The Meaning of Justice
Justice is defined as the quality of being just, impartial, or fair. Yang consistently uses his graphic novels Boxers and Saints to challenge his readers to further elaborate on his preconceived thoughts and ideas of justice and injustice. To convey to his readers that there is more injustice in the world than justice and that unfairness is more prevalent throughout the world, Yang exhibits injustice through the tragic, cataclysmic murders of Dr. Won, Mei-Wen, and Vibiana.
Although Yang believes there is more injustice than justice in the world, he does, however, believe that the world isn't completely inequitable, one-sided, and biased. Father Bey, the priest, was an exceptionally hypocritical character in Boxers, especially of Dr. Won, the opium addict. Because Bey is a priest, he is expected to be accepting of others around him yet he displays behavior that completely contradicts societal expectations and standards. Vibiana goes to Father Bey for specific guidance, usually regarding the church, because she respects and admires him. When Vibiana runs to tell Father Bey that Dr. Won and his significant other came into the village the previous day, Bey bluntly replied, "Dr. Won is an opium addict and Mrs. Won his accomplice"(Saints 122). He even proceeded to say, "I refuse to fraternize with them!"(Saints 122), suggesting that Dr. Won and his wife were reprehensible, scandalous, deplorable human beings. The only reason Father Bey is extremely unforgiving of Dr. Won, is because Won is an opium fanatic.
Instead of berating Won behind his back to Vibiana, Bey should help Dr. Won overcome his addiction because priests are supposed to encourage, strengthen and support others around them when they are in times of need. While Bey was chastising Won for his addiction, Bey made himself appear dishonorable and judgemental to the reader(s) because of his insulting remarks. It is not until Dr. Won saves Father Bey from being killed by an arrow, that does Bey finally realizes what a hypocritical fool he had been for so long. Justice is served when Father Bey gets hit with an arrow and dies right after Won is executed. The priest ultimately gets what he deserves because of his hateful, degrading, and severely damaging remarks directed towards Won and his wife.
Though Yang believes justice exists in society, he ultimately thinks that there is an incredible abundance of injustice in the world. Injustice materializes when Dr. Won is barbarously murdered by the Boxers. Even though Dr. Won was an opium addict, he truly was a good, cultured, down-to-earth, human being with pure intentions and feelings. Also, Won was always willing to come to the aid of anyone in need, especially Vibiana. On top of that, he was accommodating and encouraging of others around him unlike many of the other characters in the fictitious graphic novels. Dr. Won educated Vibiana on everything there was to be known about Christianity and never caviled. Father Bey was merciless towards Dr. Won throughout Saints because Bey didn't agree with his actions, specifically Dr. Won's infatuation with opium. It was only until Dr. Won threw himself in front of Bey, that Bey finally thought to himself, "Oh, what a blind fool I am" (Saints, 149). When Dr. Won ‘took the bullet' for Father Bey, Bey came to the realization that Won was indeed a pleasant, delicate, gentle individual with nothing but good intentions for himself and everyone else surrounding him on a daily basis. Vibiana was around Dr. Won quite a bit because he taught her everything about Christianity and the church. Dr. Won felt comfortable being vulnerable around Vibiana because they were incredibly close to each other. Before Won died he confessed to Vibiana, "Years ago, I had a horrible stomach illness. None of the remedies I tried would cure it!" (Saints, 138). He also elucidated, "I tried to give it up, Vibiana. I prayed until my knees bled! Oh, how I tried!" (Saints, 138). Dr. Won avowed to Vibiana that he tried to give up his obsession but the drugs invaded his personal life and eventually took over. The drugs started doing him, rather than him doing the drugs but Won knew that he had his own predetermined battles that he struggled with behind closed doors. Because of this knowledge, Dr. Won was overly accepting of the people who he surrounded himself with, which made him one of the few honorable characters in the nail-biting graphic novels.
The assassination of Vibiana was a prime example of Yang's notions of an unjust society. Four Girl, the main character in Saints, started off on the wrong foot when she initially wanted to become an unsympathetic, devil. She started to change for the better when she converted to christianity, got baptized and inherited the new name: Vibiana. As the story progressed, Vibiana became exceptionally faithful and loyal to her religion. While she was exceedingly faithful, Vibiana had another goal in mind, she wanted to be able to save and protect the people of her nation. Vibiana yearned to be looked up to by her peers and respective elders as a hero, a warrior, and a defender of her beloved country. Throughout Saints, Vibiana struggled with her own internal battles and unconsciously put the burden of others on her back. Towards the end of Saints, when the Boxers and Saints were battling, Vibiana crossed paths with the cold-blooded, inexorable, hard-hearted Bao. Bao inhumanly told Vibiana, "Renounce your foreign faith and I'll gladly untie you. Otherwise, I'll have to kill you" (Saints, 151). Bao was too invested in the idea of being a heroic figure for his country so he became remorseless. He didn't care about how many lives he shattered or how many people he killed, including the girl he initially felt affection for in the beginning of the story. Vibiana answered, "Let me pray first" (Saints, 152). She showed that she was a devoted follower of Christ when she made the decision to die for her faith. While Vibiana was dying she said, " And that was it. That's how I died. Unable to protect anyone" (Saints, 162). When Vibiana taught Bao the Lord's prayer before she died, she unoticingly ended up saving his life. The one time Bao's life was put on the line he renounced his faith, pretended to be a "devil", and recited the prayer taught to him by the girl whom he had just ruthlessly killed. Throughout both Boxers and Saints, Bao exposed his true character just through his harsh and asperous actions. Unlike Bao, Vibiana deserved to live because she changed for the better, cared about others around her, and expressed pure feelings throughout the novels while Bao definitely changed for the worse and acted two-faced.
Yang uses his graphic novels to display to the readers that even though justice exists in the world, there is an established abundance of injustice in society. To convey to his readers that there is more injustice than justice in the world and that unfairness is more prevalent throughout the world, Gene Luen Yang exhibits injustice through the tragic, cataclysmic murders of Dr. Won, Mei-Wen, and Vibiana. If the Boxer Rebellion didn't transpire the world might not be the way it is today.
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