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The Act of Vengeance

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This simple quote by Edward Counsel sums up the true meaning behind the act of revenge “revenge is but a small circle”. This also seems to be related to the popular saying “what goes around comes around”. Revenge is defined as the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at his or her hands. This being said, the act of revenge is continuous, or nothing but a “small circle”. Janet Malcolm’s’ book Iphigenia in Forest Hills illustrates just what revenge can entail when someone has a certain vengeance on something or someone in particular.

Throughout history, a plethora of cases brought forth often have to deal with the topic of vengeance. Is vengeance on a person acceptable in certain circumstances, such as a woman’s child being taken away from her? In Malcolm’s book this is exactly the case. As well as this vengeance, another interesting topic is brought forth within the book regarding bias in the judicial system.

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Many believe that bias still exists within a courtroom today. Is it legitimate for a judge to put their emotions into a case or is it appropriate for the judge to act on behalf of a victim? These are component to explore within the case in order to make Janet Malcolm’s’ book informative and interesting.

The setting of the book takes place in a Bukharin Jewish community located in Forest Hills, Queens. This case captured media attention due to the area in which it took place and the underlying elements of case. A woman, Mozoltuv Barukhova is accused of hiring a hit man (her cousin) to kill her estranged husband, Daniel Malakav. This accusation become evident as the case unfolds and more details are inquired. This homicide takes place just a short time after a judge appoints temporary custody of Michelle, the couples’ four-year-old daughter, to the father who is the now perished Daniel Malakav. Kind of suspicious is it not? Malcolm spends time discussing this matter in her book and the overall outlook that all of these facts added up to create. Is a custody shift a valid reason to have one’s husband killed? The majority of people would say no. This was a heinous crime and a clear illustration of the act vengeance between an over-protective mother and her thoughts of the custody alteration, which really seems to spark Malcolm’s attention. She seems to want to be able to understand the reasoning for this murder, and why this vengeance upon a harmless person has taken place.

Malcolm seems to sympathize that it must be hard for a mother to lose her child in the way that she did, however she seems confident that Barukhova was guilty of this murder. Much like Iphigenia in Forest Hills, a 1943 western tale the Ox- Bow Incident closely relates to the implicated act of vengeance within the story. Vengeance is very interesting to me, because of the way that it makes people do crazy things. When someone or something you care about has been harmed it causes crazed reactions. In this case, when a well-respected local rancher is maliciously pronounced dead, the townspeople are shook up and decide to go out and start a posse themselves in search of the criminals. Even after realizing that the sheriff is nowhere to be found, they continue on their journey in order to find those accused of such crime. Similarly, Burukhova in Iphigenia in Forest Hills acts upon the matter of custody changes being transferred over to her husband. She believed she had to act upon the situation, and take the matter into her own hands if she wanted any kind of solution to the predicament. In regards to this, both the posse in the Ox-Bow incident, and Burukova the concerned mother, are both operating in a fashion of vengeance. That being said, both of these cases have caused these people to act in irrational ways. The Ox Bow incident is an example of an intense yet straightforward film that illustrates the term frontier justice. In this case simple people or “characters” of the story represent powerful attitudes and philosophical stances that are important to the essential meaning behind the tale itself. For example, the peoples’ actions taken place symbolize those of everyday people when something bad happens to them, and they seek vengeance on the person or people of some group believed to be responsible for bringing the situation into existence.

By the same token, the people within Iphigenia in Forest Hills are also extremely important to the overall outlook on the case. However, the two stories differ due to the fact this case is actually taken care of in regards to the judicial system, this meaning that the case
was taken to an actual court to decide the fate of Ms. Burukova. When this Ox-Bow posse is created and acts upon their demented emotions, they are engaging in a form of “private justice” due to the fact that the sheriff is not in town at the time of this alleged murder. This posse is considered a lawless self-appointed mob hunger for power and revenge in regards to the local ranchers death. In a like manner, Burukova of Iphigenia in Forest Hills hired her own distant cousin to have her estranged husband killed in order to get what she wanted, her child back. Although she may have felt that the courts decision of the custody switch was wrong, she did what she believed to have “fixed” the situation at hand. Once the posse came across three men sleeping by a campfire with what some would say reasonable evidence, they then believed that these men were the so-called killers, and had them hung. When people are acting in a course of vengeance, one usually does not sit and ponder the outcome of the action. That being said, the viewer soon discovers that these men hung by the posse were not the murders, and the posse had made a mistake after all. In the end, although it may be hard for some people to not act in vengeance when someone they love or care about is injured, etc.

However, when this vengeance occurs most the time the person committed the crime is not thinking rationally and ends up making a mistake. The main leader of the mob ended up putting a gun to his mouth because he truthfully knew that the crime he committed was wrong. Iphigenia in Forest Hills also deals with other intriguing quality of whether or not it is legitimate to judge a case on behalf of the victim. Within Iphigenia in Forest Hills the only suspected bias that seems to be present within the court room is between that of the Judge Hanophy’s and the prosecuting attorney because he was said to have some relation to people that worked in the district attorney’s office. As Malcolm continues her story she forms empathy for Mrs. Borukhova herself. She believes that although Barukhova is guilty, she believes that as far as her trial goes, it was an unfair one. In today’s society, just because there is a trial that takes place, does not necessarily mean that the trial was conducted in a fair manner. Along with this, she states “But if I had concealed my sisterly bias Leventhal – after looking at me and hearing me speak – would nevertheless have recognized me as Ms. Defense Juror and kicked me off the jury panel as fast he could”. This statement proves that Malcolm understands that if she in any way, expressed her empathy towards Bourokova in any way, then she too would not be deemed a fair juror. This “sisterly bias” illustrates that Malcolm feels sympathy for her in the way that she was willing to do anything for her daughter. In addition, she seems to be shocked that Bourokova was brought into the courthouse in handcuffs. “..shocking about the entrance…

It looked as if the defendants were being dragged..” (33). This shows that Malcolm had some empathy to the state of which Bourokova is facing. Along with this, one day after the day’s proceedings within the courtroom, Malcolm travels to Rikers island to see the cells in which they had lived, and she explains “My visit only confirmed the hollowness of the concept of presumption of innocence” or in other words one’s innocence until proven guilty. Malcolm perhaps feels sympathy towards Burokova because she simply did not just commit murder, she committed murder in order to get back someone she loved very dearly, her daughter Michelle. But the point is at the end of the day, Burokova engaged in a distraught way and had a harmless man killed. In regards to the bias as far as it is understood in Iphigenia in Forest Hills, this also occurs on the daily within courtrooms, and also in the tale of Billy Budd, Sailor. The two main characters/crew members of a ship quickly come into constant battles with each other. The character who is genuine, handsome and what the narrator makes him out to be as perfect, the sailor Billy Budd, is a foil character to the “evil”, rude, and diabolical Claggart. As the reader comes to find out, they only seem to have one thing in common, they both do not know where they came from. After a number of complications, Claggart brings accusations up of Billy committing mutiny. Although no one is physically “taken” from Billy like in Iphigenia in Forest Hills, his essence of perfection is taken away.

When this happens, Billy gets very angry and punches Claggart so hard he kills him. Now Vere, the captain of the ship who loved Billy dearly is left with a very tough decision. Captain Vere saw Billy as a close to perfect human being, and he really did not want to hurt Billy in any way. With this in mind, he finds it hard to make the proper sentencing himself because he knows that if he were to be the one to make the decision, it would not be lawfully just, or follow the morals he has instilled. Therefor, he takes it to the drumhead court where they sentence Billy to death. Trials can show us many interesting aspects that one simply doesn’t consider in everyday life.

Hence, it is never justifiable to act in the manor of vengeance at any time, due to the fact that at this time, one is most likely not thinking rationally about what the outcome of the situation might be after all. “Vengeance is one of life’s great motivators.” Stated K.S brooks. This quotes seems to directly relate to the fact that when people are enraged about a certain situation, one of the quickest ways to get someone motivated or to act upon that situation is with the power of vengeance. This feeling of strong aggression is very powerful especially when it comes to someone who is close to your heart, or has outstanding meaning to us such as Borukhova’s daughter Michelle being taken away from her. Another important aspect is the idea of bias within a courtroom and being able to uphold the laws and regulations within a courtroom itself. If a bias is present in a courtroom, this can obviously call for an unfair trial. Once again, just because a trial is conducted, does not mean that the trial was handled fairly.

Cite this The Act of Vengeance

The Act of Vengeance. (2016, Oct 16). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-act-of-vengeance/

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