John Grisham, an author I believe had the most significant influence on American literary history, is widely considered one of the most influential figures in American history. Grisham was born in 1955 at Jonesboro to a working class Arkansas family. From a young age, Grisham displayed his singleness of purpose in life and set his eyes squarely on numerous dreams his father had been incapable of realizing. Grisham’s scholarly nature soon saw him enroll in a law program at the prestigious Mississippi State University (MSU). He later graduated in 1981, after which he began his private practice focusing on criminal cases and personal injury litigation. Grisham soon seized the moment to expand his professional horizons when he was elected a member of Mississippi’s House of Representatives in 1983 where he served for seven years. It was during his stint as a legislator that he began exploring the art of novel writing based on his experience working in the legal arena. Grisham went on to author international bestsellers such as The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Chamber and A Time to Kill among many others. Grisham had the most significant influence on American literary history through his authentic unsullied focus on race, social disparities and prejudices rife in his society.
Grisham’s contributes and informs American literary history by highlighting the prevalence of racism in the United States. For instance, the legal thriller A Time to Kill explores racism and its influence on the criminal justice system. The fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi where the story is set is in the American South where racial tensions still exist. African Americans, descendants of former plantation slaves, live in constant fear albeit forming a sizeable majority in the region (Pringle 23). Although the Civil Rights Movement had succeeded in forcing the federal government to introduce sweeping changes through affirmative action, these variations were yet to be realized by many of the blacks residing in the South. Grisham inadvertently explores the loss of influence by white plantation owners after the Civil Way (1861-65) and accompanying Jim Crow laws. These abrasive sentiments were carried well into the second half of the 20th century where Grisham’s members of the black community in Clanton are constantly terrorized by their white counterparts. Grisham also delves deep into controversial issues such as White Supremacy and the sense of privilege espoused by individuals who identify as Caucasians. Additionally, Grisham exposes segregation in the South and the dire consequences of blacks have to contend with for falling on the wrong side of the Ku Klux Klan.
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Social inequality have, for decades, existed in the United States but rarely highlighted in American literary. This aspect of life often takes different dimensions but mostly informed by race and class. Social inequalities in the United States are characterized by limited influence in society and ostracism. For instance, Grisham’s black characters always remain aware of their environment and the rules informing every single decision made in society. In A Time to Kill, a young black girl is raped by two white perpetrators who are later apprehended after continued public outcry over the incident. Many Southern blacks, including the victim’s father, view this as nothing more than a public relations which will end with the suspects being acquitted by the jury. It is for this reason that he decides to take drastic measures and resorts to implementing his own version of justice by accosting and killing both men. Grisham’s depiction also rings true in American history where white offenders have traditionally been thought to receive preferential treatment by the justice system (Wagner-Martin). Offenders from minority communities are more likely to end be tried and convicted for crimes committed compared to their white counterparts. Grisham contributes to this narrative by exposing intricate longstanding machinations that have plagued the American criminal justice system.
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Grisham also bolsters American literary history by underscoring prejudices such as sexism. According to Manne (2017), sexism is a form of discrimination based on individual’s gender which primarily affects women and girls. It is characterized by feelings of intrinsic superiority which typically goes on to introduce numerous negative impacts on vulnerable individuals in society. It is noteworthy to acknowledge the fact that the United States has grappled with sexism over the past century and sought to exponentially reduces such incidences. The Women Suffrage movement particularly sought to introduce a new dawn in the United States where sexism and gender related discrimination became a thing of the past. The federal government even participated directly in these efforts by stress the importance of women in society and their contribution in the manufacturing industry during the Second World War (WW2). In, A Time to Kill explores the United States’ long history with sexism when a female attorney attempts to offer legal services to the father of the ten-year-old girl raped by white aggressors. Members of the Klu Klux Klan painstakingly endeavor to discredit her work using sexist innuendos and her capability to take up the case. She is later kidnapped in an attempt to inhibit her from protecting the integrity of the case.
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In conclusion, John Grisham is one of the most noteworthy contributors to American literary history. His works feature profound themes such as racism, social inequality and sexism which are at the root of American society. Through his works, one gets an unadulterated view of crucial elements in American literary history and their influence on the genre.
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