Humiliated Justice in “The Deposition”

Tobias Wolff’s “ The Deposition” is a story of humiliated justice and the lies behind the humiliation. The characters in the story search for their right and get deprived of that as false statements and confessions obstruct their ways to achieve what is just. Starting with the witness in the court and then with the lawyer Burke, the characters undergo an echoing ambiguous treatment of fallacy and false justice that turns the story into a tale of escaping truth and trying to establish their own lies which leads judgments to be wrong.

The main character of the story, the lawyer Burke, has come to New delft “ to take this important deposition in person” (1) and his client was a woman whose son was a “paralegal in Burkes firm”(3). Due to the surgical malpractice of the surgeon, the woman has lost the proper functioning of her left hand and cannot work anymore at the reservation desk of a car rental office as she was a “fifty-eight-year old booking agent who could no longer use a keyboard.” (1). However the woman did not give up her hopes to get the justice for the loss she has encountered. According to the narrator, “she was a battler.”(3) and therefore she moved to San Francisco to live with her son and to fight the battle for justice. She searched for her rights and wanted to achieve them and thus she was never afraid of producing proper documents and reports to the investigators, threat of counter suits and nothing could prevent her from seeking justice “she lowered her head and kept coming.”(3). This attitude of the old and poor woman who had “spent all her savings going after the surgeon” (3) inspired Burke to deal with her case so that she could find some peace and justice after what had been done to her.
When Burke takes the old disabled woman’s case to the court, we see an ambiguous and strange scenario where the witness does not remember what he has said earlier. “The witness was playing hard to get. Statements he had made earlier to his girlfriend, another nurse, statements crucial to Burke’s case, the witness now declined to repeat under oath. He claimed not to remember just what he had said, or even to recall clearly the episode in question..”(1) This was because “he was no doubt under great pressure to stand by the surgeon…he simply claimed not to recall any of it clearly.”(3). Moreover, the lawyer, Burke, could feel the reluctance of the witness’s to tell the lie as he was forced to lie which he did not want to do intentionally. So, there was justice, there was the victim pleading for her rights and also there was the lie making a barrier between the victim and the justice. The woman was on her way to get justice and the false statements and ambiguity of the nurse was humiliating the whole process of achieving justice for her through Burke.

Another humiliation of justice and escaping truth can be found in the story when we see Burke being questioned by the patrol police officer and accused of “Stalking” (5) a young girl. Definitely he was not following or stalking as accused by the police and the older woman with the girl, he was just fascinated by her and walking behind her silently in a dreamy way. So finally when she came back with the police officer and her rescuer, an elderly woman, to get Burke for being accused of stocking her, we see the lawyer himself trying to manipulate the situation in his professional style to escape the accusation. After convincing the policeman and proving the false accusation, when Burke looked at the girl, he saw her turning her “back to them, rested her elbows on the roof of the cruiser, and buried her face in her hands.”(6). The girl might have expected Burke to be punished for what she has accused him for but when she saw that he is going unpunished, she became disappointed and hid her disappointment for not getting justice inside her.

Now there is one thing common here. That is what the witness tried to do and undergoes