Julian Barnes’ Arthur & George offers an insightful reading of the way justice works simply by concentrating on sight and on the imagery of Lady Justice that is represented by the novel’s two protagonists. On the one hand, the all-seeing and successful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believes in the power of immediate sight, both in rational thinking and investigation and as a means to attempt to see beyond the humane. On the other hand, solicitor George Edalji is a lover of law in its strictest and most literal (and therefore orderly) sense. When the latter is charged with a crime he did not commit and unjustly incarcerated as a result, it is clear that his myopic and colour-blind vision of the law is inadequate in that it does not take certain aspects of reality into consideration. Sir Arthur’s intervention on his behalf, however, also reveals that his own idea of obtaining justice by “making noise” – though partially helpful – is also insufficient when it comes to redressing legal wrongs. The characters’ considerations, as well as seminal studies into the nature and workings of justice and the way these are portrayed in the common imagery of justice and its development in time, leads the analysis to look towards a different and higher level of justice. This may be achieved by uniting the most useful qualities offered by Arthur and George’s imperfect ways of perceiving justice in order to reflect on the ways in which the law may be improved and oriented more towards this perfected form of justice.
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