By studying the scene through the eyes of the client and the witnesses, the attorney can not only evoke this psychological subtext, but can also weave relevant and probative details into the statement of facts and the argument and elicit such detail at trial. For instance, in a case involving a car accident, the weather, the temperature, the time of day, the traffic on the road, and the color of the cars, signs, and traffic lights can be relevant as to the degree that a driver was negligent. Similarly, in a case involving child neglect, the smell of a home, the weather, the child’s clothes, and any debris, pills, and poisons on the floor and counter-tops can all be relevant as to whether the parent neglected the child. In fact, when a case involves a “totality of the circumstances” analysis, the legal standard actually seems to call for a detailing of that very “chain of events” to which Eliot refers.
This Article will present the literary concept of objective correlative and explain how the concept can be applied to legal narratives, providing examples from works of fiction, appellate briefs, and trial transcripts. Part I of this Article defines objective correlative and distinguishes it from related concepts. Part II explains why objective correlative is useful. Part III illustrates the characteristics of objective correlative done well in both fiction and in legal narratives. Part IV describes the process for developing objective correlative in both fiction narratives and legal narratives. Part V discusses the ethical issues regarding objective correlative in legal narratives.
Cathren Koehlert-Page, A Look Inside the Butler’s Cupboard: Fiction Writers’ Insights on How the External World Reveals Internal State of Mind in Appellate Briefs, 69 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. of Am. L. 441 (2013).