The system, the attorneys and the jury seem to be too biased in their assessment of the case, obviously swerving from the real purpose that any trial should have, that is, reaching justice. Racism which is inherently present even in modern, present-day society is even a part of the system of justice, as Oates observes. Instead of a fair outcome, the result of the trial is the huge confusion that accompanies the way in which the facts are presented for the jury and the public. Thus, Oates feels that playing the role of a jury member in a trial can be at most a very frustrating experience that can make one lose the faith in humanity and its values. Also, the author underlines the importance of the concept of justice and the way in which it loses meaning in the system. There is also a slight religious undertone attached to the main purpose of the essay. As an atheist, Oates does not touch the Bible when she has to take an oath a member of the jury, but the gesture has obviously a larger significance. The principle of justice according to the Christian religion is certainly not respected during the trial, and not even pursued by the ones involved in the process.
The conclusions that Oates draws from her experience as a juror are also very significant. She remarks thus that, in the absurdity of the system of justice the purpose, paradoxically, does not seem to be the establishment of justice in any way. When the whole of the proceedings in the trial seem to be biased and corrupted, it is very hard to decant the truth. Also, the fact that discrimination, as one of the most absurd and unjust attitudes can be found at all levels of the system, enhances the improbability of actually reaching a just verdict for a crime. As Oates sees it, justice is already a difficult objective to attain in the maze of the human affairs, but the biased and unrighteous system only makes the process more difficult.
Thus, Oates rounds the purpose she had established for herself in writing the essay, by questioning the right of the jury to give a verdict in this case. The jury itself, as Oates contends, should be judged in its turn by another jury, since the fairness of the process is doubtful.
The reaching of justness seems to be deferred continuously in this process, since the people involved do not act fairly and do not judge without prejudice and subjectivity, as they should.
Thus, in her autobiographical essay, Joyce Carol Oates gives an account of one of her experiences with the legal system in America, and emphasizes the corruption and the racism that permeate it. Her observations as a member of the jury clearly underlie the fact that, for the individual, the legal system can be destructive instead of beneficent. The racism and the other prejudices are serious flaws in the structure of the system of justice which is supposed to reestablish a state of balance and fairness and not to uproot any hope for justice. Oates' essay is clearly intended as a warning addressed to the public to militate against injustice and maybe to try to bring a change to the present state of affairs. The intention of the author is thus both to meditate on her own experience and to share her convictions with her readers. The sketch is thus not merely autobiographical or subjective, even though it treats of a personal experience of the author. Oates aims in fact at giving an interpretation of the way in which the legal system works in contemporary America, supporting it with very concrete detail from her own experience. From it all, the principle of justice emerges as a main point of Oates' discussion: her conclusion is that the concept of justice itself seems to have ironically disappeared, engulfed in the system. The purpose of the trial is thus lost during its process, as the ultimate decision is influenced by a number of factors and biases.
Friedman, Ellen G. "Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates." Studies in the Novel, Vol. 31, 1999.
Kloberdanz, Kristin. "Joyce Carol Oates." Book, May 2001.