Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” Jill McDonough’s “Accident, Mass Ave.,” Frances E.W. Harper’s “Learning to Read,” and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s, “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice and Higher Education,” all explore the role of justice in different settings. In each poem the author seeks to illustrate how the subjects of the poem given a particular struggle or problem are able to seek out justice. Similarly in Ariel Dorfman’s play Death of a Maiden, set in Chili, the play illustrates the life of a married woman who struggles with mistreatment and injustice through her unfortunate past. The protagonist Paulina, after being raped by a ruthless doctor Roberto, demonstrates how she has the strength to solve her problems by seeking revenge after realizing that her own husband Gerardo befriends the doctor. Paulina seeks comfort through her husband Gerardo but quickly learns that initially even he believes she is wrong to take revenge and assists the doctor by acting as his lawyer, in order to try to save Roberto’s life. Throughout the play Paulina seeks what she believes to be justice for her own happiness yet faces the internal and mental struggles of her past. Through Paulina’s determination and attentive nature she is able to find a solution to injustice. Paulina has an immense amount of tenacity given her circumstances and her ability to show this unique quality develops throughout the play.
In Frost’s, “Mending Walls,” Frost describes the relationship of two friends who have opposing understandings of the claim that, “Good fences make good neighbors (360).” The neighbor strongly believes that the fence is the most important factor in making a good neighbor, while the narrator seems to not understand, “why (360)” this could be the only reason for a neighbor to be considered good. He tries to challenge his neighbor by offering other reasons why a neighbor might be good yet he still insists that, “Good fences make good neighbors (360).” Just as in Death and the Maiden, the narrator seeks out justice in his relationship with his neighbor. Even though his neighbor solely believes in one statement, he tries to achieve justice by trying to see if there is a medium that they can agree on. Interestingly in the first line of the poem Frost describes how, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall (359).” Perhaps the something is an example of someone or something that is unjust. Stylistically the poem seems to be reasonably simple and does not follow a set pattern but seems like more of a dialogue between two friends.
In McDonough’s, “Accident, Mass.Ave,” McDonough illustrates the scene of a car accident and the reaction from the two drivers. Both drivers are enraged at each other and appear to think that the only solution to the crash is to, “get out of the car, slam the door as hard as you fucking can and yell things like What the fuck were you thinking? (619).” Both women interestingly are examples of unjust people who are only interested in making the other person feel guilty about crashing into the other. However, after coming to a realization, the narrator sees that her car was not hit and both drivers become, “stuck (619).” Interestingly, McDonough chooses to italicize the conversations of the two drivers perhaps to show the intensity and absurdity in the situation. Although the situation begins as unjust the two drivers realize that the fighting was not meaningful and they mend their relationship in the end. Just as the drivers initially are mad at each other, Paulina in Death and the Maiden constantly fights in a back and forth manor with Gerardo about her past experiences and his inability to listen to how she feels.
In Harper’s, “Learning to Read,” Harper explores what is it like for a former slave at the age of sixty to be restricted from learning how to read. Harper uses precise language to evoke the true nature of the subject in the poem. He uses words such as “agin’, (608)” “did’nt, (608)” and “’Twould (608)” to perhaps show the lack of previous reading experience the subject has had before telling her story. In the poem there is a conflict between the “Yankee teachers” (608), the “Rebs, (608)” and the former salve Chloe. The Rebs opposition to learning demonstrates their lack of justice, while the Yankee teacher’s desire for the students to learn and care for learning how to read illustrates their desire for justice. The ending of the poem shows how the subject, Chloe is able to find justice when she, “felt as independent as the queen upon her throne (609).” Just like Chloe finds independence for herself, Paulina’s only desire is to live a happy and independent life away from her harmful past. Paulina is able to find happiness by trying to seek revenge on Roberto and mend her relationship with Gerardo.
Lastly in Kolvenbach’s, “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education,” Kolvenbach explores the roles that the Society of Jesus and Jesuit colleges play in promoting justice. According to the 1971 Synod of Bishops, “Action on behalf of justice, (24)” helps to prove, “the church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation (24).” The Society of Jesus’s strong belief in acting out for justice connects to Paulina’s actions to find justice in her own oppressive situation after being raped and taken of her dignity. Kolvenbach also illustrates how all Jesuit colleges are striving to promote both students and faculty who are interested in engaging in active actions of justice.