The novel shows that the legal system is not interested in truth but legal justice Janet's Lewis' novella encompasses a legal system which is more concerned with achieving legal justice by punishing those who transgress the laws of society, than discovering the truth. Propelled by her moral conscience, Bertrande seeks to have the courts identify the truth, and name her returned husband an impostor. However the inadequacy of the legal system is highlighted when a good man is executed and Betrande is left in "bitter solitary justice.
" In the novella the truth is that Bertrande is "imposed upon, deceived and betrayed into adultery," by a man pretending to be her husband. Bertrande is motivated to pursue the truth by a moral conscience which she derives from her devotion to the church. She is a committed catholic and is determined to uphold the laws and values of the church. Her belief that Arnaud is an impostor evokes a deep fear. "I have sinned, through him, and you will not understand it even long enough to give me absolution. "
With the firm encouragement of her uncle, Pierre Guerre, Bertrande resorts to court action in order to have the truth identified. She is convinced the truth is definite and obtainable, "Little sister, how can I deny the truth. " However the courts show little interest in discovering the truth, acting only to achieve legal justice. The sole purpose of the legal system is not to determine the truth; it is to achieve legal justice. The trial process is not constructed in a way which suits a search for the truth.
The novel reveals that the courts rely on the testimony of witnesses and other evidence to prove the case before them. The court can only weigh up the evidence and look for the proof. Bertrande is courageous and determined in the witness box, yet the court is utterly dismissive, questioning her reaction ("No, not death. ") to the Rieux courts' sentence of Arnaud. Betrande is distant from the process which becomes something much different from a personal quest for the truth and freedom. Lewis novel highlights the fundamental flaw of the legal process.
The courts at Rieux and Toulouse seek to punish those who transgress the laws which keep society together. The courts realm is not truth but legal justice. They seek to protect the current social system by punishing Arnaud heavily for committing crimes which threaten its existence. They neglect the truth of the situation. Arnaud was a changed man because of his love for Bertrande. "Can you not marvel now that the rogue, Arnaud Du Tilh, for your beauty and grace became for three years an honest man? " The court administers the law to protect society and disregards the truth of the situation.
Following Martin's return, the decision of the courts to have Arnaud "do penance before the church of Artigues on his knees," and to be "hanged and his body burned," achieves legal justice. However it disregards Bertrande's wish, simply to have the truth acknowledged. Furthermore, the legal system fails to recognise that Bertrande is a victim, deserving of sympathy. Her husband deserts her and Arnaud is a credible impostor. Betrande suffers the imposition of Arnaud upon her. Yet she is given no recompense for her suffering..
The fact is Bertrande follows her conscience and hopes to rid herself of the impostor, asking the courts to identify the truth. Lewis shows that the courts are best at achieving legal justice, but not identifying that which is real. The inadequacy of the courts in obtaining and upholding the truth is exemplified in Janet Lewis' novella. Bertrande aims to have the courts recognise the reality of her situation. However the legal system is content to severely punish Arnaud, a man who threatens the survival of the feudal order. The court does not offer Bertrande sympathy, leaving her legally discharged and morally denounced by her husband.