Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Clarence Darrow Character Analysis

Clarence Darrow is a famous lawyer renowned for his work defending union members and political and social activists. He defends Ossian, Gladys, Otis, and Henry Sweet, John Latting, William Davis, Joe Mack, Norris Murray, Hewitt Watson, Charles Washington, and Leonard Morse when they are brought to trial for the murder of Leon Breiner. Born in Ohio and raised by a father with a fiercely independent intellect, Darrow initially pursued a conventional life practicing law in his hometown. But, at the age of 30, he moves his family to Chicago where he becomes deeply enamored with the modernist movement and begins the second, high-profile phase of his career. The celebrity of his clients vaults him to national attention as a champion of the labor movement, until a scandal in the trial of the McNamara brothers sours his reputation. Darrow reinvents himself as a disciple of modernism, and his later cases reflect his modernist values. Along with his friend Arthur Garfield Hays, Darrow joins the defense in the Sweet trials at the special request of NAACP executive secretary James Weldon Johnson and his right-hand man, Walter White. Darrow jumps at the chance to fight against segregation. Although the first trial ends with a hung jury, Darrow wins an acquittal for Henry Sweet in the second trial and he goes on to join the NAACP and dedicate the rest of his life to advancing civil rights.

Clarence Darrow Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Clarence Darrow or refer to Clarence Darrow. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Chapter 8 Quotes

Once he embraced the avant-garde, he lost all faith in the legal system—“society is organized injustice,” he insisted—and grew bored with the intricacies of legal procedure. But he continued to practice law because in the glare of a high-profile case he found the perfect opportunity to attack the status quo and proclaim the modernist creed. “This meant more than the quibbling with lawyers and juries, to get or keep money for a client so that I could take part of what I won or saved for him,” he said in his old age. “I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs. With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking of hatred and vengeance, and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call ‘justice’ and of which nothing is really known.”

Related Characters: Clarence Darrow (speaker)
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

When the proceedings resumed at half past nine on Thursday, November 5, the courtroom had been transformed into a tableau of American justice. On a simple bench along one wall sat the eleven defendants, Ossian and Gladys side by side on the far end, exchanging occasional whispers but otherwise watching events with grim-faced concentration. Against the opposite wall sat twelve of their peers—in name if not in fact—arranged in two neat rows of chairs set behind a low railing. Between the two groups in the well of the courtroom stood the representative of the people, the accuser facing the accused as the finest of Anglo-Saxon traditions required, a handsome young white man come to say why eleven Negroes should spend the rest of their lives in prison paying for their crimes.

Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

Ossian didn’t have to testify. No one could have objected to his refusing, so great was the responsibility: if he said the wrong word, put the wrong inflection in his voice, sat in a way that struck the jurors as too casual or too confident, grew rattled under cross-examination, succumbed to a single flash of anger, whatever sympathy Darrow and Hays had won for the defendants could be lost, the entire defense destroyed. But Ossian didn’t refuse. Undoubtedly he agreed out of pride—the intoxicating sense that in the past few weeks he had become the representative of his race and the champion of its rights—and, as always, out of obligation. He would do what his lawyers wanted him to do, what his wife and brothers and friends needed him to do, what his colleagues surely expected him to do. He had no choice, really, but to take the stand.

Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

But his message was soothingly soft. He wouldn’t demand that the walls of segregation be brought down, that whites welcome blacks into their neighborhoods, or that they acknowledge Negroes as the brothers they were. Like Johnny Smith before him, he asked for nothing more than tolerance. “I ask you gentlemen in behalf of my clients,” he boomed, “I ask you more than anything else, I ask you in behalf of justice, often maligned and down-trodden, hard to protect and hard to maintain, I ask you in behalf of yourselves, in behalf of our race, to see that no harm comes to them. I ask you gentlemen in the name of the future, the future which will one day solve these sore problems, and the future which is theirs as well as ours, I ask you in the name of the future to do justice in this case.”

Related Characters: Clarence Darrow (speaker), John Smith
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“Prejudices have burned men at the stake,” Darrow told the jurors, “broken them on the rack, torn every joint apart, destroyed people by the million. Men have done this on account of some terrible prejudice which even now is reaching out to undermine this republic of ours and to destroy the freedom that has been the most cherished part of our institutions. These witnesses honestly believe that it is their duty to keep colored people out. They honestly believe that blacks are an inferior race and yet if they look at themselves, I don’t know how they can […] They are possessed with that idea and that fanaticism, and when people are possessed with that they are terribly cruel. […] Others will do the same thing as long as this weary world shall last […]but, gentlemen, they ought not to ask you to do it for them.”

Related Characters: Clarence Darrow (speaker)
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:
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Clarence Darrow Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character Clarence Darrow appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...him, he offers any help he can—including the knowledge of great lawyers like Mr. Clarence Darrow. Twelve days before the trial begins, someone in the NAACP realizes the potential of this... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
By telegram, James Weldon Johnson reaches out to gauge Clarence Darrow’s interest in joining the case, only to find out that the famous lawyer is in... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Clarence Darrow, at the time of the Detroit case, is the most famous lawyer in the country.... (full context)
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
In Chicago, the avant-garde, bohemian modernist movement swept up Darrow. The modernist movement took “bourgeois respectability” as its enemy and flaunted their spurning of social... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Darrow’s legal work started to draw widespread attention when he defended the president of the American... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
But Darrow’s reputation as a labor lawyer came to a crashing halt in 1911 when he defended... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
In 1925, Darrow enacts his most brilliant performance, defending Tennessee schoolteacher John T. Scopes in the so-called “Monkey... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Three months after Scopes, the NAACP approaches Darrow with the Sweets’ case. Although his father had exposed the young Darrow to the ideas... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
James Weldon Johnson and Walter White don’t worry about Darrow’s spotty legal record—many of his clients have still ended up in prison. True, Darrow’s hunger... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
While Johnson tries to wrangle the necessary funding money to hire Darrow and Hays from the NAACP’s executive board, White travels to Detroit, where he smooths over... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...the defendants in jail as Gladys makes bond on October 6 and news of Clarence Darrow’s retention arrives the following week. Then the great lawyer himself arrives at the Wayne County... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
Darrow’s arrival captures attention in the Black press. Southern newspapers issue unusually bold calls for justice.... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The defense has only two weeks to prepare. Clarence Darrow’s interviews with his clients give him insight into the night’s events; Perry, Rowlette, and Mahoney... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...sufficient for self-defense, even if that belief proves to be inaccurate. And Walter White educates Darrow and Hays on the state of American race relations, giving them reports on the 1919... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...trial, the NAACP receives word that a major donor will cover the costs associated with Darrow’s work and will be considering providing seed money for a permanent legal defense fund. The... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...Toms and his associate Ted Kennedy finally turn over their 12 candidates for defense examination, Darrow handles it like a master. He easily, almost casually skewers inappropriate jurors, like an elderly... (full context)
Chapter 9: Prejudice
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The faces in the jury box change as Clarence Darrow interviews potential jurors on the afternoon of October 30th and the following morning. Lawyers can... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Darrow once told a national newspaper who he does and doesn’t like to see on a... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Jury selection drags into the first week of November, as Darrow and Toms jockey their preferred jurors into position. But by Wednesday afternoon, the jury’s composition... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Prosecutor Robert Toms feels confident in his case, despite squaring off against the famous Darrow. He plans to call over 60 witnesses from the police force and neighborhood who will... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Hays interrupts the momentum of Toms’ presentation with technical legal objections, while Darrow cross-examines his witnesses. Darrow focuses his efforts on witnesses likely to undermine the prosecution’s case.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...with reporters and getting the NAACP’s line into their papers. In the evenings, White attends Darrow’s lectures at venues around the city. Reinhold Niebuhr also listens to Darrow; although the priest... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
On the morning of November 14th, Toms rests the prosecution’s case. White believes that the Darrow has already shattered the state’s case in cross-examination and the defense must replace that with... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...in Europe. When Toms objects that this line of questioning is irrelevant to the case, Darrow counters that justice here rests on properly understanding how “everything known to a race affects... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...begins the defense’s closing arguments, offering a sharp attack of the prosecution’s case. But then Darrow steps into the spotlight with a closing argument that takes up the remainder of Tuesday... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
For hour after hour, Darrow “chat[s] with the jurors” about the timeless problems of race and prejudice, the deliberate lies... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
But Darrow doesn’t follow his own arguments to their logical conclusion, stopping short of demanding that the... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Clarence Darrow and Arthur Garfield Hays ask for their clients to be released on bail and inform... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...opinion in the city. Further, ongoing rallies—including a mid-December event in New York featuring Clarence Darrow himself—fill the coffers of the hoped-for Legal Defense Fund. (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...and the local defense team—Cecil Rowlette, Julian Perry, and Charles Mahoney—express frustration with Hays’s and Darrow’s defense. They think it would be safer to defend all 11 together rather than separately.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...the months between the end of the first trial and the beginning of the second, Darrow reverts to his normal life of public appearances. His uncharacteristic optimism about the outcome of... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Garfield Hays becomes involved in a high-profile case that prevents him from rejoining the defense. Darrow insists that Thomas Chawke replace Hays. This horrifies White, who earlier judged Chawke an inappropriate... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...the same witnesses and make the exact same case as in the first trial. When Darrow and Chawke examine potential jurors, their questions point inexorably towards the idea of prejudice; they... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...statement outlines his plan to build up a circumstantial case against Henry. If Toms expects Darrow to put off his opening statement until after the prosecution rests, as he did in... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...a half, Toms carefully builds his case with each witness, only to have Chawke and Darrow dismantle it through intense, sometimes combative cross-examination. When they can’t expose the lies, they expose... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...the area. By their questions and their significant looks to the jury box, Chawke and Darrow slowly transform neighborhood witnesses into “idiots” and “slope-browed simpletons.” And they press each witness on... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...dismisses Ossian as “quasi-intelligent” and Rochelle and Butler as “so-called artists.” He excoriates Chawke and Darrow for their unwillingness to confront the specter of poor Leon Breiner bleeding out on the... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
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Hundreds of people pack the courtroom on the following day to hear Darrow’s closing argument, which is a brilliant “jeremiad for the modern age.” He begins by reminding... (full context)
Above all, Darrow takes aim at the communal nature of the violence and oppression that the Sweets suffered.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Extending his hands toward the jury box, Darrow declares that humans will not be civilized until they love each other regardless of “color... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The following day, Robert Toms makes a closing argument nearly as long as Darrow’s, which tries yet again to pull the jury’s focus back to Leon Breiner, a “poor,... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...Harlem Renaissance’s upward trajectory; Walter White networks and promotes his newly-published second novel. When Clarence Darrow takes the stage, however, he outclasses them all; 2,000 people must be turned away from... (full context)
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
Clarence Darrow spends the rest of his life advocating for civil rights. He joins the NAACP’s executive... (full context)