Justice Is Not For All

Justice Is Not For All Throughout the course of history, mankind has learned many things, and has continually strived in running the race towards the prize that has been set out for them. It’s undeniable that at times we do a great job, lighting the future with hope. However, other times the path ahead of us seems only to be filled with darkness. This impression could be given through many of today’s undisputable facts. Quite unfortunately, justice is not for all.

Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill A Mocking Bird; the documentary, Eyes on the Prize: Education at Little Rock; Anthony Burns by Virginia Hamilton; and the certain poems all illustrate this fact. In the view of Harper Lee, justice is a simple concept. To recognize the difference between justice and injustice does not take any special degree of wisdom or sophistication, as shown by Scout, our narrator. In fact, the learned members of the community- such as the judge and prosecutor- and the proudly religious Baptists who are spectators at the trial are, willingly or not, allied with the machinery of injustice. The title this novel is a key to some themes.

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It is first explained in Chapter 10, at the time that Scout and Jem Finch have just received air rifles for Christmas. Atticus tells his children that it is a sin to shoot a mockingbird. Later Miss Maudie explains to the children what Atticus meant: Mockingbirds are harmless creatures that do nothing but sing for our enjoyment. Therefore, it is very wrong to harm them. It is easy to see that the mockingbird in this story is Tom Robinson- a harmless man who becomes a victim of racial prejudice and injustice.

Like the mockingbird, Tom has never done wrong to anyone. Even the jurors who sentence him to death have nothing personal against him. They find him guilty mostly because they feel that to take the word of a black man over two whites would threaten the system they live under, the system of segregation. Tom himself is guilty of nothing but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. To Kill a Mockingbird contains criticism of the prejudice and moral laziness that allowed Southern society to have a double standard of justice.

Boo Radley, the eccentric recluse in To Kill a Mocking Bird is another harmless creature who becomes a victim of cruelty. Here again, the author seems to be emphasizing the universality of human nature. Tom Robinson’s problems may be bound up with the complex social problem of racial prejudice, but any neighborhood can have its Boo Radley, all but forgotten except as the subject of gossip and rumor. By the final chapters of the novel, we learn that good and justice do not necessarily triumph every time. Harmless individuals such as Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can become victims through no fault of their own. And sometimes the system can do nothing to defend them.

Boo Radley’s situation is similar to that of the man in the poem A Negro Labourer in Liverpool. I stared; Our eyes met But on his dark Negro face No sunny smile, No hope or a longing for a hope promised; Only the quick cowed dart of eyes Piercing through impassive crowds Searching longingly for a face That might flicker understanding Tragic, isn’t it? A man comes from his motherland with new hope, only to be disappointed. No one cares, and his hope “lies in the shovel.” In Hamilton’s novel, Anthony Burns, the same injustice is evident throughout. “He can’t get away, thought, y’know. He can’t escape the fate he’s born to, was the statement made regarding Anthony Burns, the fugitive slave, and the hero of the book.

He, like his Negro slave family of 14 children, and like countless other Negroes in the 1800s were born into injustice and cruelty. He was whipped and half starved to death in the early parts of his life, and was unable to even enjoy some of life’s simplest things, which many of us take for granted. Did he do anything to deserve it? No. Later Burns escaped slavery by fleeing to the Boston, where slavery had already been abolished. However, his freedom is short-lived.

He was soon re-captured by his master, who demanded his return. According to the Fugitive Slave Act, a runaway can be captured in any free state 0 even as far north as Massachusetts. Burns was then imprisoned. After being tried, the commissioner entitled Burn’s master what he claimed – to have his “property” back. The means and evidence used by the commissioner to reach this end is also, far from just.

Richard Dana paled. Loring had accepted Burns’s alleged admissions to Shuttle as evidence, though to do so was wrong and unconstitutional. A man was protected from being a witness against himself. He was protected from giving testimony against himself by the Fugitive Slave Act. Burns was then put into a small jail cell, which can only be reached through a trap door, with his hands and legs tightly chained.

For the next four months he became ill from the tight iron shackles on his body and the extremely hot room. His feet swelled to a huge size and his wrists were bloody from handcuffs biting into his flesh. He was soon living in the foul smell of his excrement. He was given rotted meat and a chunk of cornbread a day and a bucket of water each week. Everyday when he was well enough, he was brought down to the grounds of the jail and put on display, forced to kneel in a cage, and was humiliated and cursed at for an hour or two.

And what has he done to deserve this? Fleeing from tyranny. In the poem The Hurricane by Bob Dylan, a black man was dealt with similar injustice as Tom Robinson and Anthony Burns. How can the life of such a man Be in the palm of some fool’s hand? To see him obviously framed Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land Where justice is just a game Dylan was referring Rubin Carter, a famous boxer who was wrongly accused and convicted of a crime he did not commit. He is yet another of countless innocent who was dealt with prejudice instead of justice. The documentary Eyes on the Prize: Education at Little Rock presented the controversial issues of integration and segregation during the 1950s.

It took place in Little Rock, Arkansas, a town in Southern America with a modest population of just under 110,000. The “Little Rock Nine”, as they are known today, were the first black children in their hometown to attend a school for whites. Their struggle was inspiring and it took courage to attending a school full of prejudice and racism. However, was justice done to them? No. After enduring many hardships, including raging mobs and utter humiliation, justice was not delivered. Governor Forbus closed down every high school in the state to prevent the integration of colours.

Not only were the black children disadvantaged, thousands of white children were now not able to further their education, disadvantaging them tremendously. Is this justice? However, not all is lost, there is a brighter side- justice can be for all, if we worked hard enough. To Kill a Mocking Bird presents a somewhat optimistic view of white Southerners that was unusual at the time the novel appeared. The story indicates there are good human beings like Atticus Finch everywhere, even in the midst of a corrupt society. Even those who do wrong, the novel goes on to suggest, often act out of ignorance and weakness rather than a deliberate impulse to hurt others. However, Tom Robinson did end up getting shot.

The author does not ignore the existence of evil in society, but she does suggest that human beings are born with a desire to do the right thing. In one of the final scenes of the story, the sheriff puts compassion ahead of the letter of the law so that Boo Radley will not have to face the ordeal of publicly proving his innocence. This is hopeful because of the compassion shown by the sheriff but it is also troubling by suggesting there sometimes may be a conflict between the spirit of justice and the letter of the law. In deciding how to deal with Boo Radley, the sheriff trusts his own compassionate impulse more than he trusts the law and police procedure. And Atticus, the lawyer, agrees.

In Anthony Burns, our hero eventually finds freedom and pursues his dreams. His saviour, Reverend Grimes is yet another example of how hope can be found in righteous human beings. Likewise in the documentary Education at Little Rock, there were those who believed in justice – from leaders such as John F Kennedy to the simple citizens as the lady who helped Daisy Banks escape the violent mob. The last two lines of The Abolitionist Hymn says this But let the hand that tills the soil Be, like the wind that fans it, free Justice is not for all, but through the noble character of human beings, and pleas such as the desperate one just said, equality and justice can be for all man to enjoy, without limitation of race, age, gender or background. English Essays.


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