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In the world that we live in, human beings desire the better things in life. This is among other things to live a comfortable and a somewhat affluent lifestyle that is devoid of everyday worries. In an effort to accomplish this, man would go to all extremes to ensure he achieves it, even if the outcome is devastating or forever life changing. The desperation of being put in such a position forces individuals to make drastic decisions on their everyday life. However, not all get to have justice in their everyday struggle to make things work out for them. Destiny somehow always catches up with them and their fate is not a just one. In the novels The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Old Man and the Sea, this theme on justice has been brought out very clearly. The characters in these novels suffer injustices in life, the law or destiny in their pursuit of a better life despite their effort to fight for a better life. Two issues emerge from the events of the four novels; man cannot change his fate and if indeed he changes it, it will haunt him until he succumbs to it.
In The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses allegory and parable to illustrate the misfortunes and events surrounding the protagonist, Santiago. It illustrates the experiences we undergo in our daily lives and how we deal with the challenges and obstacles. There is no alternative to man’s fate; he has to experience it in order to learn about the way to act in this unforgiving and cruel world. Santiago is presented as a strange old man albeit powerful and wise in all he does but his later encounter in the sea proves otherwise. He has been used in the story to bring out the theme of injustice and how fate plays out in people’s lives. He was a successful fisherman but a dry spell hits him and he starves for eighty days without catching any fish. He however does not let this demoralize him; he puts on a brave fight as we are told, “man is not made for defeat . . . man can be destroyed but not defeated.”(Clinton, 1960) In as much as he had been a hardworking individual in his youthful days who should have deserved a better life in his old age, life is not just to him. However, his determination pays off when the sharks come and his getting hold of the marlin is almost as a thing expected. It is almost as a reward which the old man brings upon himself in going far out "beyond all people in the world" and there hooking and killing the great fish. For the coming of the sharks is neither a matter of chance nor a stroke of bad luck; "the shark was not an accident" (Clinton, p. 99)
The theme of justice is brought out here when in the story we are told how he set out in the deep waters in search of a big catch (Clinton, 1960). He does this in order to prevent himself from dying from hunger. Due to his hard work, Santiago is able to catch an 18ft Marlin out in the deep waters. It would have been only just for the forces of nature to be in his favor after all this hard work, but that was not the case. He struggles to secure the marlin to his boat but since he was old, luck is not on his side as the marlin uses all its remaining strength to drag the man and the boat deeper and further from humanity. He finds himself in trouble once again with fate during this incident as no other boat appears during Santiago’s struggle with the marlin; he therefore has to endure a series of obstacles and challenges in order to make it home with his catch.
Fate commits injustice towards Santiago. He only makes it to the shore with nothing but the bones of the Marlin, as the predators in the sea had eaten off huge chunks of flesh from the Marlin already. Despite his hard work and commitment, Santiago does not get justice for this and in the end is back to being miserable. A similar case of this theme of Injustice has also been brought out in the story by James Cain, The postman always rings twice Set in 1933 during the Great Depression characterized by capitalism, unemployment and low business returns, the story depicts a time which had been bombarded by unstable conditions with cases of injustice (Cain, 1934). The story presents three main characters who suffer injustices of different forms; Nick Papadakis, Cora and Frank Chambers.
Nick is a Greek immigrant who runs the Twin Oaks bar and diner in California; he is simply living the American dream. He struggles to settle down with his wife and have a family of his own. Despite having good fortune in the running of his business, fate does not repay nick for his hard work. Injustice is committed against him by his wife and Frank, a vagabond who is unemployed and is after Nick’s wife. Nick’s wife does not play just by appreciating what her husband is trying to do for her and their family. She is after his money and plans to run away with Frank. The theme of injustice plays out here as the character Nick does not get to enjoy the fruits of his hard work. All he gets is a wife who is after his money.
In this story, injustice also plays out with the character Cora. Cora is a former high school beauty queen from Los Angeles who moves to California to search for a better life. When she realizes that life is not as smooth as expected, she jumps on the first rich man that comes along. Her marriage to Nick provides her with the money and status she wanted but she feels cheated of her dream to prosper (Cain, 1934). She is reduced to the level of cleaning and cooking in her husband’s diner. She wants to manage the diner and improve it to her standard but she knows that the only way of advancement is to eliminate Nick from her life. By doing so, she commits injustice to the man who actually gave her the life that she was yearning for. Nick married her and offered her the wealth she wanted, but still she was not satisfied with this and wanted to own everything. She dumps Nick and runs away with Frank when she realizes that she is expecting a baby. However, nobody always gets away by committing acts of injustices. Her fate finally catches up with her and justice is done as her dreams and aspirations are cut short when she dies in a car accident.
Frank Chambers is an unemployed vagabond who is very cunning and unjust. He wants the easy way in life without sweating for it. At the diner, he sees Cora and sticks around just to satisfy his bodily lust for her. His jealousy makes him a perfect accomplice and he conspires to murder Nick. After a series of legal twists, justice is not done as he is set free despite his actions and he is free to pursue his ideal life. He has no desire for money and when he realizes that Cora is an entrepreneur and cannot join him on the road as a vagabond, he grows jealous. However, he changes his ways and decides to settle down with Cora. When Cora dies in a car accident, he is accused of the murder and sentenced to death without facing a fair trial. Despite being an earlier villain, injustice is committed against him as he does not get a chance to defend himself in the court.
George explains that in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, man suffers great misfortunes in his pursuit of a life which is different from that already mapped out for him (1994). HenryFrederic is a young American Lieutenant serving in the Italian Army as an ambulance driver, during World War 1. His experience has left him numb and he would do anything to escape this life and start allover in another town. An opportunity arises when he meets Catherine Barkley who works at the British hospital as a nurse’s aide. Though grieving from the recent death of her fiancé, she is desperate for some love hence her involvement with Henry. When he is wounded Catherine nurses him to health and their romance also flourishes. By the time he recovers, the two are madly in love and Catherine is pregnant. They are not destined to be together and a string of misfortunes follow them to ensure this. Henry shoots an engineer for disobeying his orders and is arrested. He jumps into the river to escape execution and reunites with Catherine in Switzerland. Catherine suffers the most yet she hurt nobody. She goes into labor, delivers a still born baby boy and later that day she dies of hemorrhage. All Henry wanted was a peaceful life abandoned his duties and responsibilities as an officer and went after love and the illusion of a better life but lost all. These two lovers tried to force destiny but fate prevailed (George, 1994).
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of Jay Gatsby and his downfall while chasing the American dream and his love, Daisy Buchanan (Fitzgerald, 2009). Jay Gatsby lives in the unfashionable West Egg district of Long Island is one such person and is known to love a lavish lifestyle hosting weekend parties at his house. Nobody knows where he came from or what he does but later on, we learn from Daisy that he is a scrupulous liquor dealer which has earned him the wealth and was once in love with Daisy. He engages in all this in order to have a better life, impress Daisy with his wealth and possibly win her heart again. Despite his accomplishments, life deals him a cruel blow when he is shot by George Wilson for killing Myrtle and suspicion of being her lover. Another victim is George Wilson; he kills another man as revenge against his wife’s death and has to take his life too. Daisy and Tom live an extravagant life characterized by careless use of things and smashing them up at their will. This later causes a trail of destruction and death to all those involved with them (Fitzgerald, 2009).
All the above novels clearly portray the fact that man cannot change his destiny and that if he does; only fate awaits him. While chasing our dreams and aspirations, it is important to draw a clear line between reality and illusion so as to decipher those dreams that are attainable and those that will remain just that- a dream.