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Justice can be defined in three ways. First of all, justice is integrity. Someone, who is honest, behaves justly. Secondly, justice can be defined over its antonym, injustice. If someone treats someone else badly, this unfair behaviour can be seen as injustice. Thirdly, justice can be defined over law. Some people might argue that justice acting according to the law.
These forms of justice or injustice can be seen in the two plays studied, “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen and “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams, in the behaviour of the characters.
In “A Doll’s House”, justice is mainly mentioned over injustice. In the character Nora, a wife of two children and the main figure of the play, shades of just and unjust behaviour become visible. Her honesty towards Christine, an old friend of Nora, who visits her again after many years, can be seen as integrity. This becomes clear to the reader, when Nora opens up to her and explains what she had done “It was I who saved Torvald’s life.
” (Act 1) In her short sentence and clear, her honesty towards Christine is reflected. However, in the following explanation to Christine, Nora talked about her committing a crime, in order to save Tovarld’s life. She borrowed without her husband’s consent and forged a signature. Although this might not be seen as injustice in the narrow sense, this is breaking the law and therefore unjust behaviour in that sense.
Christine herself listens to Nora and seems to want to help her with wanting to help her hide Nora’s breaking the law in front of Nora’s husband, Torvald.
“I will go at once and see Krogstad” (Act 2). In her definite speech, her definite decision is seen, which makes the reader conclude, she wants to help Nora out of kindness or to return the favour of Nora asking Torvald for a job. So Chritines willingness to help can be seen as justice for Nora.
Krogstad’s behaviour to pressurise Nora with the forged signature, although it is seen as just behaviour in front of the law, does not seem to be just towards her, as she did not do him any harm. His trying to diminish his mistakes with asking for the letter back, in which he explained Nora’s forging to Torvald, can be seen as morally right. However, there seems to be a difference between morals and justice, as in this example, he acts according to his morals but this is not honest behaviour; he does not tell Torvald the truth.
Torvald himself acts unjust on many occasions. He doesn’t only patronise Nora with words like “my little squirrel”, which compares her to a weak and small animal, but he also does not see her giving up herself for him.
In “A Streetcar Named Desire”, injustice is mainly seen. First of all, this is visible in all the bad things that have happened to Blanche: Although she loved her husband dearly, he could not return that love. Furthermore, the family house Belle Rêve was lost. “Belle Rêve slipped through” her fingers. The passive form indicates that she could not do anything to prevent that from happening, but that bad luck led to this development. She tries hard to be accepted, loved and admired, which can be seen in her buying all the jewellery and fur coats. However, she is bullied out of the house by Stanley. “I don’t want her here”. From the beginning on, he wants to get rid of her and in the end, he succeeds, she is put into a mental house. The behaviour towards Blanche and the circumstances she is in, seem unjust. Only when Stella tries to defend her sister in front of Stanley, justice can be seen. “She is my sister”. Eunice can be seen as a just character, as she tries, in a fair way, to help everyone right from the start. She helps Blanche to get into the apartment and helps Stella, when Stanley beat her.
The violence of Stanley towards Stella and Blanche is injustice. Although both of them did not take anything in action, that was directed at him in specific, he beats Stella and abuses Blanche. This as well, is an aspect that is against the law. So his behaviour can be seen as unjust in two ways.
All in all, both plays reflect injustice and justice, although injustice seems to be predominant. This is especially the case in the “A Streetcar Named Desire”, when Stanley uses violence against the women. However, in “A Doll’s House”, Nora’s leaving the family has two possible interpretations. It can be seen as injustice towards her family, who is left alone, or as justice towards herself. The first interpretation was the one predominant at the time when the play was written and nowadays, the second interpretation seems to be more common than in the 19th century. This reflects, that if a certain behaviour is seen as just or unjust, depends very strongly on the time lived in.
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