A Civil Action

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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A Civil Action, by Jonathon Harr, is a very well constructed novel. The novel begins in the present day with Jan Schlichtmann, an attorney, at his home a few days before the Woburn case is settled. This insight to the outcome of the novel gives the reader something to look forward to later in the novel. Immediately after this glimpse into the future, the author begins to set up what will be a long introduction, into the main conflict. The main conflict in A Civil Action, is that two of the wells that provide water to East-Woburn, have been contaminated with TCE, which is "a potent central nervous system depressant that can cause severe neurological symptoms"¦[TCE] can produce liver damage and cause cell mutations and cancer (81)."� In Woburn people start to notice that there is a cluster of children being diagnosed with leukemia. Many of these children live nearby each other and a large percentage of the children who are being diagnosed with leukemia happen to be living in less than one square mile of each other.

In fact, three neighboring families have a child with leukemia. The families of children, who have leukemia or have died from leukemia, end up joining each other to prevent any more children from being hurt by the companies that have contaminated the drinking water.

The way the main conflict is brought out in the novel is pure brilliance on the author's behalf. The author starts out introducing a lady by the name of Anne Anderson. Anne's son, Jimmy, was diagnosed with leukemia, and as a result, Anne ends up playing one of the leading roles in the case against the chemical companies for contaminating the drinking water with TCE. Anne is the first person who questions the drinking water...