Monday, April 12, 2010

J is for Justice, Which Is Different From Vengeance

We could, of course, have a lovely intellectual argument about whether societal justice is really any different from vengeance, especially when we talk about non-rehabilitative criminal sentences, like the death penalty. But that's not where I'm going with this.

It's all about the Goddess of Vengeance, that blue-eyed troublemaking deity that's been fleshed out more and more over the past few weeks of blogging (and fits of writing), even though thanks to the overpowering popular religions we have today, she's never actually in the flesh -- only borrowing it.

For my novel, I think I'm drawing a distinction between revenge, vengeance and societal justice that is likely entirely arbitrary.

When I say revenge, I mean the revenge fantasy. If you're anything like me, this is what occasionally comes to you when you're not daydreaming about sex or food. Sometimes, I think about that really horrible thing that someone said to me at some point, and how I wish I'd had this perfect comeback then, instead of saying, "Uh." That's a revenge fantasy.

My MC, Lauren, is going to have the chance to get revenge on anyone who's mean and petty with her -- to instantly turn a tart-mouthed customer's latte to scalding in mid-sip, or to make the girl who's just said, "I don't know WHY they're together" about her and her boyfriend suddenly lose her ability to walk in high heels. And the good ol' occupying Goddess of Vengeance is all for that sort of thing. But I think Lauren has to rise above it, and accept the "Jeez, I wish I'd said..." moments just like the rest of us.

Vengeance, for my novel's own little dictionary, is avenging a deeply wrong act -- something that truly deserves punishment. Lauren suddenly has a pathway right into the suffering of every victim, and the power to lash out in all their hurt and rage. But she's also a genuinely nice person, the sort who can imagine the pain she's causing HER victims, the ones who hurt someone else in the first place. Even though they deserve it, that's a big weight to carry.

And societal justice? Well, that's when the weight of the vengeance is distributed across the backs of an entire community. It's one thing for Lauren to find herself causing serious bodily harm to a would-be rapist and mete out vengeance alone, and another thing entirely for a court system to sentence that man to prison. The Goddess of Vengeance is more efficient, but societal justice isn't any one person's terrible and serious responsibility to carry.

That distinction is the crux of Lauren's inner turmoil. That, a lot of action scenes,  some Greco-Roman history, and some hot romance with her cop boyfriend should make for an entertaining novel, I hope.


Stephanie Thornton said...

Hmmm... I have a fair bit of revenge in my first novel, but not much societal justice. But then, the ancient Egyptians had a different society than what we have today.

I'm impressed with your ABC challenge so far! I don't know if I could do it!

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Lynn Colt said...

yay Greco-Roman history + hot romance! I love books that are fun (as this sounds) but which have an underpinning of a more serious concept that the MC is wrestling with. It gives the story weight, and gives the reader something to think about.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm with Stephanie on your ABC challenge. It's impressive.

Tracy said...

Good points.

I hadn't really thought about it, but in my story the heroine is guided by a sense of justice -- while the villainess is pulled along by the need for revenge.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Love the idea of those petty paybacks with bigger consequences...not to mention cops. Sounds like a fun read.

Shelley Sly said...

Ooh nice. I love the descriptions of vengeance as they pertain to your novel. Makes me want to read it even more!

Guinevere said...

Stephanie, I find the perspectives of different cultures recently. I read a lot about the news and culture in Iraq and Afghanistan (it's a Marine thing). There was a sad story recently where some four Afghani women were killed in a raid gone wrong, two of them pregnant. The family wants six Americans -- not necessarily the ones in the raid, but at least six Americans -- to be given over to them to kill to repay the lives lost. Such a different perspective, it's hard to even fathom the logic for me (It's six people because the lost pregnancies also count as people). But I find that sort of thing fascinating.

Lynn, me too! One of my fave books is "Good Grief", because it's so funny but it also has that serious aspect.

Stina, thanks! Some days it's quite the challenge to come up with an appropriate post. For todays, I considered "Jokes" because I am the world's worst joke teller... but that's not really writing-related, just an occasionally awkward personal quirk. :)

Guinevere said...

Tracy, I think the desire for vengeance is part of our human programming, but I do think there's something greater in rising above it. Maybe that's what makes our heroines!

Thanks Raquel! I hope so. :)

Thanks Shelley! I hope you get to read it soon. I'm soo excited, I'm taking the summer off of school so that I can actually use my weekends and after-work time to WRITE! My dream is to finish the first draft of The Goddess before fall... crazy big dreams here! :)

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