Poetic Justice Examples
When bad or evil characters have some type of calamity or misfortune befall them in a literary work, it is called poetic justice. While the "bad guys" are not always punished in real life, it is typical for the "good guys" to win in a work of literature.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Mr. Ewell's lies send Tom Robinson to prison. However, Atticus makes clear in the courtroom that Mr. Ewell beat his daughter. So, Mr. Ewell's shame in front of his neighbors is poetic justice.
In the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, the wicked stepmother and sisters watch as Cinderella becomes queen-after they made her their servant for most of her life. In many versions of the tale, they end up living in the castle as her servants. This is poetic justice.
In Romeo and Juliet, the Montague and Capulet families experience poetic justice as their age old feud comes to an end only with the deaths of their children.
In Macbeth, Lord and Lady Macbeth's evil plot to kill the king and rule the land falls apart when the plot is discovered and their own guilt haunts them.
In Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a man murders an old man and buries him under the floor of his room. But, he is haunted by the deed, and continues to hear the beating of the man's heart until he confesses. This is poetic justice.
Literary Terms Examples