This novel is a forceful combination of political / social / judicial criticism, thriller elements and a powerful investigation into the real nature of man.
Politically, the author castigates the chasm between what one ought to do and reality: `We that are rich must do every thing in our power to lighten the yoke of these unfortunate people. We must not use the advantage that accident has given us with an unmerciful hand.' Nevertheless, `wealth and despotism easily know how to engage those laws as the coadjutor of their oppression, which were perhaps at first intended for the safeguards of the poor.'
Justice is totally biased: `Mr. Falkland is a man of rank and fortune; he is your master. I am a poor country lad without a friend in the world. That is a ground of real difference ...but it is not a sufficient ground for the subversion of justice.'
But, `law has neither eyes, nor ears, nor bowels of humanity; and it turns into marble the hearts of all those that are nursed in its principle.'
Socially, the system is fundamentally corrupt, a synonym for `tyranny and perfidiousness exercised by the powerful members of the community against those who were less privileged than themselves.'
Godwin's vision of the world is pessimistic: `Accursed world! that hates without a cause' that overwhelms innocence with calamities which ought to be spared even to guilt! Accursed world! dead to every manly sympathy; with eyes of horn, and hearts of steel!'
His picture of fundamental human selfishness, of pure evil and of despotic and resentful emotions and actions is impressive. He is baffled by man's `hero'worship: `Man is surely a strange sort of creature, who never praise any one more heartily than him who has spread destruction and ruin over the face of nature.'
He sees however one bright spot: freedom of the mind: `The mind is master of itself; and is endowed with powers that might enable to laugh at the tyrant's vigilance.'
The novel has one minus point: its final with an ultimate reversal in the psychological warfare. It seems incredible and improbable (a destruction by suspicion).
However, it is a very compelling read, a real discovery.
Not to be missed.