Poetic justice is "an outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate." Essentially poetic justice is when someone gets what they deserve. We love to see this because it's the neat ending we alway want to see: we want to see the good guy lifted up and the bad guy punished.
Pop Cultures Examples
The first secular example that came to my mind while I was studying this poetic justice was the movie Ever After, a realistic-fiction version of Cinderella. In Ever After, the stepmother forces Cinderella into servant hood and mistreats her, but in the end Cinderella is married to the prince and the stepmother is forced to become a servant in Cinderella’s household. Sticking with fairy tales made popular by Disney, there is The Lion King. The iconic scene where Scar kills Mufasa is repeated in the final battle, but this time it is Scar who dies.
One of my favorite examples of poetic justice is from Office Space. An employee has been working for a company for quite some time without getting paid. The managers know he has been laid off but instead of telling him keep moving him around and use him for free labor. Meanwhile other employees devise a plan to get rich by stealing fractions of a penny from the company. When this backfires, they end up with a large sum of money which one employee decides to return and confess to keep the others from getting in trouble. In the end, however, the person who has been working for free finds the check and burns down the building, both getting his poetic justice and keeping the others from being caught.
Legally Blonde (and almost every teen drama there is) is also a great example of poetic justice. Elle goes to law school to prove she has what it takes to be her ex-boyfriend’s wife and isn’t just a dumb blonde. When she arrives, he is engaged to someone he deems more serious and the two women become instant enemies. However, in the end, the two women bond to create a friendship and learn that in reality it is the boyfriend who isn’t that bright. Elle graduates valedictorian and ends up engaged to a man who never doubted her, while her ex-boyfriend barely graduates and is left single.
There is also a movie called Poetic Justice, which I assume contains some level of poetic justice but I have not actually seen the movie.
👑 Poetic Justice
Genesis 25; 27; 29
Jacob & Esau
Jacob tricks Isaac into giving him Esau's blessing; Laban tricks Jacob into 14 years of work and marrying the wrong daughter
Lot offers up his daughters to a mob; later the daughters essentially rape him to keep the family line going
Exodus 1; 11
Israelites in Egypt
Pharaoh has Israelite children killed; God punishes Egypt by killing the firstborns in the final plague
Esther & the Jews
Haman tries to get Mordecai and the Jews killed; Mordecai is exalted and Haman is killed
The Whole Bible
The whole purpose of the Bible is the concept of the righteous gaining paradise and the serpent who took it from us being cast out forever
References and Footnotes
- "Poetic Justice". Merriam Webster Dictionary; visited May 2022