Character Sketch of Cokeson in Justice
Cokeson is the managing clerk in a solicitor’s office. He is reputed for his honesty and devotion to duty. He is very plain, disciplined and law-abiding, but he is rather meek in his protests and not an assertive type. He is a devout Christian, a puritan, and his drawer always contains copies of tracts like ‘Purity in the Home’. His employers know him to be an efficient man. While in office he would never allow private affairs to interfere with office work. But beneath the surface this strict moralist is quite capable of understanding human sentiments. When Ruth Honeywill comes to see Falder in his office and tells him that it is a question of life and death to her, he feels a bit embarrassed, but relents in a gesture of generosity. But at the end of the meeting he does not forget to remind Falder of his duties and the need for ‘Purity in the Home’.
Then comes the rudest shock in his life: the forgery. The old man, with his values and Christian piety fails to see how one can commit such a crime. We find him bewildered when Falder is found to have altered the cheque. He knows Falder to be a weak young man, but he finds it difficult to believe that he has committed forgery. When Walter How tries to persuade his father that it is Falder’s first offence and he should be treated leniently, Cokeson agrees with him. The kind, old man simply shudders to think that Falder should be handed over to the police. But that is what James does and to see Falder in the dock he is quite shaken. He forgives the poor young man from his heart and readily joins Frome in his appeal for mercy. And though a moralist he does not see anything wrong in Falder’s relation with Ruth. He pleads for leniency, because as a pious Christian he is for justice tempered with mercy,
When Falder is in prison he goes to see him and he is horrified to see the inhuman conditions in which the prisoners are kept there. His plain speaking shows his bleeding heart and he very frankly and honestly tells the jailor that he would not shut even his dog up all by itself if it bites him. Like a true Christian he praises the quality of mercy, saying
‘If you treat them with kindness, they will do anything for you ; but to shut them up alone, it only makes them savage’.
His strictures on the prison administration show how painful it is for him to see others suffer.
In the absence of Falder Ruth suffers a lot. When she tells Cokeson that she is thinking of going to the workhouse, he is very much pained. He is only too kindhearted to refuse Falder another chance and to help him rehabilitate He is very happy when James agrees to take Falder back. His concern for Falder and Ruth is genuine and he is prepared to do anything to make them happy. But Falder’s destiny is not in his hand-it is the society and the heartless system. This destiny is too cruel to give Falder the respite. So the poor young man jumps to his tragic death.
Cokeson is the saddest man to see Falder dead. He sounds quite shrill when he cries out, ‘He is safe with gentle Jesus!’ He does not have any doubt that Falder will have his shelter in heaven-in the merciful Christ, where nobody from this world will be able to torment him. And how humble Cokeson is when he bends before dazed and appalled Ruth and holds out his hand ‘as one would to a lost dog’! Right from the beginning, Cokeson is the father figure. His heart is always with the defeated — filled with love and pity for the unfortunate and the weak, and always ready to forgive. And this laudable of the old man endears him to all. James How and Cokeson, the two grand Victorians, shed their prudery and share the frustration of Falder and Ruth.
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