Eight Strangers. One Deadly Connection.
The Hateful Eight
Frontier Justice: Extrajudicial punishment, motivated by the nonexistence of law and order or dissatisfaction with justice.
Civilized Justice: Reasonable and well organized laws and rules dealing with how people behave together.
“The man that pulls the lever that breaks your neck, will be a dispassionate man and that dispassion is the very essence of justice. For justice delivered without dispassion, is always in danger, of not being justice.” (Oswaldo Mobray, p.51)
No one gets off the hook in a movie by Quentin Tarantino. There will always be a loser and typically they do not lose a contest, they lose their life. In The Hateful Eight, Daisy Domergue was going down for her transgression. Daisy was a dangerous murderer and gang member who had a ten-thousand-dollar bounty on her head. In light of justice, if the relatives of whomever Daisy killed chose to hang her themselves, seeking revenge or closure, this would be an example of frontier justice. This action would be a thirst quenching act but apt to be wrong. Depending on the family, they may or may not receive the peace they were seeking. In contrast, Daisy’s hanging satisfies the other character’s desire for civilized justice.
Additionally, to the gangsters working with Daisy, frontier justice was preferable. The Domergue gang members created a plan to be at the haberdashery before John Ruth arrived with Daisy, and they would wait until the perfect moment to kill everyone else and save Daisy. This plan soon took a turn for the worst when someone discovered they were not really who they claimed to be in the beginning. The gang members’ dedication to frontier justice is shown through the script and as a viewer of the movie by their plan to free Daisy by eliminating those that want to hang her. Joe Gage’s lack of words and facial expressions through tense situations such as having a gun pointed at him, watching someone drink the poisoned coffee and watching others being shot repeatedly, shows that he is carrying out his task unemotionally. He follows through with his task because he is still in cahoots with the Domergue gang. By these actions he still agrees with their plan of frontier justice. If Gage had prioritized surviving in the haberdashery over his involvement in the ensuing violence, he would not have risked his life for Daisy. Unfortunately, there is nothing materialistic for Joe Gage. When he joined this gang he devoted 100% loyalty to them; they became family, so he is doing this to rescue someone near and dear to him and the other gang members.
Ironically, Daisy and John Ruth shared the same flawed view of justice. She believes in justice except her preference is frontier justice. She shows viewers this when she attempts to convince Chris Mannix to take the half mutilated bodies to the sheriff for a substantial payoff. She states that Marquis Warren should not have killed her brother when he was unarmed because it was not just. To support this, Daisy believes John Ruth has to die for hanging people instead of settling things with pistols where they stand. There are no codes on the cold, snowy mountain and that’s what makes it so unfortunate for Daisy; along with anyone else who thinks there are codes or should be codes.
The most symbolic frontier justice moment occurs in the very last scene of the movie. Major Warren and Chris Mannix lay in bed, reveling in pain and covered in blood, enjoying the sweet-sweet joy of hanging this despicable woman. Noting that John Ruth’s arm is still attached to Daisy when she is hanged, makes it even more gratifying. His arm is zoomed in on as if he is still a part of the hanging. Since hanging her was his sole purpose in the movie, it ties together the whole idea of justice being served.
In the event that Daisy was actually guilty and ended up being hung for her actions, then civilized justice occurred. For John Ruth, the civilized justice of The Hangman is preferable to frontier justice. John Ruth makes his job, as hangman, harder than need be out of a sense of justice. He is determined that truly bad people must be hanged in order to show the world their actions have consequences. Ruth believes he is on Earth to make sure everyone gets what they deserve for their wrong doings. His belief continues with the idea that if he cannot tell who you are and you cannot provide proper documentation then you should give up your gun and cannot ride in his stage coach. Even though his job is one of the most dangerous, he believes he will be safe if he can impose his sense of justice on everyone else. We see later in the movie that the endorsement letter from Lincoln, on Major Warren’s behalf, shown to John Ruth to get in his stage coach was actually fake, and John Ruth is speechless when the reality of being lied to is upon him.
“This here is Daisy Domergue. She’s wanted dead or alive for murder, so when that sun comes out, I’m taking this woman to hell! There anybody here committed to stopping me from doing that?” (p.76)
The Hangman played the most important role in how a criminal died in the 1800’s. It is his job to hang people for their wrong doings. In Daisy’s case, John Ruth takes pleasure in this job. He does not care what the criminals do. He gets no satisfaction from anyone’s death, but he will make sure the death is executed the way he believes it’s supposed to be.
“When the handbill says “dead or alive”, the rest of us just shoot you in the back from up on top a perch somewhere and bring you in dead over a saddle. But when John Ruth the Hangman catches you…You hang.” (p.14)
Throughout the movie Tarantino shows examples of the characters’ justice beliefs, but in the end he is trying to stress that no justice is the right justice. If you have a sense of justice or even an idea of how things are supposed to be, you’re fooling yourself. In an uncaring world where horses and waitresses end up dead just as often as it snows, you have to watch what your mind may trick you into believing, because out there, it snows a lot. When you’re not worried about what type of justice is being dished out, you are more likely to live. The Hateful Eight is based around civilized and frontier justice, no one to trust and everyone to hate, which is why everyone dies. The two people who live the longest, Mannix and Warren, are the two people who understood a critical principle; life isn’t fair and there are no codes.
Tarantino, Quentin. The Hateful Eight. Film Script. 2013. Tcwguilds. 22. Feb. 2016.
“The Hateful Eight.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hateful_Eight
Nelson, Keith Jusaire. “Quentin Tarantino: Violence Against Women Is Necessary in “The Hateful Eight”” News. Slant, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016. <https://www.slantnews.com/story/2015- 12–26-quentin-tarantino-violence-against-woman-is-necessary-in-the-hateful-eight>