How is Mean Spirit a novel about justice? How is it served, and by whom?

Mean Spirit is a novel about justice in that it reveals how hard it is for a historically marginalized group to serve justice to a historically dominant group.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Justice can be a complicated concept to articulate and identify. Usually, it has to do with morals or ideas about right and wrong. If someone wrongs a person, they can be brought to justice as a way to redress that wrong and try to make it, in some sense, right.

Throughout Mean Spirit, myriad wrongs occur. In fact, to call them wrongs is probably an understatement. Indigenous people are murdered by covetous white people trying to seize their oil-rich land. When it comes to John Hale, the oilman at the center of the violence against the Blankets and others, it’s possible to say that justice is not served. Stace Red Hawk tries to bring Hale to justice, but after a key witness winds up dead, the trial is declared a mistrial and Hale avoids justice. Hale is, more or less, brought to justice in a higher court; yet the justice doesn’t prevent further murders.

Hale’s relationship to justice demonstrates how hard it can be to exact justice, especially when it’s a historically marginalized population seeking justice against a historically dominant group. Even when justice does arrive, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the physical world.

While institutionalized justice might not be served in Mean Spirit, justice, on an individual level, seems possible. At the start of the novel, the Blue River tells Lila Blanket that the “white world was going to infringe on the peaceful Hill People.” It’s possible to argue that Lila does her daughter justice by sending her to live with the Grayclouds. Additionally, it’s reasonable to say that Nola does herself (and the other students) justice by asserting her “anger and defiance” at the school’s injustices.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial