Written by: Vanshika Pannu & Monisha Jain
As we all know that through examples understanding increases to a whole next level. Here through this article, we would understand the legal system of the 18th century. Justice is a drama written by John Galsworthy which primarily talks about the British system of justice.
The play takes into account a lot of issues like solitary confinement of prisoners and its effect on their mental health, the judicial system, and the broader relationship of punishment to crime. The four-act play revolves around the main protagonist William Falder, a young solicitor’s clerk, who had stolen money from his firm (the place he used to work) to rescue the woman named Ruth who was his lover, from her unhappy marriage where she was being abused by her husband and thus was a victim of domestic violence.
Later on, Falderwas handed over to the police after he confessed his crime. During the trial, the judge sentenced him to three years imprisonment. He was put in solitary confinement and gradually became a victim of the terrible British justice system. Even though the authorities knew about his bad mental and physical state but still they did not take any initiative to help him out.
Before registering himself with the police authorities, he committed suicide as he was tired and mentally exhausted from the things that happened to him and also he was in deep apprehension that he would be put in prison again. The novel Justice portrays the inhuman system that exists between crime and the punishment associated with it. It throws light on the effects of solitary confinement on the individuals and the suffocation and misery behind it which is hidden from one's eyes.
The drama became very popular among the masses as it was based on reality i.e., the reality of a prison life.
The drama talks about how celibacy and a monotonous diet when combined with solitude and absolute silence make one's life miserable to the extent that it forces them to take their own life.
He further conveyed through his novel that compassion, mercy, and kindness can help reform a person.
Justice impacted and influenced a lot of people including Winston Churchill who served as the prime minister of the united kingdom twice and made significant changes in the British judicial justice system. Galsworthy firmly believed that encouraging mental and moral development through expanded educational facilities can prove to be effective to reform a criminal.
He also suggested that prisoners’ aid societies should be linked up into prisoner’s labor exchange so that the prisoners could be employed and would not have to dwell on crimes again. Justice efforts towards bringing reforms in the justice system aim towards improving the conditions of criminals who actually do want to change and the ones who are trapped in prison because their morally right action did not align with the laws of the judicial system.
The playwright has shown the failure of the legal system which gives severe punishments to the poor without taking into regard the circumstances behind their crimes. The poor Falder is sentenced easily when he forges a cheque out of necessity but Ruth’s rich husband is never punished for harassing his wife.
This double standard of the judicial system is highly criticized by the author who sympathizes with the rich and punishes the poor and downtrodden. John Galsworthy in his play Justice adopts a satirical tone to criticize the unfair practices of the judicial system which gives a free hand to the upper class on their crimes and puts the wretched people behind bars for their trivial illegal acts.
Every person is aware of how the law acts as a guardian of the rights of the citizens and claims to maintain peace and order in the society and provide justice to its citizen but the reality is totally different which is pretty evident from the play “Justice”.
The play portrayed the law as a failed attempt to preserve civilization. “The law is what it is – a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another. I am concerned only with its administration.” Even though the abovementioned lines spoken by the judge seem to make a lot of sense but the fact and the circumstance of Falder’s case speak differently.
Even though Falder committed a crime, he did it for a good cause to help his lover Ruth to run away from her abusive relationship. Though it is true that a right act and a wrong act do not nullify each other but the motive behind a person’s actions should be considered. Falder committed a petty crime that attracted three years of imprisonment.
There was no way the punishment given to him was in accordance with his crime which was done for the moral good. Any administration of justice is not absolutely justified in its decisions until it evaluates the circumstance of the case impartially to gain a perspective of the crime.
One should put oneself in the shoes of the other person to understand the situation of the other person and to understand the reasons as to what made them commit any such type of crime. Sadly. Falder is one of the many individuals who could have been proved to be loyal, hard-working citizens if provided with a chance to reform themselves.
Unfortunately, the only concern of the justice system is to deliver justice and not evaluate how it would affect society at large. It is a proven fact that serving a prison sentence changes the lives of people entirely. They are either converted into cynical criminals who prove to be a liability for society or in the case of individuals like Falder, who end their life once and for all to protect themselves from everyday suffering and humiliation. The author is not against the prison system but his only contention is to alter the method of serving justice.
There are many criminals who deserve to serve prison time because the crimes they commit are heinous in nature and thus they deserve maximum punishment as they are a curse in society but many times individuals like Falder get stuck in the crossfire of the prison system. Prison separates individuals from civilization for good. But the prison should not dehumanize the inmate. Certain practices are extremely detrimental to the mental health of the prisoners, like solitary confinement. These practices must be replaced with a system that guarantees a reformative environment for the individuals.
The main conflict that is portrayed in the play is off justice and how even after it is served it is not served. Even though Falder committed some crime, he did it out of good intentions and for a moral cause. even though this does not excuse him from his liability, he should not have been sentenced to three years imprisonment.
He was not a criminal, he was an individual who suffered through momentary weakness.
The play Justice exhibits irony as well due to the fact that even though it is titled “ Justice”, justice was nowhere in sight and it was not served to the accused.