Study Guide

The Man in the Iron Mask Justice and Judgment

By Alexandre Dumas

Justice and Judgment

"Oh, God!" said Fouquet, "thou dost sometimes bear with such injustice on earth that I understand why there are wretches who doubt thy existence! Stay, M. d'Herblay!" and Fouquet, taking his pen, wrote a few rapid lines to his colleague Lyonne. (6.183)

Fouquet tries his best to right any wrongs he can.

"They are fond of these dodges," he said, with his mouth full; "they seize a man, some fine day, maintain him for ten years, and write to you, 'Watch this fellow well,' or 'Keep him very strictly.' And then, as soon as you are accustomed to look upon the prisoner as a dangerous man, all of a sudden, without cause or precedent, they write, 'Set him at liberty'; and add to their missive, 'Urgent.'" (7.85)

Baisemeaux points out that they live in an unjust society.

"He was my friend, Sire," replied Fouquet, nobly.

"An unfortunate circumstance for you," said the King, in a less generous tone of voice.

"Such friendship, Sire, had nothing dishonorable in it so long as I was ignorant of the crime."

"You should have foreseen it." (23.46 – 23.49)

The King has a poor sense of justice.

Fouquet turned pale. "I will take the liberty of observing to your Majesty that any proceedings instituted respecting these matters would bring down the greatest scandal upon the dignity of the throne. The august name of Anne of Austria must never be allowed to pass the lips of the people accompanied by a smile."

"Justice must be done, however, Monsieur." (23.64 – 23.65)

Justice is defined by King Louis XIV. He decides what it is and who is treated in a just manner.

Philippe read the following words, hastily traced by the hand of the King:-

"M. d'Artagnan will conduct the prisoner to the ile Ste. Marguerite. He will cover his face with an iron mask, which the prisoner cannot raise without peril of his life."

"It is just," said Philippe, with resignation; "I am ready." (24.96 – 24.98)

Why on earth does Philippe think this is just? What does this tell us about Philippe's character?

Swearing and grumbling, he had recourse to the syndic of his brotherhood at Antibes, who administer justice among themselves and protect one another; but the gentleman had exhibited a certain paper, at the sight of which the syndic, bowing to the very ground, had enjoined obedience upon the fisherman, and abused him for having been refractory. They then departed with the freight. (31.3)

Justice is dispensed with arbitrarily. There are plenty of people in this novel who are above the law.

"Do you ask their pardon of me?"

"Upon my knees, Sire!"

"Well, then, go and take it to them, if it be still time. But do you answer for them?" (53.67 – 53.70)

This is evidence of an unjust system – basically, who you know will get you a free pass, but if the wrong people have it in for you (as in the case of Fouquet), you are doomed.

"D'Artagnan," said the King, with a smile beaming with kindness, "I could have M. d'Herblay carried off from the territories of the King of Spain, and brought here alive to inflict justice upon him. But, d'Artagnan, be assured I will not yield to this first and natural impulse. He is free; let him continue free." (54.14)

Again, proof that justice is dispensed arbitrarily under King Louis XIV.

The young woman raised her head with a solemn air. "A day will come," said she, "when you will repent of having judged me so harshly. On that day, it will be I who will pray God to forgive you for having been unjust towards me. Besides, I shall suffer so much that you will be the first to pity my sufferings."60.31)

That day comes in the Epilogue.

"Poor woman!" muttered d'Artagnan, as he helped the attendants to carry back to her carriage her who from that time was to suffer. (Epilogue.85)

Is this a just fate for La Valliere or perhaps excessive suffering?