Just Mercy

Just Mercy


Bryan Stevenson

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Themes and Colors
Resistance and Advocacy Theme Icon
Systemic Power, Oppression, and Dehumanization Theme Icon
Empathy, Mercy, and Humanization Theme Icon
Media and Public Opinion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Just Mercy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Resistance and Advocacy

Just Mercy emphasizes the importance of active resistance to unfair institutions. Bryan Stevenson describes the racism, corruption, and cruelty that pervade American court systems and lead to the systematic abuse of marginalized communities. Despite the power and ubiquity of these problems, Stevenson remains steadfast in the power of resistance and advocacy to change conditions for individuals and for marginalized groups overall.

Both of the legal aid organizations that Stevenson has worked for, the Southern Prisoners

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Systemic Power, Oppression, and Dehumanization

Stevenson’s stories detail how legal structures—which are meant to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly—can contribute to the systemic oppression of marginalized groups, such as African Americans, women, the poor, and the disabled. By favoring individuals and groups who have more power, the criminal justice system perpetuates a cycle of vulnerability, poverty, and racial inequality in the United States. Stevenson demonstrates this claim through historical research, personal anecdotes, and political analysis, and his…

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Empathy, Mercy, and Humanization

At the heart of Stevenson’s book is the idea that everyone is capable of making mistakes, even terrible mistakes, and that, at one time or another, everyone will need to be granted mercy. Harsh punishments, in Stevenson’s eyes, perpetuate violence rather than deter it: for Stevenson, giving and receiving unexpected and undeserved mercy is the only way to break the escalating cycles of violence, punishment, and hatred that characterize the criminal justice system.


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Media and Public Opinion

Just Mercy illustrates how the media influences the knowledge and views of its consumers, thereby shaping the public’s opinion of criminal justice issues and cases. Stevenson suggests that, because of this power, the media can be used either to educate the public about the court system, thereby propelling justice, or to perpetuate injustice through sensationalism. His accounts demonstrate how a lack of access to historical context and accurate information normalizes prejudiced ideas and actions, and…

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