Justice Vs. Revenge in Long Way down by Jason Reynolds

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In the novel, Long Way Down, author Jason Reynolds show the contrast between justice and revenge in relation to outcomes of characters; justice and revenge are two different things, justice is focused on the good of the community, while revenge is solely focused on oneself. Will, the protagonist of the book, undergoes a transformation of motives on the elevator ride down. He assumes that he is focused justice, based upon what he has learned about “The Rules.” After meeting six people that were killed because of “The Rules,” he begins to consider what they really are about, justice or revenge.

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Throughout the book, Reynolds slowly reveals pieces of Will’s identity. By portraying his identity through the other characters, Reynolds dives into the idea that justice and revenge are one in the same thing. First, he allows Will to think that killing someone is the right thing to do, allowing justice and revenge to be confused with each other, Another thing about the rules. They weren’t meant to be broken (35). The author writes the book as if there is a continuous cycle. Someone dies, someone else gets killed, and so on. The Rules are the main reason for this cycle, and this path has been going on for a long time. To the community, The Rules are justice and are morally correct. From an outside view of the community, The Rules are perceived to be solely based upon revenge, for losing a loved one. While many believe that in the past they have pursued justice, Will, with the help of his dead family and friends, comes to the realization that he was on the path to pursue revenge. This is when the true separation between justice and revenge take form.

Reynolds portrays Will’s motives as justice, but as the elevator ride continues on, it turns into being perceived as revenge, I felt like crying, which felt like another person trapped behind my face, tiny fists punching the back of my eyes, feet kicking my throat at the spot where the swallow starts. Stay put, I whispered to him. Stay strong, I whispered to me. Because crying is against The Rules (30). The only thing that Will has ever known is The Rules; no crying, no snitching, and always get revenge. When something bad actually happens to Will, he understands the struggle that people have with following the rules.

Will thinks that he is pursuing justice, but he is actually pursuing revenge. Justice and revenge are two different things. Justice is something that is for the good of the community or area, while revenge is focused upon yourself. Will thinks that he is pursuing justice because he is taught nothing else. He taught to always follow The Rules and this rule is a prime example of that, NO.3: Revenge. If someone you love gets killed, find the person who killed them, and kill them (33). When Will is taught this, he thinks that this is the only way to live life, to always follow The Rules. In the title of rule number three, the word revenge is present, yet everyone thinks that following the rules is what is right. Justice, by definition, is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity. In simple terms, it is the act of being just and/or fair (https://crimesurvivors.org/what-does-justice-mean-to-you/). Natural law, in this case, is The Rules. In the pursuit of justice, Will comes to the realization that killing someone, is not just. It is morally and ethically incorrect. He realizes something that he has always known since he was introduced to The Rules. Will understands that what many thinks to be justice, is actually revenge.

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Justice vs. Revenge in Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. (2019, Apr 02). Retrieved July 4, 2022 , from

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