Law and justice are critically important themes in Angeles in America. We need only to consider the characters Roy, Joe, and Louis profession’s or the courthouse setting of key scenes. Different characters have different views of the relationship between law and justice, ideally and in practice.
Roy personifies Joe's idea that law and justice are two separate entities: he says that lawyers are America's high priests and encourages Belize to sue someone simply because "it's good for the soul." But for Roy, the exercise of the law is an end in itself, rather than a tool for achieving justice. He wants to remain a lawyer until his death simply because of the status it confers on him rather than for any positive reason. Not coincidentally, despite this appreciation of the law's power he has little respect for the letter of the law. He borrows money from a client, blackmails a friend and tells Joe, "There are so many laws; find one you can break." Worst of all he tells Joe he illegally intervened in Ethel's trial to ensure a death sentence. This is law totally divorced from justice.
Despite his flaws Louis offers a different model for the relationship between the two values. Louis is also preoccupied with the law both earthly and Biblical. He asks Rabbi Chemelwitz for scriptural advice on his predicament with Prior, but his view is more virtuous and humane. For Roy, all that matters is the outcome, the tangible result; Louis
cares about the weighing of right and wrong, the morality of a situation, rather than a specific outcome he can manipulate or use.
The final fight between Louis and Joe tests the conflict between these two opposing viewpoints. Louis criticizes Joe for his decisions, which cleverly adopt the letter of the law without considering its spirit or the effects on real people. In... [continues]
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