Class War, Injustice and Escape: Alexandre Dumas and Stephen King.

                                                 INTRODUCTIONWith the servility of class war, injustice prevails and in hoping for escape we are given the illusion of freedom.  This is the general unfolding of the plots in the following novels I will be analyzing: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) by the French author Alexandre Dumas, Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank redemption (1982) and The Green Mile (1996) by the American author Stephen King. The themes of class war and injustice follow our protagonists in these three novels, the fact that they are from different time scales proves that these subjects are an everlasting theme; they are a continuous source of corruption and the only way of prevailing is by escaping as the protagonists do (certainly in different ways). The importance of this subject on class war does not subside in the world of fiction; The Count of Monte Cristo, Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile give us an account of the injustice we are faced with in our own communities and the racial and/or cultural division that is the root cause of this and non-fictional accounts are found in many works which represent cogent and applicable real world analysis, in particularly works by Noam Chomsky who will be one of my key reliable sources within the subject discussion of class war.

My objective will be to discuss and investigate how our protagonists are affected by the themes of class war, injustice and escape and how they deal with them. Even though at first glance they may appear similar they are very obviously different too in the sense that our protagonist, The Count of Monte Cristo eventually becomes his own oppressor, as well as the abuse of power in Stephen King’s novels, and of course the question of escape itself. Have Edmond Dantes, Andy Dufresne and John Coffey truly escaped? Or have they simply moved on to let another take their place, having no affect on the subject of class war and therefore not resolving the injustice at all. There are many controversial viewpoints on these subjects within the novels as well as out of them from antagonists such as Danglars, Percy Wetmore and Norton. Others such as academic Keith Wren writing on The Count of Monte Cristo allude to Dumas’ suggestion that with the power of the upper-class you almost become evil “the fashionable oriental gloss of his new personality carries with it connotations not just of luxury and exoticism but an underlying acceptance of, and indulgence in cruelty”[1]. This quote is specifically relevant to the behaviours and actions of the antagonists from each novel above which I will be discussing further in this dissertation. A limitation of my research topic of class war, injustice and escape will be the broadness of it and the ability to stay within the research territory I need to. My ultimate focus will reside with prisons and other abuses of authority and issues of discrimination. That being said Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Stephen Kings Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile also contain a myriad of other issues pertaining to class war, injustice and escape. Those issues include first and foremost the people themselves, it is about those who society forgets about and is quickly forgotten and with the issue of people comes of course history, culture and economics. These themes are ingrained in my focus on prisons, authority and discrimination but will also be discussed independently.

The decision for using these three novels arrived predominantly from the fact that they greatly encompass the themes of class war, injustice and escape. But most importantly the connection they make identifies that these themes are everlasting issues which is shown through the time scale of the novels. The Count of Monte Cristo was written in the nineteenth century and The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption in the twenty first century and despite centuries apart and certain contextual changes, the general themes and principles remain the same. The natures of the conflict and the landscapes from which they emerge often have stark parallels and important underlying concepts pertaining to exploitation, imprisonment and ultimately freedom.

It is important to keep in mind that despite the relevance of these themes to the contemporary environment the definition of what class would have meant in the nineteenth century is different to the twentieth century. But while different, in the sense that we deal with the ultimate higher classes such as Counts and aristocracy in The Count of Monte Cristo as opposed to, in comparison- mere lawyers and bankers to Stephen King’s novels, they are very much relevant to each other today. Those of a higher social class have an unfair advantage in being able to control the destiny and fates of the lives of other people, for instance Edmond Dantes. A good man who’s near to perfect life was easily shattered by a few jealous friends. He is then thrown into prison Chateau D’if for a crime that he did not commit. It is only then and after his 8 years of torment and self pity, leading him to notions of suicide and spitefulness, that Edmond encounters the priest Abbe Faria who teaches him the fine arts of combat, culture, education and languages. Further to Abbe’s death, Edmond escapes taking with him Abbe’s gift of the treasures of Monte Cristo. It is interesting that only with Abbe’s lessons of class and culture (and of course treasure) that Edmond is able to enact revenge on his wrong doers. And here, is the prime example of how money and social class is needed to be a person of power. And indeed, the wrong power as we see Edmond transcend into a “crocodile”[2]…a man with hardly any feeling and with a heart for revenge.

Andy Dufresne form Stephen King’s Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption goes through similar motions as Edmond Dantes, he is also innocently accused and unlike Dantes, as a man of means and power on the outside of prison, those qualities lead him to be protected on the inside too (after a while when the guards learn of his qualities anyway). But this shows again the power of class and status and the recurring theme that no matter where you go it cannot be escaped. As with the Count of Monte Cristo, Andy Dufresne uses this to escape his injustice too by conning those who are of a higher power in prison such as the warden and escaping to the calm life of Zihuatanejo.

My main focus on the power and war between classes and the injustice of the power it holds in The Green Mile will be exemplified in the treatment of protagonists such as Paul Edgecomb, the inmates and Percy Wetmore. The sadistic Percy Wetmore and the decent Paul Edgecomb watch over Cold Mountain Penitentiary and its inmates, trying to keep those closest to their death subdued and calm. The psychopathic killers such as Billy the Kid, the unstable Eduard Delacroix and the wrongfully accused, saint-like John Coffey, a victim of the greatest injustice will all soon owe their lives to the penitentiary and will be victims of the Old Sparky. Stephen King gives us a book that is unlike The Shawshank redemption and the Count of Monte Cristo, where we follow our protagonists to their fulfilment and escape; here we follow John Coffey to his death, the perfect idea of escape for him (and one which I will further elaborate on within the discussion of escape) but an injustice rippled through the cursed long life of Paul Edgecomb, the mouse (even) and also fellow co-workers.

Each and every character deals with the themes of class war, injustice and escape as they are all consequences of unjust power. Unjust powers have more of a voice than those who contain power of enlightenment and better judgement, the outcome of this is clear through the protagonists of the novels. The ability to entrap and condemn innocents becomes an easy route for revenge for those with unjust power. Dantes has to inherit these powers from treasures, a mere miracle, to be able to enact the revenge those with established class power have cast upon him and to quench his righteous indignation. These are all clear themes within the Stephen King novels, whether it pertains to Percy Wetmore or Warden Norton. When power, through class is given to those who use it for their own selfish means, to satisfy their urges or insane whims, then injustice will be served and vengeance will be sought whether successfully or not. These elementary truths of human action and reaction are consistently laid bare.


                                                       Class War

There is a war that has been going on for centuries and it is a war within the hierarchy of class; Historian Dennis Dworkin explains the concept of the term “class” which can be used to mean numerous things: “we associate it with such things as our career path, the school that we attend, the party that we vote for, the way we speak, the car that we drive, the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat, the music that we listen to, the art that we enjoy and the sports that rivet us. More abstractly, it can entail status or income, education or work, life style or social position, group solidarities or conflicts and status hierarchy.”1 These concepts relate greatly to my chosen novels as it is these distinguishing ideas of class war that assemble between the characters and their society. A few clarifications of class must be made and one of which is the distinction of class through different time periods. In the nineteenth century France, the middle class would be better well known as the Bourgeoisie. As owners of growing businesses, most of them were heavily drawn to the aristocratic lifestyle and the image that they presented and to indicate the wealth of their family, the Bourgeoisie did such things as growing the number of servant’s inn their household. They held jobs such as bankers, doctors, dentists, industrial entrepreneurs, architects, engineers, managers of private and public institutions and accountants. These all certainly relate to all three texts from different times, for example in The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne was a part of the middle class, ‘a rich banker’. In The Green Mile, Percy Wetmore relies on his connections as the governor’s nephew to stand for his social class just as the ‘friends’ of Edmond Dantes do in The Count of Monte Cristo. In summation, social inequality through class is explained by Raymond Williams; “The essential history of the introduction of class, as a word which would supersede older names for social division, relates to the increasing consciousness that social position is made rather than merely inherited… individual mobility could be seen as movement from one estate, degree, order or rank to another. What was changing consciousness was not only increased individual mobility…but the new sense of society or a particular social system which actually created social division…” the division between slaves and masters, rich and poor is a societal structure that causes nothing but unfairness and injustice as the novels represent.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Not forgetting that this is also a historical novel, Dumas does not appoint political allegiances haphazardly. He uses their political interests as vigorous insights into the conscious of the characters, with elements drawn from consistent historical events and class and politics plays an important role in it, especially within certain characters such as: Bonaparte and Bonaparte’s party including Morrel and Noirtier, the judicious and aristocratic royalist’s and the oppressive Villefort and Morcerf family. Danglars who became associated with the desensitising age of the Industrial revolution, thus turning to the narcissism of being a capitalist opportunist and of course Dantes who cultivates the idea of social rights and equality. Through politics, class becomes imperative to evaluating the circumstances that evolve in this novel. Dantes is only thus able to destroy those of social importance with class, power and money when he has the circumstances of social importance himself.

What is money and therefore class if it is not an obsession with power? It is a structure of the capitalist society which teaches us that power is good and what we should strive for, Michel Foucault puts it quite rightly:  “If one understands by democracy the effective exercise of power by a population which is neither divided nor hierarchically ordered in classes, it is quite clear that we are very far from democracy. It is only too clear that we are living under a regime of a dictatorship of class, of a power of class which imposes itself by violence, even when the instruments of this violence are institutional and constitutional; and to that degree, there isn’t any question of democracy for us.”[3] Indeed in the count of Monte Cristo we are presented with the corruption and sham of democracy, the revelation of the corruption within those of power and higher social class, whom the citizens of France depend upon and aspire to be like, such as the lawyer and prosecutor Gerard de Villefort. Not only is he one of the most thoroughly corrupt characters in The Count of Monte Cristo but he also mixes around in circles of his social class who are much the same as him. Indeed we see the fluctuations of Edmonds personality through his new identity and of course class influences this character tremendously and Dantes receives an all consuming sense of dark power. Byron, Manfred and Werner suggest that not just his “dark and melancholy eye” [4] but even darker and more melancholy secrets, nameless suffering alludes with a dismissive view of humanity “Oh man- race of crocodiles”.[5]

The Count of Monte Cristo is partly a story of two friends from different social classes; Edmond Dantes begins as an illiterate working class sailor previously to having been granted the succession of Captain to the Leclere. He and his family had been under the wing of the Mondego household, having Count Mondego the father of Fernand Mondego give him opportunities such as being a sailor on a ship with his son; which is essentially what causes Fernand’s jealousy as he watches this poor boy become a better man and more of a hero than himself “But how could a poor Catalan fisher-boy, without education or resources, make a fortune?”[6] . The role of wealth is ultimately most imperative to the succession of social class, Dantes, under the title of Count of Monte Cristo, is only accepted and praised in the upper class hierarchy when his vast amount of wealth is put on display. He is of course aware of this which is why he decides to make his grand entrance into his enemies’ life through a party of grandeur and sophistication. In this sense his enemies are undermined by their own personal dispositions and their class and status become vehicles through which they can be accessed and ultimately destroyed.

It is right to conclude that without power, wealth and class Edmond Dantes would never have gotten justice in such particular fashion, and while Dumas suggests that he should have left it to God, even if some may agree, it is folly to deny that these elements are imperative in helping to construct a desired ending, if not entirely for the protagonist then certainly for the reader. Power, wealth and class within the characters of The Count of Monte Cristo indeed present corruption and selfishness and Dumas suggests an untrustworthy system, an entirely wrong system at that. There is a political message that seeps through this novel presenting a desire for change in this society that presses so much attention and reliance on a rich minority who caress themselves in their own indulgence. Alexandre Dumas holds strong views within the social order and I believe he demonstrates this using the Count of Monte Cristo, before his death he wrote: “I am thankful to God that he has allowed me to live this long, because, dying as I am, I still have the strength left in me to denounce to the world the cruel treatment, which the people of the civilized world would blush to inflict upon their worst enemies”[7]  he suggests his pain that comes from the “war between people” which is so vividly presented in The Count of Monte Cristo though countless depictions of class struggle and war.

                        Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption

In Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption Andy Dufresne is confronted with the war between classes even within structured walls such as prison. There are many different hierarchal levels, such as Red who is essentially the respectable business man “who can get you things…a regular Neiman-Marcus”[8], those protected by the guards and wardens such as Andy Dufresne for his knowledge and of course the guards and wardens themselves whom it looks like the law does not apply to. They are able to get away with numerous things such as murder and corruption and so called ‘justice’ which they preach but will be overlooked for them. This is where class really does become important because a certain class of people, like the Warden, get special treatment according to their importance within the established hierarchy. Moreover, Andy Dufresne himself is clearly a well educated and useful individual, due to his banking background, and this status translates in prison to his utilitarian value to those in power. He does things that are thought as ‘terrible’ inside the prison just as he does outside; “What I’m doing here isn’t all that different to what I was doing outside. I’ll hand you a pretty cynical axiom: the amount of expert financial help an individual or company needs rises in direct proportion to how many people that person or business is screwing…the people who run this place are stupid, brutal monsters for the most part. The people who run the straight world are brutal and monstrous, but they happen not to be quite as stupid, because the standard of competence out there is a little higher. Not much, but a little”[9]. Considering this, he exploits those in the higher paid jobs, those with power and class as nothing more than criminals themselves.

The first description of Andy Dufresne in the novel is a great statement in labelling him as someone from middle to upper class background. All the associations of class (and that of the upper class when it comes to Andy Dufresne) have been prescribed by Red’s opening description of Andy Dufresne “When Andy came to Shawshank in 1948, he was thirty years old. He was a short neat little man with sandy hair and small, clever hands. He wore gold rimmed spectacles. His fingernails were always clipped and they were always clean. That’s a funny thing to remember about a man, I suppose, but it seems to sum Andy up for me. He always looked as if he should have been wearing a tie. On the outside he had been a vice-president in the trust department of a large Portland bank.”[10]  As we see, from the beginning we have a certain image of Andy even through aesthetics as almost being “better” than everyone else. Of course this is made through the case that he is so different from all the other inmates, even Red who seems like a good person, he was poor and ultimately a cold blooded killer, like most of those in the Shawshank, and this distinction is quite interesting as indeed, his social stance from the outside protects him inside the walls of prison too. Knowledge is clearly power as we saw in The Count of Monte Cristo; it is a survival technique as through this knowledge that he has had in banking and business, he becomes successful and protected inside the prison too. He is instantly characterised by these labels of class from the way he looks to his job and by our associations and expectations, it is safe to assume that he is indeed from an upper/middle class background. This is what makes him loom in the midst of the ragged outcast, not only to Red or the inmates of course but to the media. His class status makes his crime much more high profile and a target for tabloid journalism as the newspapers had already started hinted at scandals in the case for Andy Dufresne. Furthermore and similarly, in the other novels, we see the effects of social class upon the guards and wardens who persist in abusing their power. Warden Norton for instance who gains acceptance from society outside prison (those who are supposedly better than those who are put away as criminals) for his “Inside-out” regime which is essentially nothing but slave labour. However society evaluates him highly, of a higher social class therefore he must be good, being a godly man and in charge of a huge prison, they support his ideas and encourage it. It is interesting however that only when society finds out that he is a money launderer, a con artist, do they take real action against him, no one questions the murder of young Tommy, or slave labour, but when peoples own pockets are affected and the wardens actions extend into meaningful places, that is when it becomes investigated and the unjust façade comes crashing down. All in all the subtext here says a lot about society and its priorities, which are in many ways, almost criminal; they care more about capital than certain isolated classes of non-people.

                                                 The Green Mile

Class war is extremely dominant in The Green Mile which we see mostly with the relationship between Percy Wetmore with his ‘connections’ and the rest of the characters. The reason for Percy’s ability to stay or to be on the Green Mile is because of his connection with the mayor, without such nepotism he would not be so beyond reproach and be able to get away with such things as his attitude and the clearly unfair treatment of inmates such as Eduard “Del” Delacroix.

Percy Wetmore’s social class is a rather large part of the novel as it is the main reason for a lot of the terrible things that go on in The Green Mile. His social class prevents the death row supervisor, Paul Edgecomb from taking actions to prevent disasters that he knew were soon going to happen.  All supervisors are aware that he is a bad, sadistic man, even the inmate’s comment on this frequently, but they are unable to do anything because of his social connections as the nephew of the mayor’s wife. Due to this, Percy Wetmore gets away with abusing the inmates, breaking Delacroix’s hand and when Paul tried to complain to Warden Moores, he tells him to “stick with it”[11]. His crimes are well protected, in this quote we see how connected as anyone else would surely have been fired for such undesirable actions but not Percy; “I had a call from state capital this morning… it was quite an angry call…Paul, the governor is so married he’s almost not there…and his wife has a brother who has one child. That child is Percy Wetmore. Percy called his dad last night, and Percy’s dad called Percy’s aunt. Do I have to trace the rest of this out for you?”[12].  Percy Wetmore’s class, itself here in part a product of unashamed nepotism, creates for him an undeserving career path and this, as the author demonstrates becomes the most dangerous of things. Specifically, people like Percy, who could reasonably have been sent to a place for the criminally insane, is instead an incredibly immoral and irresponsible person looking after some of the most helpless and alone. This tragedy is chilling and is a realisation of the possible ramifications of class connectedness and the corresponding unbalance regarding primarily power but more broadly human interactions in general.

These benefits of higher class connections reflects on the lower class, those who are helpless, those that have no connections to help them even fight their cause such as the inmates, especially the innocent ones. Due to his colour, John Coffey is instantly a disposable outcast. Racism is certainly a factor of John Coffey’s death, while the law states that we are innocent until proven guilty, Coffey does not get this treatment, the way he looks instantly gets him a sentence to an execution. All in all, the entire novel deals with the difficulties of power between characters. Furthermore, we see the social acceptance of men who call themselves “enlightened”, men of power and control who are extremely racist such as Hammersmith, Coffey’s lawyer. He states, “I’m as enlightened as the next man, Mr Edgecombe, went to college in Bowling Green, took history as well as journalism, some philosophy too. I like to think of myself as enlightened…I’d not bring back slavery…I think we have to be humane and generous in our efforts to solve the race problems. But we have to remember that your negro will bite if he gets the chance, just like a mongrel…”[13]. When we give the fate of men to such men as that, who are considered intelligent, then there is never going to be hope concerning social equality. Such tainted judgement will always stand in the way of progress and as long as we have social hierarchy at this level, progress shall be ever far away.





                                                      CHAPTER 2


Most people will be adamant in proclaiming that they do not agree with injustice, that they will fight for the rights of people if they deserve it, despite this, we live in an unjust world where unjustified acts are continuously in action. Daniel Dorling provides a brilliant example of the reason for injustice especially relevant in the novels: “In the world’s richest countries injustice is caused less and less by having too few resources to share around fairly and it is increasingly being maintained by widespread adherence to beliefs that actually propagate it…Changing what is understood by injustice today means telling some people, usually those of power, that what they consider to be fair is in fact in many ways unjust”[14]. This is surely the reason for most injustice in the world, that is, the inability to have the courage to really speak, and act, for the principles we give such reverence to, even if it contravenes established hierarchy or convention. In the novels by Stephen King and Alexandre Dumas, this inability to be selfless at such critical times helps the cause of the protagonist’s initial damnation. “Our justice system makes two promises to its citizens: a fundamentally fair trial and an accurate result. If either of those two promises is not met, the criminal justice system itself falls into disrepute” [15] Considering this, all the following novels fall into the injustice of the system and its inherent weaknesses.




                                       The Count of Monte Cristo

Edmond is a victim of injustice not just because of the penal system but also due to his disloyal friends, which is what essentially drives him insane, and the question arises as to why his so called friends would betray him in such a way? Through the insane jealousy of the rich Fernand Mondego seeing Edmond Dantes become so successful on his own without the aid of money but on kindness, compassion and loyalty  he and Danglars, another jealous shipmate, condemn him to a sentence in prison for treason. Moral injustice is certainly a factor in The Count of Monte Cristo and as we see those who he thought closest to him, after all else, betray his trust at such great lengths for their own satisfaction. Although the source of their anger and jealousy differ, their consumption of hatred for Edmond Dantes is raised by a number of things; his best friend Fernand Mondego is overcome with jealousy with Dantes relationship with Mercedies. He is also in love with her but the fact that no matter what happens to Dantes, she will have always chosen him first does not cross Fernands mind. He is obsessed with the possession of her and as I mentioned in class war, Edmond’s social class being below his increases his jealousy as it seems that he cannot handle the fact that Dantes, unlike him, has progressed further, he is in love and to be married and also he seems to be on the way to catching up to his rank from being a poor sailor to captain. Similarly to Danglars who also detests Dantes as Morrel promotes Edmond to Captain instead of him. And so Danglars also feels robbed of what h believes to be his rightful position. Along with Caderousse, the men devise a plan to ruin Edmond Dantes, and so they do quite successfully by sending an anonymous letter to the public prosecutor Gerard De Villefort about the letter Edomond is indeed carrying but does not know the dangers or contents of. His ‘friends’ moral blindness causes this injustice to be committed. With only their happiness and satisfaction in the horizon, they see no consequence of their injustice “We will leave Danglars struggling with the demon of hatred, and endeavouring to insinuate in the ear of the ship owner some evil suspicions against his comrade”[16].While Mondego and Danglars did not essentially mean to condemn Dantes to his death, that fact that he was did not bother them too much, however, maybe the bigger core of injustice was not committed by those traitors but the ultimate traitor, Gerard de Villefort, who imprisons Dantes knowing of his innocence.

Villefort, being a prosecutor, represents the judiciary system; his character is Dumas way of wanting the audience to think hard about the justice and their sense of judgement in the novel.  “The expectation’s society has for law enforcement officers are to protect and serve every individual, family, and home-business owner within a community equally. In addition society expects law enforcement officers to be non bias, non-prejudice, and non-discriminatory when dealing with the many individual ethnic groups and religious-cultural beliefs”[17] These qualities are what Dantes believed the justice system portrayed and exemplified. Much to his dismay, he finds out the truth, how corrupt the justice system is and how with power, justice can be bent and shaped to suit the prosecutors. Vilefort’s inability to judge others and not be compromised by his own feelings influences his self serving stance to ‘protect and serve’ thus leading him to condemn an innocent man. After he is sent to prison, where the warden, a man of authority, once again abuses his power and enforces the injustice already caused by beating Dantes every year from the day he arrives. Through this he loses his faith and hope, this injustice is too much for him to contemplate and the only thing that is eventually left in his heart is the wish of vengeance…

His life indeed changes through the injustice of those he thought he could trust, however through meeting Abbe Faria,(a priest who has been digging to escape the Chateau Di’f but got his baring wrong and dug into Edmond Dante’s cell), he is given the opportunity for things he would never have received elsewhere, an education, swordsmanship, money, power and ultimately vengeance and justice. While Abbe Provides him with materials and intellectual wealth, however the justice that Dantes envisages is of the old testament la loi du talion, ‘an eye for an eye’. Abbe explains to Dantes:“All the good which, with 13/14 mill francs a man could do in these days to his friends; and then dates reflects on how much ill in these times a man with millions could do to his enemies”[18] (p133)Through the help of Abbe Fariah, Edmond makes sense of the reasons for his injustice in prison and plots to avenge his enemies. A debatable issue is in fact whether revenge is justice at all. Is it ok for him to commit so many more crimes and murders to justify his own injustice? Noam Chomsky states that “The roots of the revenge killing are deep…the desire for vengeance displaced concern for law or security”[19] this is extremely relevant to Edmond’s actions, and while his anger is understandable, it is not commendable. He ultimately develops the characteristics akin to the very type of person he is so set on exacting revenge upon and as societal justice has obviously failed its citizen, Dantes being a victim at the utmost of this failure takes justice into his own hands and commits to vengeance. The justice system has let traitors to go about their horrendous crimes unhindered however, coming to the realisation that his condemnation was no mere misjudgement by the prosecutor Villefort, he knows that even if their crimes were revealed, their punishment would still be unjust. His enemies have caused him years of severe distress to the point of suicide and all they would suffer for that would be a few seconds of pain followed by the glory of death.

As a self named man of providence, Dantes sets out to punish those whom he believes need punishment by destroying their lives just as they have done  and destroying those most dear to them. He carries our divine justice where the justice system has failed to.  Yet to do this, Dantes quickly learns of the butterfly effect[20] and how his actions of revenge and thus destruction are not secular to those who “deserve it” but it goes on to cause havoc to the innocent too. By taking on such a divine, godly role of being a controller of life and death, he lacks the omniscience and omnipotence of God and thus his actions are so overshadowed with the dark shadow of vengeance that the idea of him pertaining to justice becomes unjust. Thus Dumas final message of the idea of justice in this epic novel of crime and punishment is sanctified by the idea of letting God control who receives justice, to leave it in god terms and not take it onto your own hand like Dantes does. As we see that even before Dantes enacts his vengeance upon his enemies, their lives seem to have been already going downhill. Such as the Morcef family whose life has taken a own turn of gambling, corruption, bankruptcy, infidelity and death as well as the traitor Caderousse who in Edmonds days in prison has fallen into poverty.

                              Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Andy Dufresne is put in prison on false accusation, maybe his status in class makes him prone to a heavier sentence (even though there was far too much proof for his case anyway) however this was a great injustice as he was a victim of circumstance, of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. As well as his sentence being a great injustice, it can be forgiven due to such heavy evidence, what is really the greatest injustice and an unforgivable one was the authorities abuse of power over his life. When the warden found out about the possibility of Dufresnes freedom, he was quick to abolish it. This injustice of the misuse of power may be the greatest of them all. Yes he did receive a great injustice by being sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit, but it is debatable if the injustice can be blamed on the judiciary as the evidence against him was great and his alibi weak, considering this they cannot be wholly blamed, similarly to Andy Dufresne’s case, the real injustice is committed by the guards and warden. They completely abuse their power and use Dufresne for their own selfish gains.

The powerful protect their interests to the extent that it is profitable to them. The sadistic Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption does not hesitate to throw Dufresne off the roof for his intrusion of his conversation but when he finds out that it would profit him a great deal he not only provides him with his request for his services, which was a crate of beer for his “co-workers”[21]  the word soon spreads around and Andy Dufresne officially becomes protected “If Andy Dufresne came to either of them or any of the other screws that formed a part of their coterie, and showed so much as a single drop of blood in his underpants, every sister in Shawshank would go to bed that night with a headache.”[22] Soon the Warden Samuel Norton takes a real hold of him and this is where injustice truly comes to light. Norton embodies the system of injustice; he is hypocritical and contradictory in his own regulations in the penitentiary system. He appoints himself a “man of god”[23] but shows himself to be anything but, by abusing power in such an incredibly unjust way “The man was the foulest hypocrite that I ever saw in a high position…when Andy talked about them, an expression of amused, disgusted wonder would come over his face, as if he was telling me about some ugly, predatory species of bug that was, by its very ugliest and greed, somehow more comic than terrible”[24]. Adopting Andy as his personal banker, he became his “right hand…his silent partner”[25] and business boomed for him.  Through his abuse of power, he composed the “inside-out” programme that enabled him to slave labour but through society’s perception of prisoners as less than people, they do not care and turn a blind side to the abuse and excessive cruelty that Norton induces on the inmates. Norton is deluded religious man who justifies his self-interested crimes and exploitations at the expense of others in the name of the bible and God “HIS JUDGEMENT COMETH AND THAT RIGHT EARLY”[26]. With Andy however, he carries on being a successful criminal but when Andy comes to him, when finding new evidence that could break his case and set him free, Norton’s selfish interests get the better of him and he abolishes that chance immediately. Tommy Williams tells Andy about Elwood Blatch and his stories, one of which was the killing of Quentin a pro golf player and his mistress- the man and woman Andy is committed for killing, with this information he quickly tells Norton and Norton, not wanting to lose his most important asset, commits the biggest injustice of them all and kills the only witness, Tommy, that would give Andy a chance of freedom.

The penitentiary is a system which allegedly corrects its criminals to law-abiding citizens, ironically the Shawshank Redemption is a nest for greed, bribery, corruption, money-laundering and all in all further injustice and exploitation.  Exploitation of the system for one’s own gain is natural, from Red who can lauder anything into prison “There’s a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess- I’m the guy who can get it for you”[27], once again even more ironic is that what Red does is nothing criminal worthy, what the wardens, the ‘authority’ does is by far worse, they are slave owners- profiting from forced prison labour. A survival technique in prison would of course be to befriend the most powerful, which is what Andy Dufresne does with the Warden- helping him launder money (which obviously prevents Warden from ever helping him with Tommy’s window of freedom in case Andy would reveal his corrupt secrets).  One of the greatest quotes from the novel must be from Andy Dufresne “I had to come to prison to be a crook”[28], this clearly shows the irony of prison and more importantly the social flaws of prison and the injustice it entails upon its inmates.

                                                    The Green Mile

The glaring flaws in capital punishment stares at us through the innocence and divinity of John Coffey, similarly to Andy Dufresne, he was a victim of circumstance but unlike Dufresne, his case haunts the reader as well as the protagonists in the novel.  However, not only was the circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time his downfall, the fact that he was a black man in the mid twentieth century Louisiana did not help his case. We eventually find out that the reason for having those girls in his lap was in fact a vain attempt to heal them, to bring them back to life after their brutal rape and murder by William ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton. Rather than pitying himself for the wrongful arrest and he wrong idea people have of him, John Coffey finds that the injustice does not lie there but it lies on the world; on the people, their hatred for each other is the real tragedy “I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all the times I’ve wanted to help and couldn’t. I’m tired of being in the dark.”[29] Empathic and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of those around him, he is predominantly affected by the thoughts of his prosecutors: his own lawyer, the parents of the victims, and all of those who know about his case and not him, this injustice of wrongful judgement also hurts him most as it reflects on society and how irrational and unjust it can be.

The relationship between John Coffey and Paul Edgecomb opens a great development in the themes of injustice and justice in The Green Mile. Paul Edgecomb is a good man, and he is faced with an incredibly difficult position when it comes to justice. He does find out about Coffeys innocence yet his position for what is right morally and granting what a person wants and what is expected tares him.  Over time, Edgecomb comes to realise Coffeys divine powers of healing, which he uses to cure Paul Edgecomb of his urinary infection, he revives Mr Jingles when Percy Wetmore stamps and crushes him and cures Hal’s wife Melinda of her deadly brain tumour.  Despite all this, the proof that Coffey is obviously innocent, they carry on the injustice in putting him on “Old Sparky”.

Justice is often discarded for the sake of satisfying the majority and those desperate for a conviction. The parents of the two dead girls and the people of the village have decided he was the killer, and they expect a death which they feel will help them justify the death of their daughter. The fact that he is black however encourages the hate in them, it is no coincidence that more black men were sentenced to death then white, and Coffey, an innocent mans execution suggests at the many innocent black men who did not get a trial and could have indeed been innocent themselves; “John Coffey was black like most of the men who came to stay a while in E Block before dying”[30]. Again going back to racism, this quote certainly does tell the reader something about the society then. Racism was obviously still a strong social construct at the time line of this novel in the 1940’s, we see this even through Coffey’s lawyers extremely racist views; “in that way also Sir Galahad was like your southern negro, who will not do those things for himself”[31]. It is this kind of attitude that distresses Coffey to the point  of wishing death, he is not only innocent of a crime, he is innocent of heart and this is what ultimately makes him the sympathetic character he is “He kill them with they love…that’s how it is every day…all over the world”[32].

The death row is an incredibly important issue pertaining injustice; it is still a legal sentence in 32 states in America[33] , supposedly the world’s most ‘advance’ country. Noam Chomsky states “The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill”[34], indeed this advancement has left them in a primitive time adhering to principles ‘Oculum pro oculo’ Eye for an eye,  surely the system should not have to lower themselves to the same crime as the criminal the justify what they have done, contemplating this, we cannot have a “justice” system when there is no justice or logic in the death penalty.  We see these contemplations through the inmates in The Green Mile, John Coffey is an obvious example of injustice but so are the other inmates like Eduard Delacroix You a good man, Boss Howell…you too Boss Edgecombe…I wish I coulda met you some place else”[35] and Arlen Bitterbuck. It is circumstance that leads people to unjust behaviours and to fix this, we cannot kill and expect everyone else to then fixed, but we must focus on the problems before the Window Breaks[36]. Of course there are always mixed feelings towards the death penalty, especially for those who cannot think rationally about the case such as victims family, their justice is different from real justice, passion and rage gets in the way of rationality similarly to the passion and rage that may have led the prisoners themselves to commit the crime they are sentenced for.

                                                    CHAPTER 3


When an injustice has been committed upon us, our humanly reaction would be to hope for and to physically escape the torment of a wrongful blame. Escape is the ultimate power and revenge move by the protagonists in The Count of Monte Cristo, Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile; they overthrow the system and finally get what they want in their own different ways.

 THE Count of Monte Cristo

Edmond Dantes is given the opportunity  to escape his wrongful imprisonment with the help of his friend and ally Abbe Faria, the Italian priest who was also imprisoned in the Chateau d’if and who himself had the original plan of escaping by tunnelling through prison and to his freedom.  His calculations of tunnelling out of prison however are off and instead tunnels through to Edmond’s cell. They befriend each other and Abbe Faria teaches Edmond languages, sciences, literature, culture and combat skills, and near his death which is ultimately Edmonds door to freedom, the priest also tells Edmond where the Monte Cristo treasure is. When Abbe Faria dies, Edmond takes his place in his death sack, tricking the guards into thinking it is him and throwing Edmond instead into the sea. Now the sea becomes a fantastic motif of escape. It acts as a sort of reverse baptism as all his innocence gets washed away; he is no longer the illiterate, honest and inculpable person he was before he was sentenced, those qualities are certainly all dead. Through his escape and as he is raised from the waters he emerges to be a hateful and bitter man set on vengeance. Through the ‘cleansing’ of the sea his transformation becomes complete, even as the smuggling ship saves him, he emerges with a new name The Maltese, and so he begins his repayments. The metaphor of the sea and escape follows him throughout the novel; he calls himself a man a citizen of no land and is a skilled sailor and it is when travelling at sea that he opportunity of escape and solitude really is given to him repeatedly.

From his first entrance into prison, Edmond Dantes had (involuntarily) gained a new identity as prisoner no.34.  His individuality had already begun to erode but through Abbe Faria’s teaching, his new identity provided him with a means of escape after his initial escape of the prison that he would not have been able to hold otherwise. He develops many new identities and masks in his plan of escaping his past: Sinbad the Sailor, Abbe Busoni, the Chief Clerk of Thomason and French, Lord Wilmore, Maltese Zaccone and the Count of Monte Cristo. His identity as the Count of Monte Cristo gives him the ultimate escape that fools his previous friends and even enemies. Nobody expected him, a merchant sailor who has essentially been executed for treason to become a man of such means and intellect as the Count, his transformation indeed worked well as an escape from his former self. When he introduces himself to his enemies once again under the identity of the Count, we notice the number of distractions he uses such as his humongous house, his furniture, the dinner, the exotic fish he brings out at dinner in the water tanks, the telegraph ploy and etc. Clearly these are all distractions from keeping those against him from knowing his true identity, while he is clearly escaping from his former self however he carries on bringing himself lower spiritually and mentally as his self ridden interest in vengeance eliminates his chances of happiness and it is only when this realisation kicks in towards the end that he elopes from this life that he has concocted with the young Haydee.



                          Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption

There is a lot of moments of escapism told by Red on Andy Defresne prior to the actual escape which acts as a foreshadowing of the events that will be happening in the future: “He had told Andy that Andy walked around the exercise yard as if he were at a cocktail party. That is’nt the way I would have put it, but I know what he meant. It goes back to what I said about Andy wearing his freedom like an invisibility coat, about how he never really developed a prison mentality. His eyes never got that dull look…Andy walked with his shoulders squared and his step was always light, as if he was heading home to a good home-cooked meal and a good woman instead of to a tasteless mess of soggy vegetables…”[37]  This mental diversion indicates the sense of freedom he cannot let go off, he has a guilt free spirit that can only be shown as such from a free man which he has never ceased to believe and which ultimately he gains physically once more. However, those guilty men such as Red and his friends indulge in escapism once in a while “it lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes we felt like free men. We could have been drinking beer and tarring the roof of one of our own houses.”[38] It seems to be the only hope of escape for men who are in such entrapment.

Abundant with corruption and further injustice, this exploitative and hypocritical system which only drains life out of its inmates instead of rehabilitating them makes Andy’s escape from it  embedded with further justification for the reader and the characters, especially Red who admires him greatly at this point. Finally, as Andy Tunnels through the wall of Shawshank, he tunnels through a metaphorical break through the corruption of the penal system, leaving behind him his own corrupt ways he mentions earlier (saying that what he does inside isn’t so different as what he did outside) even before entering prison; “Andy Dufresne who had waded in shit and came out clean on the other side”[39]. Through Andy’s symbolic escape through the wall inspires Red to find the freedom he has wanted for so long the escape allowed him to face his fears and through this he is finally let go into the real world where he partly misses prison, until he reunites with Andy on the remote island where he truly joins in escaping to.

The Green Mile

Escape in the Green Mile is very different to the previous novels; John Coffey’s desperation of escape is through death. “I know you been worryin, but you ought to quit on it now. Because I want to go, boss…I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tierd of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin or goin to or why. I’m tierd of people bein ugly to each other. It feels like pieces og glass in my head. I’m tierd of all the times I’ve wanted to help and couldn’t . I’m tired of bein in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.”[40] This heart wrenching quote by John Coffey tries to comfort the cowardice of Paul Edgecombe who gives himself and his status too much honour to really do much about Coffeys innocence. This is partly a cry for escape with death but it is also a cry for help and friendship. He says those things because he does not have anyone and the guards do not offer a hand of friendship to him, instead they partly take solace in his wants even though they are wants of a child which Edgecomb frequently touches upon, informing us of his childish nature.  Despite this, Stephen King understands the difficulties on being a real hero, he knows that saving Coffey may mean a loss of his job in the great depression and losing his family too, therefore the only real escape Coffey could go through would be death, that way, the pain would suffice, he wouldn’t have to hear and feel other’s pain as well as his own anymore.

This curse of life has been left to Paul Edgecombe however, he does not have the choice of escape yet, he must wait no matter how much he wants it, watching those suffer and die around him and like Coffey, being able to do nothing about it. Escape is a symbol of freedom, for Coffey freedom was death and it becomes so for Paul Edgecomb too as he watches the decay of people around him. Ironically too, most of the things that Coffey may have suffered, passed on to him, like a part of his immortality but also the pains that he may have felt from the horrible jesting of Percy, reincarnated into Brad Dolan the carer in his care home; a malicious man, similarly to Percy who abuses his power and harasses those who cannot fight back.


Class War, injustice and escape convolute with each other in ways that are evident. After all, any class war is an injustice- a system which divides its people in terms of money and hierarchy is a system in which we need to escape from as Andy Dufresne clearly realises. Not only does he understand that the corruption in prison is wrong but he comes to terms that indeed his job on the outside was also just as corrupt and wrong.  John Coffey of course also feels this, he feels the hatred and conflict people of different hierarchical states have with each other, it is an injustice and once again he begs to escape it. Finally Edmond Dantes, who rather than taking his opportunity to escape delves more deeply into it, finding the utter corruption and injustice that comes with money and status which Dumas illustrates once again is a fault of society. A fantastic quote to speaking of the struggles of such societies explored by the novelists is brought to light by Foucault: “The fight against class justice, against its injustice, is always part of the social struggle…but if justice is at stake in a struggle, then it is an instrument of power; it is not in the hope that finally one day, in this or other society, people will be rewarded according to their merits, or punished according to faults, Rather than thinking of the social struggle in terms of “justice” one has to emphasize justice in terms of the social struggle”[41]. He talks about the relationship between the social class and justice, more accurately the injustice that they receive, and indeed we are faced with these unjust penalties in every novel in this essay. As I had previously mentioned, and as I believe Foucault’s quote relates too, it is the Broken Window Theory that we must focus on, to fix problems before the disasters, to put barriers and preventions between the need to commit crimes. A Rousseauistic view on the state of being is imperative in Alexandre Dumas novel, as Faria states; “from an artificial civilisation have originated wants, vices, and false tastes, which occasionally become so powerful as to stifle within us all good feelings”[42] indeed our human nature does not rely on the dependence of a hierarchical structure, it threatens our survival and freedom and as Jean-Jacques Rouseau suggested; it is a degenerate phase of society. And so by working together, as “authors of the law” we should enabled ourselves to stand united because when we see an injustice we can prevent it as the world together is too big to be ignored and suppressed if everybody stood up and truly protected those in need of protecting. Any social class that receive unjust behaviour is indeed unjust lawfully but also humanly as I believe it is against our human nature to let the innocent fall and the corrupt rise. It is unjustifiable for this to happen and the only way this can be fixed, as John Coffey says is to love each other.



Chomsky, Noam, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass media, Bodley Head, 2008

Chomsky, Noam, Foucault, Michel, Human nature: Justice vs. Power, 1971

Chomsky, Noam, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media: the companion Book to the award-winning film by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar, Edited by Mark Achbar, 1994

Dworkin, Dennis, Class Struggles, Pearson Longman, 2007

Dorling, Daniel, Injustice, Why Social Inequality Persists, The Policy Press, 2011

Dumas, Alexandre, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002

George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, Fixing broken Windows, Touchstone, 1996

King, Stephen, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996

King, Stephen, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982

Limbaugh, Steven, What Society Expects of its Criminal Justice System, University of Phoenix, Aug 1, 2010

Milner, Andrew, Class, SAGE, 1999

Robert, Murphy, Chaos Theory, second edition, Ludwig, 2002

Slaughter, Cliff, Marxism, Ideology and Literature, The Macmillan Press, 1980

Stoddard, Lothrop, Social Classes in Post-War Europe, London Charles Scribner’s Son, 1925

Simpson, Ian Maryland becomes latest U.S. state to abolish death penalty” Yahoo! News. [13/03/13]

Woodiwiss, Anthony, Human Rights, Routledge, 2005

Wren, Keith, Introduction and notes to The Count of Monte Cristo, University of Kent, 2002

[1] Keith Wren, Introduction and notes to The Count of Monte Cristo, University of Kent, 2002 p10

[2] Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p282

[3] Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media: the companion Book to the award-winning film by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar, Edited by Mark Achbar, 1994 p32

[4] Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p552

[5] Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p282

[6] Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p188

[7] John G.Gallaher, General Alexandre Dumas: Soldier of the French Revolution, Southern Illinoise University, 1997, p132

[8] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, pp11-13

[9] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p53

[10] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p14

[11] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p45

[12] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p44

[13] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p176

[14] Daniel Dorling, Injustice, Why Social Inequality Persists, The Policy Press, 2011, p1

[15] Pascal Calogero, former Chief Justice, Louisiana Supreme Court (2012)

[16] Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p9

[17] Steven Limbaugh, What Society Expects of its Criminal Justice System, University of Phoenix, Aug 1, 2010

[18] Dumas, Alexandre, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p133

[19] Chomsky, Noam, The Revenge Killing of Osama Bin Laden, In These Times, May 31, 2011

[20] In Chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependency on initial conditions in which a small change can result in large changes at a later state. Murphy robert, Chaos Theory, second edition, Ludwig, 2002

[21] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p45

[22] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p48

[23] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p57

[24] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p57

[25] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p58

[26] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p71

[27] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p11

[28] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner Books, 1982, p53

[29] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p414

[30] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p9

[31] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p174

[32] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p416

[33] Ian Simpson, Maryland becomes latest U.S. state to abolish death penalty” Yahoo! News. [13/03/13]

[34] Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass media, Bodley Head, 2008

[35] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p236

[36] The criminological broken window theory which focuses on stopping crimes before they are committed by maintaining an environment suited for its citizens which prevents them from the need of crime. George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, Fixing broken Windows, Touchstone, 1996

[37] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner, p75

[38] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner, p47

[39] Stephen King, The Shawshank redemption, Warner, p94

[40] Stephen King, The Green Mile, Orion, 1996, p414

[41] Noam Chomsky/Michel Foucault, Human nature: Justice vs. Power, 1971

[42] Dumas, Alexandre, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wordsworth Classics, 2002, p112

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