The Case for the Defense

by Graham Greene

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What is the significance of the "extraordinary day" in "The Case for the Defense"?

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The significance of the day's extraordinary nature was that there is only doubt and confusion left after a day that started off with so much certainty.  The exposition of the narrative suggests that the trial will have a definite outcome, the evidence is extraordinarily strong against the defendant, and there is even a clear understanding that the Mr. Adams that stands accused will be found guilty.  There is a strength and almost faith in conviction.  This is something in which the day begins.  The course of the trial and the events that follow the trial bring about its exact opposite.  There is complete uncertainty about whether Mr. Adams committed the crime.  There is total uncertainty about whether or not the right Mr. Adams stood accused in the first place.  There is sheer uncertainty about which Mr. Adams died by the bus.  Mrs. Salmon is left with total uncertainty about what she saw that led her to be a witness and what she saw in terms of the bus hitting one of the Adams brothers.  It is here where the "extraordinary day and an extraordinary end."  The significance of this undermines the very foundation of the individual.  That which is perceived to be solid and consisting of total bedrock can end up becoming eroded and something reflective of the insecurity and doubt that seems to be intrinsic to what it means to be a human being.  In the final analysis, this is where the significance of the extraordinary nature of the day lies. There in only insecurity around human beings.  Doubt seems to be the only certainty within human consciousness and the day brings this out in an extraordinary manner.

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In  "The Case for the Defense," the extraordinary day had a extraordinary end. How was the day extraordinary?

I think that the day could be considered "extraordinary" for a couple of reasons.  The first would be the structure of the day, itself.  It began with a trial for murder, where the outcome was all but guaranteed.  It ended with a verdict that reflected complete uncertainty.  It proceeded to feature a death that was brutal and swift, but with equal uncertainty as to which brother was killed- the murderer or the innocent one?  It is here where the day could be seen as extraordinary considering the emotional and intellectual depths to which it reached.  At the same time, the ending of the day is extraordinary because it reflected the absurdity of being in the world.  The entire story is predicated upon a justice system whereby individuals are sworn to "tell the truth," and exact certainty in a consciousness state where no such elements are really evident.  The story begins with such absolutism, and ends with murkiness.  The only real absolute element is the condition of doubt and pain that Mrs. Salmon will have to endure simply because she doesn't know, as we don't know, if justice was served or if the absurdity of being demonstrated itself.  There are tears shed and pain experienced, but little else that is evident.  From a day that started with so much hope and promise to this ending is extraordinary in its scope and sequence.  I think that the extraordinary ending of Mr. Adams being hit by a bus is also something that makes the day unique and distinct from all others.  The description of "a rabbit like squeal" with death to follow is extraordinary.  This is not a distinctively redemptive element, but rather one that defines what it means to be a human being in the modern setting.

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