Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Injustice

injustice--a character's sense of having been dealt with unfairly, a rip or tear in the fabric of social accord; a person or system inflicting on another individual or group of individuals a behavior or treatment extending beyond civility; encroaching on another person's or group's defined territory; any thoughtless or bullying oppression or harassment.

Injustice may be real or imagined. The actual victim may not feel the unjustified invasion but a close friend or family member, observing the circumstances, might see the occasion and then attempt to urge the actual victim into recognition of the injustice. What a splendid motivational force for fiction. Injustice may breed resentment, which in its turn motivates irony, which gives way to sarcasm, which becomes the catalyst for revenge. Injustice is a prized motivation because it so frequently begets dramatic action, which is, of course, the life's blood of story.

One of the more notable victims of injustice was Edmond Dantes of The Count of Monte Cristo fame. In Dumas's epic tale, Dantes becomes the victim of a conspiratorial web of injustice to the point of considering suicide in his helpless despair. Through a dramatic shift of power (see), Dantes is able to embark on a pattern of revenge which, once exacted, allows him the luxury of getting on with his life.

Another victim of injustice, the near-iconic Montresor of "A Cask of Amontillado," has suffered injuries (never specifically detailed but assumed to be countless humiliations) in the past but has now been insulted by Fortunato(also not detailed but through implication presented as sufficient to merit revenge). The story ends with Montressor having sufficiently played upon Montressor's overweening pride to the point of luring him into a fatal trap, during the course of which Montressor is given cause to cite his family's motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit,” (No one insults me with impunity)which is a tell of the outcome. Montressor's ultimate revenge for the injustice suffered appears to satisfy him, but since the story is narrated in first-person, it is possible to read it with the interpretation that this is merely one of many retellings of the story, that Montressor has literally been dining out on the tale for some years and that in doing so, he has become as overweening in his pride as he felt Fortunato to be in his.

Fiction abounds with characters setting forth to undo injustices. Happily, there is room for more.

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