Absolute Justice in "The Things They Carried"

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Absolute Justice in Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"
In society today, we live by tired clichés, swearing that “justice is blind” and preaching “equal justice under law” at every opportunity. We accept justice as something both natural and deserved, assuming that being fair is the same thing as being right, but only rarely do we realize the idealism of this mindset. Try as we might to ignore it, universal justice cannot exist in and of itself—there is no natural law that mandates an action be met with equal compensation. Instead, the idea of justice is a human invention, one based on reimbursement and retribution, and it is, in short, no more than the flawed idea of flawed people, inseparable from all of our tangled subjectivities and inequalities. As a result of these inherent inconsistencies, society must ask itself how powerful justice really is—where its limitations actually lie. In his novel, The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien discusses these confines, using his satirical portrayal of morality to suggest that absolute justice is actually incapable of existing—that justice which is dependent on human perception and circumstance can never truly be considered just. Justice at its most basic level stems from the idea of human morality—that any action should be met by a fair and equal consequence, whether reward or punishment, because that is what is right; because in a perfect world people should experience exactly what they deserve. This moral basis however is one of the main things that make the realization of justice inherently impossible. Morality is innately subjective—there can be no single moral standard when we apply our judgments so inconsistently. Tim O’Brien illustrates this ambiguity frequently throughout The Things They Carried, satirizing both the perceived immorality of soldiers and the demand for single-story ethical standards. Throughout the novel, Mitchell Sanders repeats “there’s a moral here”, in response to stories that are tragic...
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