Representation of ‘Justice’ in The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 – a commentary

Justice is a term that connotes satisfaction for a protagonist at the end of a book. The protagonist, whom we assume is the smart and virtuous one, achieves justice when his influence leads to a happy ending. Although the meaning of justice is in many ways synonymous to having the lack of malpractice, we often overlook how justice exists and takes shape from the point of view of the antagonist. Justice does not necessarily have to be remarked as a fruitful ending of the main character, it can also mean that the hero loses and the villain wins. Although justice and redemption are interchangeable, they do not have to comply with the usual sequence of rising action, falling action and then, a recovery. From the perspective of the antagonists in The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984, it was not a necessity for either of the totalitarian government to redeem themselves; instead, they tried to conceal any form of redemption because they did not need redemption to exist. They are, in a way, characters that do not need to prove anything to anyone. Therefore, justice exists in its severe nature in these works of literature; in that, the totalitarian regime of Big Brother does not merely want to spread his political dogma far and out, but also strives to succumb the people in order remain in eternal power. For 1984’s Big Brother, justice has already been spread far and wide.

Meanwhile, justice in The Handmaid’s Tale persists throughout the novel because the antagonist: the manipulative religious orthodoxy of the State manage to use religion and belief to control the people. The Gileadan society is being controlled by religious conformity. In 1984, there is no Christianity but the religion of Big Brother.


Social disparity in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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Hence, justice in The Handmaid’s Tale is the maintenance of a misogynistic and highly stratified society by manipulating people into conforming to religious orthodoxy by the State. ‘Justice’ for the State, lasts when children are born through legalized adultery and those who belong to certain class remain oblivious to the stark disparity under which they are victimized.

The primary form of justice in 1984 lies in the resourcefulness of the State. The memory hole, the telescreens, the bombs, nuclear weapon, and the vast towers of The Ministry of Love, The Ministry of Peace, The Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of Plenty all are replicates of Big Brother; the structures of Big Brother’s freshly manufactured genes. I use the word ‘freshly’ as an irony; not only because they are tall white figures that add additional gloom to Airstrip One, but those words that are encrypted so boldly in the buildings deceit anyone who do not know that ‘peace’ actually meant war, ‘love’ meant torture, ‘plenty’ meant starvation and ‘truth’ meant censorship and opacity. 1984-down_with-Big_BrotherThe administrative activities that took place inside these buildings did not try to alter what was already so mentally bleak in Oceania but made the Superstate a torture chamber ruled by Big Brother. In 1984, the people have little to no chance for rebellion against Big Brother because he who is an omnipresent figure has the ultimate capacity to indoctrinate the people by severe means; through his support from technology, the advent of Thought Police, spies, censorship and the strongest supportive system of all- political bureaucracy.

Both unconquerable antagonists are able to maintain highly stratified societies, which, for them, is known to be justice . Justice in these books did not merely mean having all the support system to retrieve power, but having the means to ensure that their power and reign persisted, spread and followed eternally.


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