Justifiable Vengeance? Is La mere Savage act of burning four Prussian soldiers a first degree murder?

Justifiable Vengeance

Justice is the problem which bothers people for many years. Does justice exist or people can punish those who deserve it, in their opinion? The problem is rather contestable and there is no specific opinion about it as in case of justice absence justifiable vengeance is a correct action which should be justified no matter which outcome of the revenge is. Using the example of Victoire Simon, La Savage and basing the discussion on Bentham’s aspects the problem of justifiable vengeance is going to be considered.

In “Mother Savage”, the author of the book Maupassant determines the plight of the woman Victoire Simon, La Savage. Her son who is 33 years old enlists in a war against the Prussians. Sometimes later, the Prussians arrive at Victoire’s country. The Prussian force which previously was at war with the French is integrated into the French society.

The four Prussian soldiers though at war with the French, treat the old woman kindly and gently. They do all the house hold chores sparing the old woman the fatigue that is brought by house work. La Mere Savage only prepares their soup in most cases according to the eye witnesses. The old woman acknowledges none of these as she only thinks of her son who is at war.

One morning, La mere savage receives news of her son’s death. This is the ultimate point in which she decides to vent her anger on the four Prussian soldiers. She tricks them into getting into a hay trap. She then sets the hay trap on fire when they are deeply asleep killing the four. Neither she neither regrets nor denies committing the murder. Kennedy, Dorothy and Sylvia in their critical analysis state that a woman seems to have derived a certain kind of satisfaction in avenging her son’s death (44).

Bentham starts the discussion in his essay with the statement that pain and pleasure are two central issues for identifying whether the action is moral or not. Right actions should refer more to pleasure than to pain, and vice versa, the actions which are wrong tend to create more pain than pleasure.

According to Bentham, four aspects of will (justice) exist, command, prohibition, non-command and non-prohibition. Bentham is sure that punishment is not a matter of intuition but rather a consequence of proven acts of wrong deeds (67). It is also imperative to consider the extent of the wrong deed and punish it accordingly without favoring the condition of an individual’s social status.

Dwelling upon Bentham’s four aspects, Parekh in his work says that command and prohibition are rather understood issues, while non-command and non-prohibition may confuse (273). Explaining the non-prohibition aspect, the following should be sated. Everything what is not prohibited directly is permitted, thus one is allowed to act. The non-command Bentham’s aspect prohibits the action until it is not allowed.

Mary’s case according to the Prussians may be considered as an equivalent to first degree murder and may be not. The question in focus is whether La Mere Savage is guilty of first degree murder or not. Corbett answers the issue by considering the appeal to the logos in his research of Bentham’s principles (35). Using this Bentham’s aspect a woman can be justified as she acted in accordance with the war laws. However, on the other hand, soldiers treated a woman kindly and her action may be considered as betrayal and first degree murder.

In conclusion, therefore, application of logic is a sure way of determining truth. It is also to a large extent determined by the parties mandated to administer judgment.

Works Cited

Bentham, Jeremy. Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988. Print.

Corbett, Edward P. J. Classical rhetoric for the modern student. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.

Kennedy, Jim, Dorothy, Mickle, and A. Holladay Slyvia. The Bedford guide for college writers. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. Print.

Maupassant, Guy de. Mother Savage. Literature: A Pocket Anthology. 4th ed. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Parekh, Bhikhu C. Jeremy Bentham: critical assessments. London: Routledge, 1993. Print.


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