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Analysis of Jake Brigance's Character in a Time to Kill

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A Time To Kill was written by John Grisham and published in 1989 by Wynwood Press. A Time To Kill takes place in Clanton, Mississippi during the 1980s. This story is about a black father’s vengeance on two white men who committed a violent rape against his ten-year-old daughter. A white lawyer, Jake Brigance, takes the case of Carl Lee who is charged with capital murder after he kills the two men who raped his daughter. Jake’s involvement in the case attracts the attention of the Klu Klux Klan. The KKK creates havoc toward everyone involved in the case and their families. The strength of Jake’s closing argument secures Carl Lee’s freedom by appealing to people’s empathy. Carl Lee is found not guilty for the reason of temporary insanity.

Jake Brigance is a thirty-two-year-old white man from Mississippi. Jake is the character who is generally self-confident. He is an intelligent, arrogant, ambitious, and brave attorney. Jake is arrogant because though he is young he has won three murder trials where the defendants were black men. When Jake takes on a case he becomes dedicated to winning the case. He spends hours and hours of his life to putting work into the cases he takes on, “Few people take on the morning like Jake Brigance.”(Grisham 20). Even though Jake had all the odds against him, he never gave up on his cases, such as when he defends Carl Lee. Bravely, Jake takes on cases defending black men in a town full of racial prejudice. Jake feels like Carl Lee deserves justice. Jake tells Mr. Buckley, the lawyer prosecuting Carl Lee for capital murder, that if his daughter was ever raped he hoped he would have the guts to do what Carl Lee did. Jake is able to relate to Carl Lee and put himself in others’ shoes.

Jake respects his mentor, Lucien Wilbanks, because Lucien is very intelligent and gives wise advice to Jake. Lucien respects Jake and wants what is best for him. He wants Jake to make good decisions in life that is why he is always willing to give him advice. Jake does not get along with Rufus Buckley because Buckley prosecutes Carl Lee for the murder of the two white who raped Carl Lee’s daughter. “To hell with Buckley. Do you think he plays fair? He’s a snake and you dislike him as much as I do.”(Grisham 307) Jake does not tend to get along with people who he feels do not have the right morals. Jake is so dedicated to Carl Lee’s case and wanting justice that he is willing to send his own wife and child away and put his own safety at risk.

One of Jake’s aspirations is to help people of color to obtain justice. This is shown by the number of black people he represents in his career. Jake is a character of many strengths and weaknesses. One of his strengths is that he is not easily intimidated. When the KKK burns down his house as a threat and warning he still does not give up on the Lee case or the Hailey family. Another one of his strengths is that he is very intelligent. Jake Brigance is a successful lawyer for how young he is, which is partly because Jake is so hardworking. “He was jealous of his time…He meticulously planned his day.”

One of Jake’s weaknesses is his idealism. Because Jake is so certain that Carl Lee should not be punished he assumes others would see that as easily as he does. Another one of Jake’s weaknesses is arrogance. “Jake practiced alone, and had since 1979, the year of the disbarment. He liked it that way, especially since there was no other lawyer in Clanton competent enough to practice with him.”

Jake’s character is realistically developed in A Time To Kill. Even in the most prejudiced of times there were those few exceptions who would stand up for what was right for people of color. There have always been individuals who believe that all people are equal. It is realistic that you could find a man like Jake in the 1980s. Jake believes that race should not matter and we should all be treated equally, no matter the color of our skin.

Jake also believes strongly in justice and that Carl Lee should be sent home to his family. Jake believes that a rape of a child is a horrific crime. “Perhaps the most horrible crime of all is the violent rape of a child.” The wives of one of the men who raped Carl Lee’s daughter tries to hire Jake to defend her husband. She hears that Jake is “the best criminal lawyer in the county.” Jake responds, “Tell her that’s true but I’m not interested.” 

Jake Brigance has both good and bad personality traits. One good personality trait I share with Jake is ambition. When it comes to things that are important to me, I will always get things done. I work very hard for my goals and aspirations. One bad personality trait I share with Jake is arrogance. When it comes to certain things I tend to be arrogant and opinionated. Jake is a very black and white person when it comes to right and wrong. I can relate to this because I have always been bothered when things seem unfair or unjust. Like Jake, I feel that things are either right or wrong there is no in-between or gray area. I also have a great passion for justice.

I would be friends with Jake in real life. I feel like Jake would be the type of friend to always have good advice and help you stand up for what is right. His intelligence could also help you when you get into tough situations in life. As a teen it is good to have someone in your life that has the same morals as you so you do not make the wrong decisions. Having friends with the same morals as you is important.

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Analysis Of Jake Brigance’s Character In A Time To Kill. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from
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