Law in Contemporary Society
As part of this class, we’ve looked at the subjects of our readings and asked: “what does it mean to be this kind of lawyer?”

On this note, I’m not sure what to make of the role of sensitivity in “Cerriere’s Answer.” Martha tells Robert: “Your problem, Robert, is that you’re too sensitive.” At the same time, though, she’s far too sensitive to the smell of cleaning chemicals from the “Mop Boy.” Robert points to her excessive emotional reaction to the Mop Boy is evidence of her hyper-sensitivity, which adds an extra piece to this.

Is the idea here that she sympathizes with a romanticized, tragic version of the laborer (Mop Boy), but can’t handle the practical reality? I can’t tell if the point is to make Martha look like a hypocrite, or if the point is to make Cerriere look callous.

Most importantly: what does all this say about the role sensitivity plays in being a lawyer?

-- AlisonMoe - 19 Apr 2010

I think the point of that scene was to illustrate his ability to push her buttons, and well, because he has been doing it for his entire career. I didn't take Martha's dislike of the smell of cleaning products, or her mistaking the minimum wage (to reference Amanda's point in another post) as evidence of fraud or inability to cope. Martha is an older women, raised well, wealthy, who has worked in downtown law firms all her life. She is high up, maybe the highest, on the working man's food chain - she is their leader and advocate, but not she's not one of them. This doesn't change the fact that she represents them, literally - she is leading the fight. And Cerriere is a leader of his faction, the corporate faction. They are two people who embody America's class struggle because they believe in and fight for those opposing ideologies at the highest level, in the court room. But they are also attorneys, not occupying the same space as their clientele. And that, in the end, is what every attorney does - simultaneously embody and live completely separate from the client.

-- AerinMiller - 19 Apr 2010

I think it's important to distinguish sensitivity as "touchiness" from sensitivity as "empathy." Tharaud is empathic and responsive to the world: she notices its beauty, she fights against injustice, she imagines other people's lives. Her sensitivity to the mop disinfectant is a reflective of the way in which she is attuned to her surroundings - openness makes you vulnerable (hence her speech before meeting Cerriere where she says you have to protect yourself and the ones you love).

When Tharaud says that Cerriere is "too sensitive," she is trying to simultaneously provoke him and deflect his response. Her hackles are up: she is in lawyer battle mode and is using every tool she has. She is also being sarcastic, because she really means he is anything but. If he were really sensitive, she seems to say, he couldn't do the work that he is doing, couldn't represent the clients he represents.

But I also think that here, Tharaud's remarkable empathy, or sensitivity, fails her. She wonders about the lives of workers, but can't imagine Cerriere's inner world or understand why he is the way he is. Cerriere derides Martha's interest in the life of the cafe worker, I think, because he thinks it is misplaced. People are torturing each other; the world is full of arbitrary horrors. He resents her self-righteousness because there is still so much injustice, and there isn't anything to be done about it.

-- CarolineFerrisWhite - 19 Apr 2010



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r4 - 13 Jan 2012 - 22:01:07 - IanSullivan
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