A Search for Justice
Zits’s many “awakenings” throughout Sherman Alexie’s Flight help him see the world through a new lens with each body and time he inhabits. In each of these bodies, he learns a little bit more about the way the world is unfair to everyone, rather than just him and the other homeless and drunk Indians. When Zits inhabits the mute Indian boy, he sees how justice often gets warped depending on the context, especially when he compares it to his previous awakenings as Hank Storm, the supposed poster-man for justice. Zits initially sees justice as revenge, but through each awakening, he quickly realizes that justice has a different definition from each perspective it is examined and is unsuccessful in his search because there is no clear meaning of justice or fine line between good and evil people.
Zits initially thinks the entire world is an injustice to him and his people and questions whether true justice even exists. However, when he meets Justice the character, Justice convinces him that by seeking revenge, he can bring justice to himself and his people. Zits’ initial understanding of justice is essentially that there is a set amount of it in the world and that perhaps by doing something evil to avenge the injustices brought upon him, he can balance out the justice that non-Indians get versus the lack of justice that Indians have. He believes that be creating violence and wreaking havoc, he can be successful in his search for justice. Zits fails to empathize with other people and sees them all as perfect beings with little to no problems. His understanding of justice at the beginning of the novel is very primitive: he believes that justice is completely black and white and that good people are only good and that evil people are only evil.
However, through each awakening, Zits realizes the danger of a single story and that nothing and nobody is as uncomplicated as he used to believe. When Zits becomes Hank, he originally sees Hank just as a cruel murderer. However, he realizes that Hank is also a father, a husband, a faithful friend, and probably a hundred other things. Similarly, he realizes when he becomes the Indian boy that they were not just an indigenous people being destroyed by the white people. He realized that Indians, too, were not only the good people being ravaged by the bad people. Zits realizes that each person is as complicated as he is, and with that, justice cannot be as simple as revenge. He realizes in Gus that what may seem evil to one body of people may seem like the most brave and awe-inspiring acts another body of people has ever seen. In his father, he realizes that his father was not just a traitor: his father was abused and worried and afraid of becoming like his own father. Through the awakenings, Zits understands that whether something can be considered a justice or an injustice changes with each story he looks through.
In the end, Zits understands the black versus white definition of justice does not exist. He does also realize that justice is not at all like his initial imagination of it was. He doesn’t fully understand justice other than the fact that shooting up all the innocent people in the bank will definitely not provide him with a sense of fulfillment, vengeance, or whatever other feelings he associates with justice. He gives up his guns because he knows that violence is not the answer, and even though good versus evil is a blurred line, that this act does not constitute a good act, no matter what perspective he or other people might try to empathize with. His search for justice isn’t completely successful because he still doesn’t seem to understand what it means. However, in his search, he learns how complex everything is, even things that seem very simple, like his father leaving him. His search helps him learn to empathize with other people and that everybody has many different stories and worries and pains and that the world is not just trying to tear him down.
Zits, just like Hank and the Indian boy and Gus and his father, is a hundred different people. Zits is not just an Indian experiencing perceived injustice; he is a son, a pimply teenager, a know-it-all, troubled, sassy, etc. However, Zits trapped himself initially in his hate for the world and how unfairly it treated him, resulting in him only being able to see through one perspective. By going through his awakenings, Zits realizes how many different people he is and how justice cannot be achieved simultaneously for every one of those 100 different people he is. Although Zits never seems to truly succeed in finding what justice is, he learns what justice is not, and he learns how complicated justice really gets, since each person is so unique and different.
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