A Thirst Quenching Glass of Frontier Justice.
Tarantino’s Examination of Passionate Actions in The Hateful Eight.
Daisy Domergue twists and flails. Her body a foot above the ground. Her bloody face anxiously watching her hangmen Major Marquis Warren and Sheriff Chris Mannix. As her assailants look on at the scene, they smile blissfully. Slowly the light begins to fade from Domergue’s eyes. The initial plan for Domergue was for her to hang after a trial took place; however, after the death of John Ruth “the hangman,” passion overtook. Civilized justice became frontier justice. The death of Domergue was well deserved, but the self interests of Warren and Mannix raises the question of whether or not this execution has become murder.
When Oswaldo Mobray deceived John Ruth into believing that “the real difference [between civilized justice and frontier justice] is ME… The Hangman,” he is in fact describing John Ruth, the sole advocate for civilized justice. John Ruth transports Domergue to Red Rock for trial despite the bounty allowing for her to be brought in dead. This allows her to face trial, and now “it will be the judge, the jury, and by extension, the entire town of Red Rock that sentences her to hang” rather than her pursuers. In order for justice to be served fairly, one must be placed on trial and be prosecuted rationally. This civilized justice is detached compared to the “thirst quenching” frontier justice. This long process delays the result and gives little satisfaction. Frontier justice on the other hand is swiftly gratifying, but “the bad part is it’s apt to be Wrong as Right.” It is induced by vengeance and results in a biased opinion.
In order to transport Domergue to her trial, John Ruth chains himself to her. This chain is used to hold her captive, similar to the chains of slavery. These strangers wander into Minnie’s Haberdashery only a few years after the Civil War. Although the war is now over, tensions are still high. There is still the controversial belief that “The only time black folks are safe, is when white folks is disarmed.” Chris Mannix, a southern renegade member, often clashes with Major Marquis Warren, an ex-Union officer, and eventually the Haberdashery is divided with the bar as Philadelphia, the fireplace as Georgia, and the dinner table as no man’s land.
It is no secret that Minnie’s Haberdashery is used to illustrate the United States during the Civil War, but the horrors in which it highlights are more inconspicuous. Near the fireplace sits the former Confederate General Sanford Smithers, and he appears to be quiet and non-menacing. This contrasts his actions at the Battle of Baton Rouge where he murdered black Union Soldiers that had surrendered. He defended his actions by stating that supplies were limited and that, by taking the black soldiers as prisoners, resources would be stretched too thin, but this situation resonated too closely with the Fort Pillow Massacre on April 12, 1864. After the Union granted African Americans the right to join the Army, the Confederate Army faced a challenge with black prisoners of war. It went against the core of their beliefs to treat them as their white counter parts and place them in a Prisoner of War Camp, so they simply murdered them. According to a Confederate sergeant, these soldiers ran to the Confederate soldiers, fell on their knees, and begged for mercy. Major Marquis Warren reversed these roles when he described his encounter with Smithers’ son where allegedly “Chester Charles Smithers sucked on that warm black dingus as long as he could.” By doing so, a black man is defacing a white man, and the gruesome brutality of the situation is glaringly obvious even to a former Confederate General.
Chris Mannix initially praised General Smithers for his actions during the Civil War, and General Smithers recognized the Southern Renegade that Mannix had worked with. This Southern Renegade coincides with the Quantrill’s Raiders. This group worked independently from the government, and it received support from the Confederate Army. The guerrilla warfare tactics proved effective, but their hit-and-run method made it difficult for retaliation and frustrated the Union. Quantrill’s Raiders lost the support from the Confederate Army after the Lawrence Massacre resulted in the murder of at least 150 men and boys. Mannix resembles the Raiders and has a form of comradery with General Smithers, but Mannix is different from both. He has the ability to overcome his past racial notions.
When poison is placed in the coffee brewer, Warren and Mannix suddenly realize that they are the only ones not working with Domergue, and that they must work together. Mannix and Warren unite in order to hang Domergue, overcoming the racial stigma. They put their conflicting beliefs aside, and see each other for what they are, trustworthy and loyal. They have overcome their fears of the past, and are now allowing themselves to move into a world of peace.
This optimistic perception is disillusioned when the chain from John Ruth is seen dangling from Domergue’s limp body. Although a lost-cause militiaman and a Union Major are able to unite together with no hostilities, each person’s previous actions will not be entirely forgotten. The past indecencies will echo into the future for decades to come because, despite the steps taken, the chains of slavery will forever haunt America. It is however, only a haunting. These chains are broken, and the slaves have been freed. However, the past still echoes in today’s society. Humans have the innate desire to strengthen their own identity by convincing themselves that they are superior, Initially, segregation maintained the separation between the races, but with time it too was challenged. Now, more than a century after the Civil War ended, racial stereotypes, resulting in police brutality, maintain this division within the American culture.
No matter the form of justice taken, the actions of those at fault are seldom forgotten, and forgiveness can only be hoped for.
The Hateful Eight. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perf. Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell. Double Feature Films, 2015. Film.