mitch) Y. McDeere
Mitchell (Mitch) Y. McDeere, a brilliant young attorney recruited directly from Harvard Law School by Bendini, Lambert & Locke. Having grown up with a shaky family background, Mitch is ambitious and eager to attain the affluence that will separate him from his past. Mitch is shaken and terrified when he learns that the Bendini firm is being examined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for Mafia-related activities and that several attorneys died when they tried to leave the firm. Mitch comes up with a scheme that allows him and his wife to escape the firm as well as free his brother Ray from prison.
Abigail (Abby) McDeere
Abigail (Abby) McDeere, Mitch’s wife, who quickly becomes suspicious of the firm’s overzealous interest in the attorneys’ personal lives. Her suspicions are confirmed when Mitch tells her about the firm’s true nature. In spite of her fear, Abby stands by Mitch and helps him formulate his plans.
Raymond (Ray) McDeere
Raymond (Ray) McDeere, Mitch’s brother, an inmate at Brushy Mountain State Prison. Although Ray’s personality is somewhat violent and reckless, he cares deeply about his family and is far brighter than his rough background would suggest.
Wayne Tarrance, an FBI special agent assigned to infiltrate the Bendini firm. Although he wishes the McDeeres no particular...
(The entire section is 688 words.)
Grisham admits the obvious in several interviews: that the plot conforms to the thriller formula by building suspense instead of probing character. This limitation of genre may be the novel's chief drawback. Especially when contrasted to the fully-realized characters in A Time to Kill (1989), the characters in The Firm tend only to do what the plot demands. Mitch, as will be discussed below, has dark, acquisitive inclinations that make him less than a fully admirable hero, but most other characters remain undeveloped. Grisham barely differentiates the partners in the firm such that readers often cannot keep them straight from scene to scene. The leading female characters, Abby and Tammy, are brave and resourceful, but otherwise without depth. Even Abby's distaste for the firm's demands on her husband is dismissed by other characters as a typical wifely reaction. Ray is a striking combination of violent proclivities, loyalty, and intellect, but Grisham does not probe his character.
The character who stands out from this pack the most, aside from Mitch, is Mitch's chief antagonist, DeVasher. A retired New Orleans police detective, DeVasher has been corrupted by the offerings of the Mafia and become the security chief for Bendini, Lambert & Locke. He enjoys status in the firm as the chief contact with the Chicago-based crime lords, and as such can belittle and command the partners as he wishes. He taunts Oliver Lambert for enjoying photos...
(The entire section is 926 words.)