Characters

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 661

Eleven-year-old Mark Sway's strong moral sense is unexpected given his background: a tough, lower-class neighborhood and a broken home that had been characterized by physical abuse. Yet he surely will turn out better than Reggie's children, who were raised in privilege but without moral direction by their father. Reggie's daughter has a drug problem, and Reggie's son is serving time in prison. Somehow, perhaps by recoiling from the horrid way his father treated Dianne, Mark develops into someone who intervenes to make things right. He tries to act tough and collected and even sarcastic, but alone or with Reggie he frequently cries. To outsiders he seems to be a delinquent; Grisham lets readers know that Mark is sensitive and wholesome.

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Previously subtle in characterization, Grisham in The Client sets up clearly good characters and clearly bad ones. Grisham dislikes Foltrigg, always supplying by quick exposition some negative specific: He is unsupportive of subordinates, he gravitates toward cameras and the press, he decorates his office with every certificate he can procure, and he married only to attain position. Yet Foltrigg is slick; the scene outside Clifford's memorial service in which Foltrigg speaks respectfully of the dead shows a masterful command of public persona. Not a brilliant lawyer — others do legal research and suggest strategies — Foltrigg has a commanding presence in and out of court. His greatest villainy springs from his disregard for the effects his machinations have on others, especially on the Sways.

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Reggie at first seems unequal to the task of matching the strategies of Roy Foltrigg, but similar to other Grisham characters, she finds within herself the cleverness and personal strength to battle someone with much greater resources. Her chief ally against Foltrigg's minions is Judge Roosevelt, a forceful character who dominates the book's second half and merits special attention.

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Latest answer posted June 3, 2007, 11:26 am (UTC)

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Roosevelt has exercised dominion over juvenile court in Memphis for over twenty years. He has eschewed the political or judicial advancement that would be open to a talented black man such as himself because he feels that he does good in juvenile court. Yet his imperial demeanor shows that another reason he stays is that he can rule unfettered in this court. Juvenile proceedings are by nature less structured, and judges have more leeway in conduct of hearings and dispensation of cases. Not hamstrung by procedural niceties, Roosevelt enjoys being a tyrant. He insults and harangues attorneys new to his court with a list of rules. (In every novel that includes scenes in court, Grisham writes at least one episode in which a judge humiliates a lawyer.) The rules are actually quite admirable, such as avoiding long speeches, but his condescending delivery of them makes them obnoxious for the lawyers. When a lawyer dares state that a statute Roosevelt cites is likely unconstitutional, Roosevelt proudly roars that he wrote the statute, that he is Tennessee's leading expert on juvenile law. He eats lunch at the bench while hearing arguments, glorying in the fact that he can eat while the lawyers cannot. His pride and imperiousness even seem to exceed Foltrigg's. Fortunately, he admires Reggie, so she seldom suffers his attacks.

What sets Roosevelt apart from other judicial despots is his mission to do good by those who come to his court. When first approached by prosecutors about Mark's case, Roosevelt "sternly" orders that no federal subpoena be issued for Mark. Yet he clearly has no power over the actions of a federal grand jury: "This was typical of Harry. Immediately throwing his protective blanket around any child within reach of his jurisdiction." He proposes a means to resolve Mark's dilemma: Outside of the formal proceedings, he counsels Reggie to keep Mark from answering questions and thus let him remain in custody, protected from Mafia goons, and he opens negotiations to guarantee Mark's safety as a way to win his testimony. Roosevelt intervenes (similar to Mark's inclination to intervene), and despite his kingly attitude, provides a powerful force for moral good.

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