Drawing the Line Between Right and Wrong Essay

Proposed Title: Drawing the Line Between Right and Wrong

(you can change this if you want, if you already have a title in mind)

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All over the world, injustice hides at every corner, waiting to prey upon an unsuspecting victim who unfortunately won’t know what hit him/her until he/she finds himself/herself waking up in a hospital room to see relief shower over loved ones’ faces or worse – not waking up at all. Anyone can be a victim, no one is safe. Laws have been made and implemented to keep the citizens safe but it is not hard to see that people are starting to lose faith in their governments, the latter sometimes being also the cause of said injustice.

Taking these into account, does Erica Bain, under any circumstance, have the right to take the law into her own hands? The answer is no, she does not. A traumatic experience, no matter how painful or devastating, is and never will be reason enough to take another person’s life (or one’s own, for that matter). It may have been how the people of back then settled disputes but an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is not the way to go.

            Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and other religious sects may have their differences but it may be said that the said religions all agree on this fundamental law: to not kill, especially for the sake of vengeance. But before we condemn Erica’s actions in the movie and submit to a “superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes” (King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, par. 5), we must first look at the reasons why she did what she did.

            Does anybody deserve to experience the trauma that Erica went through? The answer is still no. No one deserves to be the victim of any kind of abuse, especially one that ends up with death. Fortunately for her, she survived. Her fiancé was not so lucky. After the incident, the emotional scars within her never healed. It grew into something – something dark.

She realized that there was this different person inside her trying to take over. This other person, or ‘stranger’ as she called it, did not want to live in fear; who knew about the darkness and wanted to be the light; who needed to take action because if she didn’t, who will? She has seen how the law works and this did not produce results. She had to take action to make things better.

She has chosen this other person, to only be this person because this person was strong and could never be pushed around. This person was the one who other people feared and not the other way around. She didn’t want to be the old Erica Bain – weak, scared and helpless. After a trauma like hers, who could blame her?

            In Henry David Thoreau’s A Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, both mentioned the concept of conscience. Both understand that it is the existence of a conscience that forces man to act according to his rights and preserve justice. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust… is in reality expressing the highest respect for law” (King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” par. 16). But what does Erica’s conscience tell her?

The conscience can do a lot of things to a person. Erica’s conscience ate her up inside and there were times in the movie when her conscience won over her fear of being punished for her sins that she tried to turn herself in but the police officer just brushed her off. And the time when she was finally going to be identified by a witness, the witness helped her out by not saying anything. Fate can be cruel sometimes, playing with the mind, pushing people to their limits. Fate was telling Erica that it was not letting her off easy. Her internal struggle shows that deep down her soul, the old Erica knew that what she was doing was wrong.

In a conversation between Erica and her concerned neighbor, the latter tells her that “death leaves a hole waiting to be filled,” and this hole inside of Erica kept on getting bigger and darker at the same time with every person who dies by her hands. Somewhere in the movie, she acknowledged this, talking to no one in particular, saying “you left a hole in me… but I’m done now.”

            But, in the end, Erica got what she wanted. She killed her fiancé’s murderers and gets to get away with it because Detective Mercer who once tried to show her the light, fell into the darkness and has decided to take matters into his own hands too. It is as Thoreau said; the concept of government is man-made and therefore flawed, “it has not the vi­tal­ity and force of a sin­gle liv­ing man; for a sin­gle man can bend it to his will” (Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government,” par. 2). But at what expense? Taking another life does not bring the dead back nor does it satisfy that hunger for vengeance. It only brings more death and more lost souls.

Sometimes, people do things which they think were right by them but turn out to be the complete opposite. They convince themselves that it had to be done and that by doing it, they were doing the world a favor. But are they really? The line between good and evil, right and wrong is certainly there but where the line is drawn, that is the trickier part to look for.


Jordan, Neil, dir. The Brave One. Perf. Jodie Foster. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2007.

King, Martin Luther Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963).” African Studies Center. University of Pennsylvania. 19 May 2009.  <http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html>

Thoreau, Henry David. “Resistance to Civil Government/Civil Disobedience (1849).” The Picket Line. 19 May 2009. < http://sniggle.net/Experiment/index.php?entry=rtcg>