What is the significance of the scene during Absolam's trial in Cry, Beloved Country, specifically the judge and how he acts during the scene?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This chapter obviously relates to the key theme of justice within the novel. A central question is whether the judge discharges his role as judge corrrectly or whether he fails to carry it out.

The judge's careful and meticulous presentation of the facts show that he is a scrupulous and honest individual. Although he concludes that no case can be brought against Absalom's two accomplices, he does what he can to ensure that their previous criminal links will be investigated most thoroughly.

However, when it comes to the sentencing of Absalom, the judge seems to be somewhat trapped within the system of law he works in, discussing and explaining his actions of judging Absalom within the law, no matter how unjust those laws may be. The reader may feel that the judge is trying to excuse his eventual sentencing by spending so long justifying himself, and also excusing himself from involvement in legal change: "But a judge may not trifle with the Law because the society is defective." The judge therefore seems to be hiding behind the law in making his sentence. He obviously protests (to a degree) about the harshness of laws and the state of society, but he enforces those rules most rigorously.

The reader is left with the central question of how we should operate within rules and laws that may be perceived to be unjust. Interestingly, Thoreau argued that a decent man cannot obey unjust laws, most famously refusing to pay taxes to support the United States in their war against America.

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Cry, the Beloved Country

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