The Case for the Defence by Graham Greene
In The Case for the Defence by Graham Greene we have the theme of perception, identity, uncertainty, independence and doubt. Taken from his Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator (reporter) and after reading the story the reader realises that Greene may be exploring the theme of identity. Adams is accused of murder yet as the story progresses it becomes clear to the reader that he has an identical twin brother. Though the case against Adams appears to be cut and dried. This is not the case when Adams’ brother is picked out among the gallery in the court. This may be important as it suggests or highlights the difficulties one can incur when trying to identify another person. There is no way that Mrs Salmon can safely say that she saw Adam’s outside her house after she has seen his brother in court. Her perception of who Adams might be (the murderer) is in fact incorrect. Which may be the point that Greene is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that what one sees is not necessarily something that one can be certain of.
What is also interesting about the story is the narrator’s assumption that Adams is guilty. It is as though he is prepared to believe the witnesses who have taken the stand and who feel certain that it is Adams that they have seen in the street after Mrs Parker’s death. At no stage does the narrator give Adams the benefit or assumption of innocence nor does he disbelieve anything that any of the witnesses have said in court. This may be important because as a reporter the narrator is supposed to be fair-minded and not necessarily swayed by one opinion. That being that the witnesses have certainly seen Adams on the street after supposedly killing Mrs Parker. The fact that Adams has an identical twin brother is unusual however it is something that saves his life. That along with the fact that Mrs Salmon on seeing the twin brother is no longer sure that Adams is the man that she saw drop the hammer in Mrs Parker’s garden. If anything Greene by introducing the twin brother into the story also sows the seeds of doubt within Mrs Salmon and those who are attending the trial.
It might also be important that the narrator after the discovery of Adams’ twin brother is also in disbelief at how the trial turned out. From at first believing in Adams’ guilt the narrator no longer feels so self-assured. It is as though events have taken him by total surprise. As they have others who are sitting in the courtroom. If anything Greene may be attempting to highlight that not everything is as it seems. Just as the case against Adams appeared to be overwhelming the reality is totally different. An innocent man has been saved from the gallows due to the fact that none of the witnesses on seeing Adams’ twin brother were able to fully confirm that it was Adams they saw on the night of the murder. If anything Greene may be asking the reader to reassess their perception of matters and to question as to whether an individual can always be certain of what they think they may have seen. Mrs Salmon’s certainty that she saw Adams was nearly enough for him to be hanged for the murder of Mrs Parker. When the reality was he was not a participant when it came to killing Mrs Parker.
The end of the story is also interesting as Adams is killed by a bus outside the court. Though some readers may suggest that this was no more than an accidental death. The narrator perhaps believes that divine vengeance may have been at play. Something which would further highlight the fact that the narrator continues to believe in Adams’ guilt despite the judge acquitting him. It may also be important that Adams brother when Adams is killed begins to look in the direction of Mrs Salmon. As to why he is doing so is difficult to say. Though if the reader is to follow the lead of the narrator it is possible that Adams brother may be holding Mrs Salmon responsible for Adams’ death and as such may seek retribution. Something which may leave some critics to believe that Adams’ brother was responsible for Mrs Parker’s death rather than Adams. However it may be worth noting that throughout the story the narrator has viewed proceedings through the eyes of the witnesses in the case. At no stage has he given Adams the benefit of the doubt. It is for this reason that the narrator may not necessarily be reliable. He has shown a bias towards Adams (and his brother) throughout the story.