Justice, defined by what is right and fair by all society’s standards and morals, is portrayed along with injustice, through the events and characters in To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAM) written by Harper Lee as well as The Power of One (TPOO) directed by John G. Avildsen. In both the film text and the novel, the justice’s and injustice’s are represented through the protagonists of both texts. Within both texts, The theme is explored through Atticus’s and Peekay’s actions for the ‘Blacks’ of society. The use of minor characters, such as Tom and Pete, help to distinguish between the themes of justice and injustice present within both texts. The theme of Justice within the texts, is shown to have been overshadowed by further underlying themes of racism and prejudice. The Themes of racism and prejudice can be also be further observed through the actions of the legal system present within both the novel and the film text.
Within To Kill A Mockingbird and The Power One both the main protagonists, Atticus and Peekay represent themselves as an epitome of Justice, through their belief in equality. Atticus displays himself as an individual ‘Who is the same inside the house, as well as outside.’ He symbolizes equality and justice not only in the courtroom but outside the courtroom. As Tom is defended by Atticus for his court case, the protagonist portrays himself as a true representation of Justice within the Novel. Atticus’s belief that every man is equal in the courtroom, and outside, including those who are subject to doing wrong things signifies his just nature. Similarly, within The Power of One, Peekay portrays his character as a perfect embodiment of Justice and equality, which is represented though his actions. As a slowly growing adult, Peekay comes to the realization that, ‘The world is not perfect’. Peekay begins to grasp the concept of the different treatment conducted by society against the ‘Black’s’ and the ‘White’s’. The beating of Pete by Sergeant Boorman within the film text, is displayed through artificial dark lighting, which portrays the harsh realities of the world to Peekay and enforces the point of a ‘White Man being Evil, yet again’. The barbaric ‘Negro Laws’ that are also set against the Black’s, bring about the loss of innocence within Peekay; which collectively help to form the values of equality and justice within the main protagonist. Peekay renown’s himself as the ‘Rainmaker’; one who brings peace within all tribes and spreads equality among all races. His actions, which include him educating the less fortunate, fighting against his own colour and rebuilding unity among the African community signifies Peekay’s development as an individual. The protagonist illustrates his principled character through his unbiased actions, which are based upon what Peekay deems right and wrong after witnessing the cruel society around him. Even after living in a biased society, both protagonists are able to break the barriers of society and illustrate themselves as a true representation of Justice.
The Power Of One reveals the notion of Justice, however this is not evident in To Kill A Mockingbird. Within the film text TPOO, the death of Pete in the prison elucidates Peekay to the racial discrimination barrier in society. Only after the death of Pete, does the audience observe Peekay attempting to escape the prison and succeed to live his dream of becoming a welterweight champion. The death of Pete brings about values of equality and justice within Peekay, which help him to break the societal barrier between The African-American community and the ‘White’s’ of Zulu Land. Although justice is only awarded to the African tribes after the death of Pete, the Pete’s death subconsciously fulfills his aim of spreading freedom among his people. Hence; bringing Justice into his life. However, in To Kill A Mockingbird, the death of Tom Robinson remains a tragedy. Although being innocent and a kind-hearted person, he is convicted of rape on the basis of his ‘Black’ race. In trying to help Mayella Ewell, he was looked down upon by society. “Yes Suh. I felt sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ’em.” “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?. Mr. Gilmer seemed ready to rise to the ceiling.”. TKAM being set in the depression era of 1930’s, it was rather unheard In the white society, for a black man to help a white women. This added to the reason of conviction against Tom Robinson. Tom, being found guilty of rape, based on the sole reason of his race, could not live with the guilt of a crime he was innocent of. Due to his guilt and the level of injustice displayed, his attempt of escaping prison, ultimately resulted in his death. To Maycomb, “Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he had seen.”. As such, both texts display Injustice, but in different ways, differing slightly in the fate of the characters.
In both texts injustice is seen through the legal system present in the stories. Within TKAM, Tom’s trial exposes the operation of ‘Negro Law’ within the Deep South. ‘The legal system dismissed crimes that were associated within African-American communities as ‘Negro affrays’, but dealt severely with African-Americans accused of crimes against the white people or property.’ – (Text Insights, Catriona Mills). The decision of capital punishment for Tom Robinson made by the jury was based upon his race, not his ‘crimes’. Jem was left in shock from the juror’s decision.” The jury didn’t have to give him death – if they wanted to they could’ve gave him twenty years.”. However, Tom’s fate rested on a question of race, not justice. “In contrast to Boo Radley; who belonged to one of the most respectable white families within Maycomb county and who had killed Bob Ewell was saved by Heck Tate from the harsh court trials. This presents a sharp counterpart to Tom’s sufferings under the South’s unspoken ‘Negro Law'”- (Text Insights, Catriona Mills). Similarly, within The Power of One Peekay witnesses the death of ‘Grandpa Chook’ by Jappie ‘The Judge’ Botha because of his race. Although, the decision is not made from a legitimate judge or court, it however represents the effect of discrimination on the protagonist of the film text.
Throughout both texts, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Power Of One; Atticus and Peekay’s just nature, The Prejudice present within The legal system of the texts and Tom Robinsons trial and subsequent death coupled with Geil Pete’s murder, represent the issues of justice and injustice within both the film text and the novel. Harper Lee and John G. Avildsen’s attempt to illustrate the existence of an apartheid in Society elucidates the underlying themes of Justice present within the text. To an extent, In both the film text and the novel, the theme of race and prejudice is depicted as a smokescreen for a further underlying representation of Justice. However, the hidden context remains unexplored as it is overshadowed by the biased Societal standards.