What is Poetic Justice? Definition, Examples of Poetic Justice in Literature

Definition of poetic justice: Poetic justice deals with the idea that good deeds are rewarded while evil ones are punished.

What Does Poetic Justice Mean?

What is poetic justice? In a perfect world, people imagine that the virtuous should be rewarded while those who commit evil or wrongdoings should be punished. This just result of good and bad behavior is known as poetic justice.

Here are some brief examples of this idea:

  • In a situation where a man saves a woman from being robbed, poetic justice would occur if he received a medal for such bravery, and police arrested the robber.
  • Another everyday example of poetic justice would be if a person saved animals from being abused. In this case, the just result may be the animal rescuer appears as a hero in the nightly news while those committing crimes against the animals would receive severe punishment.

Modern Examples of Poetic Justice

poetic justice meaningHere are some modern examples of poetic justice:

In Disney’s Frozen, poetic justice occurs when the main character, Elsa, is praised as queen and restores happiness to her kingdom while the men trying to take control are punished through banishment from the island.

Poetic justice can also be found in J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. At the conclusion of this series, Harry Potter is praised for defeating the evil Lord Voldermort. Good has triumphed over evil, and Hogwarts is again able to safely continue educating young wizards and witches.

The Function of Poetic Justice

The purpose of poetic justice is to celebrate morality. Literature is often used to present messages, themes, regarding how society should behave. Therefore, poetic justice serves as a reminder that good deeds are rewarded while evil ones are punished. This serves as further convincing that behaving morally is a positive choice for society.

How Poetic Justice is Used in Literature

poetic justice examplesHere are some examples of poetic justice in literature:

In Homer’s The Odyssey, the protagonist, Odysseus, regains control of his kingdom and slaughters all of the suitors who violated his home. Here, poetic justice can be seen when Odysseus is celebrated and the suitors receive the ultimate punishment, death, for their evil doings.

Kathryn Stockett’s novel, The Help, contains humorous examples of poetic justice. In this book, a white woman unjustly fires a young African American maid. However, the maid receives her poetic justice when she bakes a special “chocolate” pie for the former employer. The eating of this pies results in humiliation for the white woman and praise from the maid’s community.


Define poetic justice in literature: Poetic justice refers to rewarding for the virtuous and punishment for the evil.

Final example of poetic justice:

In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, poetic justice occurs when the evil witch, Ursula, is killed for her wrongdoings against the mermaid community while Ariel is rewarded by receiving her legs and being able to marry the prince, Erik.