Compare and Contrast Essay Example: Justice in Hamlet and A Prayer for Owen Meany

Paper Type:  Literature review
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  2157 Words
Date:  2021-06-23


Social justice is a theme that is aptly revealed in William Shakespeares Hamlet and John Irvings A Prayer for Owen Meany. Hamlet is a play by Shakespeare that reveals lengths that human beings can go to ascend to power. Claudius kills his brother, King Hamlet so as to ascend to the throne of King of Denmark. After killing King Hamlet, Claudius quickly marries Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, and declares himself the King of Denmark. Hamlet is profoundly angered and saddened by the early remarriage of his mother to Claudius. Gertrude gets remarried to Claudius even before King Hamlet is buried. Hamlet is surprised that his mother is obsessed with Claudius and is not in a sorrowful mood despite the death of her husband. Claudius’s ascension to the throne denies Hamlet his rightful position of succeeding his father as King of Denmark. King Hamlet’s ghost is the one that reveals to Hamlet that Claudius killed King Hamlet. Hamlet even suspects that his mother is part of a conspiracy that led to the murder of his father. Hamlet is profoundly angered by the revelation and vows not to rest until he avenges his father’s death. There is a point it reaches where Hamlet contemplates murdering his mother on suspicion that he was part of the conspiracy that led to the Killing of King Hamlet. However, King Hamlet’s ghost cautions Hamlet about extending his anger to his mother. The rest of the play is about Hamlet’s quest for social justice that finally leads to the death of Claudius and his co-conspirers. The play ends with Hamlet dead but having avenged King Hamlet’s death and having brought justice upon individuals who had caused his suffering.

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Themes of a Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a novel by John Irving that revolves around the life of a peculiar young boy known as Owen Meany. Owen’s father is a quarryman. John, Owen’s friend, comes from a wealthy family. As young children, the two boys develop a profound liking for each other. Owen is of small stature, and John has a habit of tossing him around in the air. Owen’s voice box got spoilt when he was a young boy, and this makes him speak in a shrilling voice. Owen and John attend school together, and in school, it becomes evident that Owen is intellectually gifted. However, Owen does not like his parents, and he had a habit of controlling them. In contrast, Owen liked John’s mother, Tabitha and Tabitha also had a liking for Owen. When not in school, Owen prefers to spend most of his time with John, at John’s parent’s house. Tabitha is a single mother, and he never discloses to John the identity of his real father and his whereabouts. As a young boy playing baseball, Owen who is not adept at the sport accidentally kills John’s mother by batting a baseball which wrongfully kills John’s mother, killing her on the spot. John is devastated by the death of his mother but he decides to forgive Owen, and the two continue to have a close relationship. A point reaches when Owen starts to claim that he has a strong instinct and that he is an instrument of God. In a drama production of an Episcopal church that both John and Owen attend, Owen appears in one of the production as baby Jesus. In another drama production of the church, Owen appears as a ghost. After Owen’s role in the second drama production, he starts to assert that he saw his name and the date that he would pass on, on a gravestone that was part of the second drama production. As a student of the University of New Hampshire, Owen develops an interest in serving in the military. Owen’s interest in serving in the military is met with a lot of objection from John and John’s step-father. After graduation, Owen works as an Army casualty assistance officer, entitled to delivering bodies of dead soldiers who had served in the Vietnam War, to their next-of-kin. While working as a casualty officer, Owen experiences another dream where he tries to save Vietnamese children, but in the process, he is killed by a bomb. Owen connects his dream of being killed while trying to save Vietnamese children with his dream about his date of death engraved on a Scrooge grave. Circumstances in Owen’s dream about his death come to pass when he tries to save Vietnamese children from a bomb that had been developed by a man who had become distraught about the Vietnam War courtesy of losing a brother in the war. During Owen’s funeral, Owen’s father discloses to John that he and Owen’s mother had never had intercourse and as a result, he always regarded Owen to be Christ-like. Owen’s father goes ahead and tells John that he had told Owen about his miraculous conception when he was a child. The paper compares the theme of social justice as it is presented in William Shakespeares Hamlet with how it is presented in John Irvings A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Themes of Revenge and Justice in Hamlet

In Hamlet, social justice carries the day with the death of Guildenstern, Rosencrantz, Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes. The above-mentioned characteristics bring about a lot of suffering to other people in the play, more so to Hamlet. It is only fair if the characters pay handsomely for their misdeeds. Justice happens when somebody who has done something wrong is punished for his or her activity. It is only through punishing wrongdoers that victims of wrongdoers can get some relief. There are times when wrongdoers get away with an offense, but there are times when the offense comes back to haunt them. In Hamlet, many characters have done wrong to each other. Justice ensures that individuals pay for their deeds. Justice plays a major role in bringing the downfall of individuals who were involved in committing crimes and offenses against their fellow human beings. Justice ensures those individuals who betray their friends fall from grace. Hamlet is of the opinion that it’s only through the avenging of his father’s death that justice can be served. Hamlet had been denied an opportunity to ascend to the crown as the rightful heir of the kingdom of Denmark. Hamlet believes that it is only through the killing of his uncle, Claudius that he would be able to take his rightful position as the King of Denmark.

Claudius had killed his brother, King Hamlet, and ascended to the throne as King of Denmark. Justice can only be served for a person who kills his brother if that person is killed as well. Claudius’s downfall is justified because he killed his brother out of greed for power. Claudius is the most wicked character in Hamlet because of the wicked thing he does. How can you kill your brother, a brother who trusted you because of greed for power? How can you kill your brother and then marry his wife, even before your brother is buried? Hamlet orchestrates Claudius’s death by forcing the latter to drink poisoned wine that was meant for the former after a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes where Hamlet emerged victoriously. Gertrude had already drunk some of the wine and Hamlet forced Claudius to drink the rest of the poisoned wine. On the verge of death, Claudius cries out for help. It is strange that a person as wicked as Claudius would cry out for help.

Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother also receives justice when she dies. Gertrude was part of a conspiracy that orchestrated the killing of King Hamlet. Hamlet was very saddened by the fact that Gertrude could get married to Claudius, immediately after the death of King Hamlet. Hamlet was shocked that his mother could agree to get married to Claudius even before King Hamlet is laid to rest. Hamlet was incensed by his mother for being so callous. Gertrude dies by drinking poisoned wine that was meant to be drunk by Hamlet.

Polonius is murdered for poking his nose in other people’s affairs. People who poke their nose in other people’s affairs should pay for their misdeeds. Polonius had been given the responsibility of spying on Hamlet by Claudius. Hamlet kills Polonius after discovering that Polonius is spying on him.

Laertes, Polonius’s son is angry at Hamlet for causing his father’s death. As a result, Laertes requests that a fencing match be organized for him and Hamlet so that he could get an opportunity to kill Hamlet. However, things do not go according to his plan and Hamlet emerges victorious in the fencing match. Hamlet wounds Laertes with Laertes’s sword, oblivious of the fact that the sword was poisoned and it was meant to eliminate him. Laertes confirms that he was justly killed while on the verge of death. Laertes asserts that his treachery, an attempt to kill Hamlet is what caused his death. Laertes informs Hamlet that Claudius is the one responsible for the poisoned sword and the poisoned wine.

Justice can only be served if individuals who are not loyal to their relatives and friends face consequences for not being loyal. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are two characters who Hamlet trusted as his friends but turn out to be nothing other than Claudius’s spies. Claudius promises Guildenstern and Rosencrantz riches if they turn against Hamlet and become his spies. Due to the lure of riches, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz start to follow Claudius, blindly, without questioning Claudius’s orders. Hamlet discovers the plot being hatched by his former friends and decides to disown them. Hamlet unravels the scheme laid down by Claudius when he comes across a letter that is in possession of Rosencrantz. In the letter, there is a command by Claudius that states that Hamlet should be captured and his head struck off. Hamlet does not believe his eyes when he realizes that people he thought were his friends are the ones who were supposed to make a contribution to his murder. Hamlet then decides to conjure up a plan that ensures Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are put to death instead of him. Hamlet takes away the letter that is in possession of Rosencrantz and replaces it with a letter that reads that when Guildenstern and Rosencrantz arrive in England, they should be put to death.

Theme of Social Justice in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The death of Owen can be considered social justice. Given that Owen had killed Tabitha by accidentally hitting her with a baseball, Owen’s death can be considered as a payback orchestrated by nature. Despite John being distraught by Owen, for killing his mother, he never avenged his mother’s death but instead continued being friends with Owen. In normal circumstances, John would how vowed to ensure that he avenges his mother’s death. John would have avenged his mother’s death by killing Owens mother or father, but he chose not to do so. Justice is fair-mindedness that is meant to ensure that a person pays for his misdeeds and poor choices. During ancient civilization, some societies believed in the eye to eye philosophy. In those societies, a person who was found guilty of killing a human being had to pay for his actions by being killed. Had Owen lived in the above-mentioned societies, immediately it was found that he was guilty of killing Tabitha, it would have been ensured that he pays for action with his life. Given that Owen treated his parents with contempt, it can, therefore, be said that his death was an act of justice enforced by nature. Rules of nature dictate that children should respect their parents. Any child who does not respect his or her parents surely violates the rules of nature. There are people who believe that children who do not respect their parents indirectly solicit for curses to befall them. While playing as baby Jesus in the Episcopal Church drama production, Owen accused his parents in public of sacrilege. It is wrong to make negative accusations about your parents, more so in public.

Dick Jarvis had become distraught about the death of his brother in Vietnam while serving in the United States military and he saw the best way that he could avenge his brothers death is to target Vietnamese. Dicks mother spat on Owens face when the latter offered her an American flag during her dead sons funeral ceremony. Dicks mothers act of spitting on Owens face was a true revelation that the Jarvit family...

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Compare and Contrast Essay Example: Justice in Hamlet and A Prayer for Owen Meany. (2021, Jun 23). Retrieved from

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