The Case for the Defense: Summary & Question Answer

The Case for the Defense


The Case for the Defense is a short story penned down by Graham Greene. In this story, a man named Adams murders an old lady; the murder case is named as the ‘Peckham Murder Case’; there are five witnesses to that brutal murder. Gradually, the murder case is introduced in the court where one Adams brother stands in the box while another Adams, identical in looks takes his seat at the back. The sitting Adams is with his wife. The witnesses are called to share their memories of the murder night and one after the other they do. The last witness, Mrs Salmon, also the prime person in the story identifies the man standing before her as the murderer; but soon as she is pointed to look at the Adams at the back, she is confused. There is a dilemma hanging in the air as to who is the real murderer.

The Adams standing in the box thereby is acquitted as lack of evidence takes over. But later on, justice overpowers the plot of the Adams. While going out of the court, one of the Adams brothers is hit by a speeding bus, his skull being exactly hammered just like the way Mrs Parker’s had been. And, the other brother cries over his dead brother’s body. The real murderer is still unknown to the reader. So, all we can deduce from this story is the concept of divine justice – may be under the influence of some plan or idea, a criminal could escape; but since the devil gets his due, so did he.

About The Author

Henry Graham Greene,  (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991) was an English writer, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene was noted for his ability to combine serious literary acclaim with widespread popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. Several works such as The Confidential Agent, The Third Man, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.

Greene suffered from bipolar disorder, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife Vivien, he told her that he had “a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life”, and that “unfortunately, the disease is also one’s material”.William Golding described Greene as “the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man’s consciousness and anxiety.” Greene never received the Nobel Prize in Literature, though he finished runner-up to Ivo Andrić in 1961.

Questions & Answers

Why did the witnesses not forget the murderer? What was his most unforgettable feature?

⇒The witnesses did not forget the murderer because they saw his face clearly in the moonlight. He had a fear-stricken face with bulging bloodshot eyes All his muscles seemed to be in his things. The most unforgettable feature of the customer was that he was a heavy stout man with bulging bloodshot eyes and ugly. 

“…………… his luck was badly out…….”. In what way was Adams unlucky? How did it affect him at the trial?

⇒ Mr Adams committed the murder at midnight so that he could not be seen. But four people saw him clearly near and in the surroundings of the scene of the crime. So his luck was badly out.

⇒ All the witnesses deposed what they had seen. So all were sure that Adams would be sentenced to death. Thus it affected him in the trial.

“……..he might as well have committed the crime in broad daylight” Why does the author say this?

⇒ Mr. Adams committed the crime at midnight so that he could not be seen. But four people saw him clearly near and in the surroundings of the scene of the crime. The author says, “he might as well have committed the crime in broad daylight” to convey that he had not at all been placed in a safer position by choosing midnight time for the act. 

‘She was the ideal witness’. What made Mrs Salmon the ideal witness? Who was influenced by her qualities?

⇒ Her expression of honesty, care and kindness made Mrs Salmon an ideal witness. She spoke very firmly in a light scotch accent. There was no malice in her. The jury and the press reporters were influenced by her qualities. 

“…… would have known beforehand what line he would have taken.” What line did the defence counsel take in cross-examining Mrs. Salmon? How far was the narrator right?

⇒ The Defence counsel took the line of pleading mistaken identity in cross-examining Mrs Salmon. The narrator was right up to the point of thinking that he would plead mistaken identity. But he did not think that a person having a similar resemblance would be presented.

Why was Adams acquitted? Why was his twin brother not convicted? Do you agree with the verdict? Why (nor)? What is the Divine Vengeance mentioned at the end of the story?

⇒ The witnesses deposed that the accused was the man whom they had seen at the scene of the offence. They were strong about the identity of the person. But the defence lawyer produced his twin brother who was his exact image and in the same dress. They could not say which of them the real murderer was. So Adams was acquitted for lack of evidence. His twin brother was not convicted because he had the alibi that he was with his wife. Out of the two brothers, if one was with his wife the other must have been the murderer. But both were acquitted. So I cannot agree with the verdict. One of the brothers was got pushed on the road right in front of the bus and was killed. The author feels that the real murderer had met with death which was God’s punishment.

“That extraordinary day had an extraordinary end.” Why? What happened at the end of the day? In what way was the end extraordinary?

⇒ It was an extraordinary day because the accused was acquitted while all thought he would be sentenced to death. After the case was over, all the people came out of the court. The two Adams were also with them. When the crowd moved, one of the brothers was pushed onto the road right in front of a bus and was killed. He gave a squeal as his skull was smashed just as Mrs Parkers had been. Thus the end was extraordinary.

What did the police want the twins to do? Why did they refuse? Were they right? What did the refusal result in?

⇒The police asked the twins to leave the court through a back way. They refused to do so; the accused had been acquitted and so had the right to go by the front entrance. So far they were right. But the refusal resulted in the death of one of the twins.

Textual Questions

Who is the narrator?

⇒ The narrator is Graham Green, a crime reporter.

They named it the Peckham murder…..” Who are they? Where was it called the Peckham murder? Was it correct to call it the Peckham murder? Why (not)?

⇒They are the press reporters. It was called the Peckham murder in the headlines It was not correct to call it the Peckham murder because it happened in Northwood Street.

In which country do you think the murder took place? Which words tell you so?

⇒ The murder took place in England. The word’s crown counsel’ tell us so. 

Were the jurymen anxious about possible mistakes in this case? Why (not)? What did everyone think the verdict would be? What made them think so?

⇒ The jury men were not anxious because there was direct evidence in this case. Usually, they are anxious about possible mistakes in cases of circumstantial evidence. But this was not of that sort. Everyone thought that Adams would be sentenced to death. The direct evidence offered by the four witnesses made them think so.

Was this a case of circumstantial evidence? What kind of evidence was produced in this case?

⇒ This was not a case of circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence of four persons was produced in this case. Besides the formed evidence given by the policemen, the surgeon who examined the body reported that the murder was committed with a hammer.

Was the man caught while he was committing the murder? Was he caught near the body? ‘……..this murder was all but found with the body.’ What does all but signify?

⇒ The man was not caught while murdering. He was not caught near the body. ‘All but’ means ‘everything except’. It indicates that he was the murderer. The only thing was that the murderer was not found near the body.

Who were the four witnesses? What was each of them doing at that time of the night? What did each one testify?

⇒ The four witnesses the crown counsel proposed to call were Mrs. Salmon, Henry, Mac Dougall, Mr. Wheeler and another person in Laurel Avenue. Mrs. Salmon saw Mr. Adams on the step of Mrs. Parker’s house with gloves dropping the hammer into the bush in the night. Mr. Henry Mac Dougall driving home had seen in the Northwood street. Mr. Wheeler another neighbour of Mrs.Parker saw Adam’s back and his bulging eyes. In Laurel Avenue, another witness saw him.

What made Mrs. Salmon get up and look through the window? Who did she see and where? What did she see him do? Why did he do so?

⇒ Mrs. Salmon was not able to sleep. She heard a door click shut, thinking it was her own gate, she came to the window and saw through it. She saw Adams on the steps of Mrs. Parker’s house. She saw him drop the hammer into the bushes. He did so because he killed Mrs. Parker with that hammer. He wanted to get rid of it.

Why do you think he was wearing gloves?

⇒ He was wearing gloves because he wanted to avoid his finger prints on the hammer. He used the hammer to kill Mrs. Parker.

What tells a man when he is watched? Why is the instinct described as fatal? Look up the word ‘fatal’ in your dictionary. The word has two meanings. Do both of them apply in this context? In what ways?

⇒The fatal instinct tells a man when he is watched. The instinct is described as fatal because the person looks around to see if anyone is watching. The two meanings of the word fatal are ‘dangerous’ and ‘likely to cause death. Both these meanings apply in this context. The person was put in a dangerous position because he was accused of murder. The incident resulted in death.

Do you think it would have been better than the reader found this out later? In other words, has the narrator spoilt the suspense by telling us that the verdict was astonishing? What do you think?

⇒ I don’t think it would have been better than the reader found this out later. The narrator has not spoilt the suspense by telling us that the verdict was astonishing. Instead, it arouses greater interest in the audience or the readers.

What did the Crown Counsel say about the defence’s line of argument? How do you think he knew? Was he right? Did the defence propose ‘mistaken identity was it in the same way as the Crown counsel predicted?

⇒ The crown counsel said that the defence would propose to plead mistaken identity. He knew that Adam’s wife would tell the jury that he was with her at two that night. So he said like that. He was somewhat right The Defence Counsel did propose mistaken identity but not in the same way as the crown counsel predicted. However, it was proposed by showing one who was identical to the accused.

‘It was all over……’ What remained, according to the observers? Were they right?

⇒ The circumstantial evidence and the physical features were very strong against Mr.Adams. So only the verdict ordering the hanging of Adams remained according to the observers. They were not right.

Who gave the formal evidence? What do you think the surgeon told the court?

⇒ The policeman who found the dead body gave the formal evidence. The surgeon might have told the court that Mrs. Parker must have died of continuous hammer blows.

Mrs. Salmon identified Adams sitting in the dock. Still, the Crown Counsel asked her, “You are quite certain?” why do you think he did that?

⇒The Crown counsel asked Mr. Salon if she was quite certain because he knew that the Defence Counsel was going to propose mistaken identity.

“And you have no doubt whatever that the man you saw is the prisoner?” why did the Defence Counsel want to establish this? Do you think there is a difference in their purposes?

⇒ The Defence Counsel wanted to establish this because he was going to present to her a person who was the exact image of the accused and who was in the same dress. Thus he wanted to show to the court that there was the possibility of a mistake. The Crown Counsel wanted to establish this so that the plea of mistaken identity would utterly fail.

‘I could not make out what he was at.’ Why couldn’t the narrator understand what the defence counsel was doing? Can you make out what he was at?

⇒ R.S Salmon firmly said that she had made no mistake in identifying the man in the dock. But the Defence Counsel asked her again and again whether she had any doubt about the man she was through the window in that night was the prisoner. So the narrator could not understand what the Defence Counsel was doing. The Defence Counsel wanted to show to the court that it was a clear case of mistaken identity.