Saikaku Pushkin and El Saadawi: Is Justice Possible  Term Paper

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Saikaku, Pushkin and El Saadawi: Is Justice Possible?

The concept of justice, in literature and in life, is a universally cherished yet complex and inherently ambiguous one. All societies have respective, sometimes opposing, ideas about justice. Islamic Sharia law (once enforced in Afghanistan by the Taliban) states that cutting off a hand is apt justice for theft. Western society would consider that act not only unjust but barbaric. Webster's New American Dictionary defines "justice" as (1) "the administration of what is just (as by assigning merited rewards or punishments)"; (2) "the administration of the law; and (3) FAIRNESS; also RIGHTEOUSNESS" (p. 285). By any of those (admittedly Western) definitions, particularly the last one, neither Ihara Saikaku in "The Barrelmaker, Brimful of Love"; Alexander Pushkin in "The Queen of Spades"; nor Nawar El Saadawi in "In Camera" depict justice as feasible within the socially-constructed institutions (e.g., insane asylums; courtrooms; marriage) or other elements of a perceived human nature (e.g., agreements; promises, exchanges of goods for services, verbal contracts) depicted within these three stories. Instead, self-interest takes precedent over justice (or even fair play, propriety, or basic human decency).

In Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades," a once practical young military engineer, the German-born Hermann, is obsessed with growing rich by rel="follow">learning an old Countess's elusive card-playing secret. After this woman's grandson Tomsky tells how his grandmother was saved by and still possesses this gambling secret, Hermann, who earlier "never held a card in his hand, never doubled a single stake" (p. 865) now stops at nothing (including breaking and entering; scaring the Countess to death; and toying with Lizaveta the servant's affections) to learn the old woman's secret.

But when the Countess dies suddenly, Hermann looming threateningly over her, revolver in hand, it appears that Hermann's boorish quest will go unrealized. Then, at the Countess's funeral, Hermann experiences (he thinks) the dead Countess's telling him, as she lies inside her coffin, the winning secret after all. But when Hermann goes to play these cards, on three consecutive nights, just as he is about to take all, he somehow mistakes his queen of spades for an ace, losing all. Subsequently, Hermann, once rational to a fault, "went mad. He is now installed in Room 17 of the Obukhov Hospital; he answers no questions, but merely mutters with unusual rapidity: 'Three, seven, ace! Three, seven, queen'" (Pushkin, "The Queen of Spades," p. 883).

The poor servant girl Lizaveta Ivanovna, according to Pushkin's curiously detached, newspaper article-like conclusion to this story, fares better: she marries "a very agreeable young man" ("The Queen of Spades," p. 883). However, Lizaveta Ivanovna is…

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