Justice

One of the trademark qualities of American culture is our perception of justice: a belief in innocence until proven guilty.  This is the cornerstone of our judicial system and provides US citizens a great deal of freedom and protection from wrongful imprisonment/punishment.  Clearly, the theme of justice in this novel is unrecognizable to the American sense of justice.  The idea of justice recurs throughout the novel, even represented in the title of the man in charge: the Judge.  This is a departure from the judicial system definition of “judge”: “a magistrate charged with the administration of justice” (dictionary.com), and it is redefined as one who has taken on the responsibility of judgment (a duty, in Biblical terms, that is reserved for God).  The Judge has taken on this godly role and sends the Red Blacks to carry out his smiting.  The Biblical mingling with the judicial is an interesting and relevant comparison to America, which was founded on Christian principles but is simultaneously separate from religion.  The inclusion of the theme of justice is, in my opinion, one of the features of this novel that makes this distinctly American.

Additionally, the theme of justice is recurrent outside of this perspective.  After Morgan and Zvominir are forced to leave the Giggs house, Morgan says, “I want a revolution, I want justice.”  Zvominir responds, “Justice doesn’t exist” (55).  The definition of justice one on end of the spectrum is “righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness,” as compared to “the administering of deserved punishment or reward” (dictionary.com).  Morgan seems to adhere to the second definition, as he is preoccupied with the “deserved punishment” of those persecuting him rather than the “moral rightness” of his actions.  Because of this, it’s entirely possible that the idea of justice, in its moral sense, does not exist at all in this novel, and these characters live in a world not of justice, but of judgment.

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