Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

With The Firm, John Grisham established himself as one of the leading practitioners of the craft of suspense writing. He has mastered well all the trappings of the genre, including particularly the age-old battle between good guys and bad guys and the obligatory chase in which the protagonist is put into grave danger and escapes through his wit and other talents. The novel established Grisham as a popular writer, and his subsequent works, including The Pelican Brief (1992) and The Client (1993), were eagerly awaited and immediately became best-sellers.

There is also something of the novel of initiation in the work, since Mitchell McDeere certainly loses whatever illusions he may have concerning the ethics of the practice of law, at least law as practiced by the firm for which he works. It is clear that Mitchell is awakened to the basic corruption in certain areas of business, law, and human life in general, and that the pattern of the novel is clearly entwined with this change in him. In contrast to most disillusioned heroes, however, Mitchell ends the novel in a happy state, living in a kind of earthly paradise, even though his security may be tenuous.