Justice and Injustice in Tartuffe
A theme of the play Tartuffe is justice. Justice, or the lack of justice, can be seen in the relationship between father and son, father and daughter, and guest and host. Lacanian philosophy, which focuses on language and the conflict that the male feels due to a disintegration of oneness, can be used to look at injustice as it manifests itself in the male conflict within the play.
According to Lacan, a male child experiences conflict with his father, who is associated with language and thus otherness. Once a child enters into the world of language he loses his sense of unity with his mother. In Tartuffe the father, Orgon is in conflict with his son, Damis. Damis is a rash person who does not think things completely through before choosing a course of action, as seen when he says abruptly, "I'll go and tell [Tartuffe] off-, I'm out of patience" (3. 1. 10). He verbally spars with his father, who is completely infatuated with the behavior of Tartuffe, to see Tartuffe for what he is. After eavesdropping on the conversation between Elmire, the wife of Orgon, and Tartuffe, Damis is convinced that he has the evidence that he needs to convince Orgon of his position, as indicated when he says, "And now I've proof that can't he disbelieved Proof that was furnished me by Heaven above" (3.4.24-25). 1 le then goes to destroy his father's view of Tartuffe.
Orgon, however, upon hearing that Damis has caught Tartuffe trying to seduce Elmire, immediately takes a defensive stance and instead of believing his own son, claims the accusation is false and defends the stranger saying, "Ah, you deceitful boy, how dare you try / To stain his purity with so foul a lie?" (3.6.15-16). He scolds him:...
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...time a just man before he met Tartuffe.
There is much injustice in the play Tartuffe. This injustice as well as the justice that triumphs often comes through the use of language for the purpose of establishing either law or love. Sometimes a character takes on this language by association with other characters, and other times in reaction to the use of this language by other characters. Regardless of the source, language is a common medium for the expression of justice or its opposite. This language is used by characters as a result of the conflict that a male feels as described by Lacan, which more often that not, results in the expression of injustice. The expression of injustice is language-based because the male, by being exposed to language, is thrust into a world of alienation, and has experienced injustice from his first experience with language.