The Chamber: A Look Into the Novel and Film


Dan Cano
Mrs. Ficarrota
English 10 Honors
9 December 1996

Stories about crime prove to be a strong part of America\'s entertainment in
this day. In The Chamber, John Grisham writes about a Klansman who is convicted
of murder and a grandson who tries to save his grandfather is on death row. This
story is now a major motion picture. This story carries a strong emotional
following to it because it both questions and supports the death penalty in
different ways. Grisham shows this when he writes: " ‘ I\'ve hurt a lot of people,
Adam, and I haven\'t always stopped to think about it. But when you have a date
with the grim reaper, you think about the damage you\'ve done.\' " The messages
about the death penalty are brought about in different ways in the film and in
the novel. Although the novel and film adaptation of The Chamber have some
significant differences, the plot and character perspectives are used to convey
a political message about the death penalty. (378)
The various characters in The Chamber have different traits and
backgrounds that affect their perspectives on certain issues. Sam Cayhall is
one of the main characters in the story whose background is filled with hate
because of his connection with the Klan. "The second member of the team was a
Klansman by the name of Sam Cayhall," "The FBI knew that Cayhall\'s father had
been a Klansman, . . . " (Grisham 2-3). Sam, who is brought up under the
influence of the Ku Klux Klan, uses "politically incorrect" terms for other
minorities when he talks with Adam Cayhall in death row. " ‘ You Jew boys never
quit, do you?\' ", " ‘ How many nigger partners do you have?\' " " ‘ Just great.
The Jew bastards have sent a greenhorn to save me. I\'ve known for a long time
that they secretly wanted me dead, now this proves it. I killed some Jews, now
they want to kill me. I was right all along.\' " (Grisham 77-78). These
statements reflect Sam Cayhall\'s intense hate for others which is derived from
his young upbringing in the Ku Klux Klan. Sam\'s background as a Klansman is told
by Grisham using Sam telling Adam about generations of Klan activity:
" \'Why did you become a Klansman?\'
\'Because my father was in the Klan.\'
\'Why did he become a Klansman?\'
\'Because his father was in the Klan.\'
\'Great. Three generations.\'
\'Four, I think. Colonel Jacob Cayhall fought with Nathan Bedford
Forrest in the war, and family legend has it that he was one of the early
members of the Klan. He was my great-grandfather.\' " (123).

Adam Cayhall is a young motivated lawyer who is driven to save his
grandfather, Sam, because he wants to find out about his family history as well
as about his grandfather. John Grisham shows Adam\'s desire to defend his
grandfather and get him out of being executed:
" \'I\'ve studied his entire file.\' " " ‘ I\'m intrigued by the case.
I\'ve watched it for years, read everything written about the man. You asked me
earlier why I chose Kravitz & Bane. Well, the truth is that I wanted to work on
the Cayhall case, and I think this firm has handled it pro bono for, what, eight
years now?\' " (28). Adam\'s desire to learn more about his family through
defending Sam is strong. " ‘I\'m your grandson. Therefore, I\'m allowed to ask
questions about your past.\' " (Grisham 123). Adam uses his family to relate to
Sam. The author shows this when he quotes Adam saying,
" \'On behalf of my family, such as it is-my mother who refuses to
discuss Sam; my
sister who only whispers his name; my aunt in Memphis who has
disowned the name Cayhall-and on behalf of my late father, I would like to say
thanks to you and to this firm for what you\'ve done. I admire you greatly.\' "
(45).
Lee is Sam Cayhall\'s granddaughter; she has trouble getting rid of the
painful memory that is her father. Lee becomes an alcoholic to deal with her
pain of being the daughter of Sam Cayhall. Her pain surfaces again when Adam
comes down to try to save Sam and the case becomes news again. Grisham tells
about Lee\'s problem with alcohol in many ways. " ‘All right, dammit. So I\'m an
alcoholic. Who can blame me?\' " (302). " ‘No you won\'t, Lee. You\'re