This essay will explore the experience of justice through Charles’
Dickens Oliver Twist and Toni
Morrison’s Beloved. Contextualised in
the 19th Century, Dickens’ Oliver Twist focuses on the strains and
struggles of an adolescent, one of many that faced issues such as poverty in an
unequal society. However, the depiction of an unjust society is also focused on
in Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Morrison presents unjust circumstances in the form
of racial inequality as opposed to Dicken’s as he centres the novel on
capitalism and social marginalisation. The chronology of both novels heightens
the development of justice and the experiences individuals have to face in
order to reach fair justice. The two texts Beloved and Oliver Twist both have
reoccurring themes of justice or the lack of.  

It is evident from both texts that justice is ironically unjust. Injustice
in Oliver Twist is presented in a form of mistreatment as for the next eight or ten months, Oliver was the victim of a systematic
course of treachery and deception. Oliver’s innocence is used to express
that his fate is beyond his control and therefore is unaware of the happenings.
Dickens victim-like imagery presents the orphanage to be a microcosm of society
during the 19th century. Hence why Dickens may have first-hand
experience as he too had a similar upbringing of hard labour. Dickens is portraying
that justice as just to an extent and that even Oliver’s innocence and purity
cannot save him of this as justice is blind.

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Similarly, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, it is clear that Sethe and
the workers have very little justice or equality for that matter, Morrison’s
absence of justice is presented in the form of Schoolteacher, a white
supremacist who prevents the character from their rights. “And don’t forget to line them up.” Morrison is referring to the
workers abiding by the rules and therefore the animalistic imagery connotes a
dehumanising tone and a barrier to the worker’s justice, preventing Halle and
the group from achieving their peace. The use of ‘line up’ heightens a possible
daily system that the workers had to partake in as Schoolteacher mentions it in
a nonchalant way, emphasising that the mistreatment that the workers are
exposed to is constant and ongoing. Morrison has described such harsh
conditions to emphasise the raw reality of the occurrences of slavery that took
places after the civil war. Black citizens were constantly attacked and abused
for their ‘characteristic’s’ as Schoolteacher mentions “I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal
ones on the right.” Schoolteacher’s reference to a double identity suggest
they are only half human and that they are less than any other person due to
their skin colour. Also, pretending that the workers were savaged animals
allowed the slave owners to justify their inhumane actions without any
consequences.

In Oliver Twist the outcomes that Oliver faces are not as just,
they are presented as inevitable. However, some may argue that Oliver’s
circumstances of class inequality are based on the exploitation of the working
class by the ruling class. From a Marxists perspective, the presentation of
justice and the mistreatment of Oliver and his peers are a result of
inequality, therefore pushing the individual to pursue criminal activities that
are against the law. Therefore, Dicken’s portrayal of Fagin in this novel
represents a capitalist society, enforcing that certain actions and choices
that Oliver makes are a result of this strain.

“Oliver remained a close
prisoner in the dark and solitary room to which he had been consigned by the
wisdom and mercy of the board.” The imagery of ‘dark’ and ‘solitary’
connotes that of a miserable and lonesome life. Oliver’s solitary of being
alone in a room suggest that his individualism is inevitable. Dickens also
foreshadows his isolation in future as he was born an orphan and will lead a
singular lifestyle. The adjective ‘dark’ also suggests the current setting of
London, as the weather is also presented to be rainy and miserable. “The weather being dark, and piercing
cold.” The gloomy portrayal of the weather adds to the constant negative
feel to the novel as it enforces an ongoing evil and harm. London in the 19th
Century was very industrialised and full of pollution; therefore, the use of
dark may connote that he can only hide from the conditions around him, however,
not escape. The two descriptions may have been used to heighten that he cannot
escape from the solitary and the darkness. The mention of ‘prisoner’
foreshadows Oliver’s miserable future and his lack of justice when he is
convicted of a theft he did not partake in, yet due to his working-class
background he is left disadvantaged. Dickens felt highly opinionated about the
way the working class were presented and treated. Therefore, after the New Poor
Law, Charles Dickens began to write Oliver Twist as a form of protest against
parliament and the limitation of the working class accessibilities.

In comparison to Dickens’ presentation of injustice of social
class and disadvantages, Morrison presents the injustice in Beloved as a racial
issue. If I hadn’t killed her she would
have died and that is something I could not bear to happen to her. Sethe justifies why she killed her
daughter, she would rather carry that particular burden than let her die at the
hands of the slave owner as a slave. As a mother, Morrison presented Sethe’s
sacrifice as an act of love. Morrison has incorporated this as Sethe had given
her life, it is only fair if she is the one who takes it away. The
justification for Sethe’s action could solely be that being alive and a slave
is far worse than death. Morrison has based this tragedy on real life occurrences
to educate those who were unaware of what conditions people were put in.  “They
took anything I had or dreamed’ suggests that Baby sugg’s outcome was that
of an unjust one, she had been stripped off her identity as well as become
purposeless. Morrison’s use of ‘dreamed’ presents the white supremacists as
manipulators as not only are the workers prisoners of the body but also the
mind.

Similarly, the theme of dreams is also
explored in Oliver Twist when mentioning
a kind of sleep that steals upon us sometimes, which, while it holds the body
prisoner, does not free the mind. The use of physical and mental
imprisonment depicts the lifestyle of a slave as one is unable to be free, even
in thought. When someone is sleeping they lose control of their thoughts and
actions, in this case Oliver gives up the ability to choose for himself
entirely, making him a prisoner of his own mind. Mr Bumble is a clear symbol of imprisonment as he had no empathy for
Oliver and his peers. “But, tears were not the things to find their way to Mr
Bumble’s soul; his heart was waterproof.”  Mr Bumble is presented as a sadistic man with
power, who mistreats the orphans out of his own will, similarly to Schoolteacher
in Beloved. Imagery of water connotes purity and cleanliness; however, Mr
Bumble is far from this as he is immune to anything that is kind and innocent.
In terms out outcomes, Mr Bumble faces his own karma when he is humiliated and
beaten by his wife. Although there is a sense of pity and empathy, it was also
well deserved and inevitable.

 

In terms of outcomes and choices, the
characters in the novel are faced with little to none, but Schoolteacher beat him anyway.  It is clear that Schoolteacher is a sadist who
mistreats the workers out of his free will and for pleasure purposes. The
nonchalant tone heightens that it isn’t out of the ordinary nor uncommon for
this to happen without any claim for justice. However, similar to Mr Bumble, Schoolteacher
isn’t a developed persona in the novel but a symbol of negativity and evil.
Although Schoolteacher isn’t a wise nor decent person, Paul D mentions that Schoolteacher had changed him. Paul D
was brought up to believe in free will and choice, however, through the
constant manipulation, controlling and exposure, whether it be good or bad,
Schoolteacher allowed Paul D and his acquaintances to realise that their ‘free
will’ was not as free as they thought it was. It is evident that Paul D’s
realisation altered any justice or just outcomes that could have been in his
favour.

As an embodiment of evil and negativity, Schoolteacher has the
power and authority to dictate and decide the character’s outcome. “Alive. Alive. I want him alive.” Morrison
has depicted Schoolteacher as a cynical depiction when referring to keeping his
workers alive as he also knows that being alive as a slave is far worse than
being killed. In Beloved, it is clear that white people were supreme in
comparison to the black population as Beloved’s historical context was based
around the Fugitive Slave Law which consisted of the escaping slaves who were
captured and returned to their ‘owners’. However, through all the controversy
and wrongful occurrences that Sethe has encountered, the epitome of pure and
innocent had come in the form of a white girl, Amy Denver, who had helped Sethe
deliver her baby after she was abused by Schoolteacher. “A white girl helped me.” In the novel it is constantly emphasised
and enforced that white people are the embodiment of wrongness. Therefore,
Morrison’s use of juxtaposition ­­­­emphasises that stigmas that come with race
and appearances are just prejudices. Morrison’s use of irony justifies Sethes
justice to be in the hands of a white person, which she herself was also
surprised and had allowed her to understand that everyone had different
intentions.

 As an epitome of evil Morrison’s’ use
symbolism “Schoolteacher left town,” connotes
that the evil and dark figure of the novel that prevented the characters from
their justice had fulfilled its inhumane decisions to its fullest and can
finally leave the characters. Morrison had incorporated this into the novel to
emphasise that the injustice in the novel had reached its peak, as everything
is temporary. It is clear that the injustice that characters had faced in the
novel were only temporary and that after the riddance of Schoolteacher; the
characters were finally able to face just outcomes. Paul D, a significant
character which symbolises reoccurrence of strength and willpower mentions I will no longer run from nothing. I will
never run from another thing on this Earth. The
characters in Beloved have had their fair amount of injustice throughout the
novel therefore Morrison has incorporated a sense of relief and road to new
beginnings. Alongside Paul D, overlooking the past is most beneficial in order
to have a hopeful destiny; Sethe mentions “The future was a matter of keeping the past at bay. The ‘better life’.”
 Morrison’s message presents the
characters as eager to let go of the past and embrace new comings.

Similarly, Oliver too has been given his fair justice through the character
of Rose. The flower rose connotes hope and new beginnings as from this point on,
Oliver is finally facing the justice he deserves. Rose empathises with Oliver
and is in fact the reason that Mr Maylie takes Oliver under her wing and
protects him. It is evident that in both of these texts those unjust and just
outcomes come in the form of characters. Nancy is juxtaposed against Rose when
mentioning if there were more like you,
there would be fewer like me. Emphasising that Rose is the representation
of good deed and characters such as Sykes and Fagin are the embodiment of
selfishness and greed. It is clear that although Oliver and Nancy had
encountered many unethical encounters, their just outcomes had finally
occurred. Through personification such as “The sun, the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life,
and hope, and freshness to man,” It is clear that the mood of the novel has changed into that
of a positive and hopeful one. Throughout the novel the imagery of the weather
created a gloomy essence of what was to come for Oliver, yet now that he is
under good care, the forecast has brightened. The use of the noun hope
symbolises a new beginning, allowing Oliver to reach his fair justice after
facing characters that manipulated and took advantage of his fate. When
referring to the sun, it connotes overcoming with power and strength, which is
what Oliver has managed to do.

To conclude this, it is evident that justice and just outcomes
throughout these novels were to an extent in both of the texts. In Morrison’s
Beloved, the reoccurrence of injustice was in the form of a wrongful character
with the motive of hurting individuals due to the stigma and prejudice
associated with black individuals and their race. Similarly, Oliver’s injustice
was solely based around social class, Oliver’s innocence and purity was taken
advantage of. Characters in both of texts do experience justice at various
parts of the novels, for example the riddance of Sykes and Schoolteacher. However,
as an overall concept the theme of justice is presented to be a form of
challenges and raw reality of the occurrences that took place from a contextual
point of view, which may have had a great deal of influence on both texts.

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