Guest Post: Kerry Letheby – Justice or Vengeance – what’s the difference?

I am very glad to be able to hand the reins over to author Kerry Letheby for a guest post as part of her blog tour for her wonderful book Mine to Avenge. There are links at the bottom about where you can find out more information, keep following the tour, or better yet to buy a copy! It’s gotten a 5 Star average on Goodreads at the moment, and it is worth it I assure you.

Justice or Vengeance – what’s the difference?

What is the difference between justice and vengeance? I have often asked myself this over the past few years while writing Mine to Avenge, with the themes of justice and vengeance bound inextricably within the plot.

The dictionary defines justice as ‘the administering of deserved punishment or reward’. It defines vengeance as ‘infliction of injury, harm or humiliation on a person by another who has been harmed by that person’.

In Mine to Avenge, I tell the story of a vendetta, where one man seeks justice for his family when he believes a wrong has been committed against them. At least, that is his motive – to seek justice, but my question is, does he achieve justice by his actions, or does he only hurt those who wronged him? I can’t tell you what his actions are, as that would be a plot spoiler for those who haven’t yet read the book.

If you think carefully about it, a person might commit a certain act, maintaining that it was done to achieve justice where a wrong was committed. However, you would need to closely examine that person’s motive to determine whether the action was done with a desire for fairness, or whether the motivation of the act was more accurately driven by the desire to hurt, or get even.

When you seek to return a wrong for a wrong that was done to you, it is highly likely that you are not unbiased in your actions. The very fact of a wrong being committed against you presupposes that the act has had some impact on you, most likely negative. In that instance, what is the chance that your punishment will be truly just and fair? Likewise if another relative, or a family friend sought justice on your behalf, could they truly be just? They, too, would most likely have been impacted by the harm done to those they love. I think such a person would be driven more by their emotions than a desire for fairness.

Is it possible for you to seek true justice for yourself, in the sense of determining what that justice should be and administering it yourself, or is the outcome more likely to be vengeance? Can you honestly admit your true motive – would you be truly seeking justice for yourself or vengeance towards someone who hurt you?

What about seeking justice for someone else? I believe that only someone who is completely impartial, with no direct interest in the committed wrong, can dispense fair justice in any given situation. Anyone who seeks to dispense justice while having a direct interest in the event, risks acting from the motive of vengeance – seeking to return pain for pain rather a fair and just punishment for the act. Perhaps the difference between the justice and vengeance is just a matter of motive.

With Mine to Avenge, the lines between vengeance and justice are blurred. We have Constantine Anastos seeking what he believes to be justice for his sister, but another character from the same family perceives it to be a quest for vengeance. And on the other hand, the family being targeted by this man also seeks justice for their family for the wrongs committed against them, but there is doubt as to whether this is what they truly achieve.

To complicate things, both the protagonist family and the antagonist family can be said to have the same goal – a quest for justice, but even as the reader is permitted to read the thoughts of each man as he seeks justice, you might well question whether his motives are truly a pursuit of justice or a quest for vengeance.

If I were guilty of committing a wrong against someone, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I was told that the wronged person was the one to determine what was just and fair. Nor would I feel comfortable if it was to be one of their family members or friends. Justice denotes a degree of fairness. I don’t think the wronged person or their family or friends could be trusted to dispense justice because they are personally involved. Their response would most likely be driven by hate and anger.

In Mine to Avenge, I don’t venture to conclude whether it was vengeance or justice that motivated the avenging family. I deliberately leave that to the reader, and look forward to hearing readers’ thoughts once they have read the story.

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