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Analysis of Judge Turpin's Character Through Marxist Theory

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Analysis of Judge Turpin's Character Through Marxist Theory essay
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Sweeney Todd Marxist Lens Assignment

When examining Sweeney Todd, there are several ways the power of Judge Turpin goes to his head from the start of the book. Beginning with the voyage of Sweeney Todd, we are given the story of a young barber, falsely imprisoned for life by a man named Judge Turpin in the hopes of stealing Todd’s wife. Being that he is a highly esteemed judge, it’s not surprising that eventually the power goes to the judge’s head, causing him to use his power for his own selfish desires. Judge Turpin represents the corrupt upper-class elite whom oppress the lower class through freed to establish and uphold a sense of unchallengeable power.

From the first scene we’re shown, the oppression Judge Turpin forces onto the lower class is undeniable. Before even being introduced to the judge we meet Sweeney Todd, who is on his voyage back to England after spending fifteen years in jail. As he speaks to his companion Anthony, Todd states “There were two men, one a beadle and one a judge, who coveted my wife. I was falsely accused of robbery and was arrested by the beadle. I was brought before that same judge and sentenced to life.” From this quote it is clear that the judge takes advantage of the power he has by using his reputation and his friends within the law to bend the circumstances to his will. After securing Todd’s fate to a life time in jail on a separate continent from England, Turpin is then able to use his power to manipulate Todd’s confused and, now alone, wife.

The circumstance involving Todd and his wife is only one of many examples of the way Judge Turpin represents the oppression being pushed onto the lower class by the upper class elite. Flipping forward through the story, we are shown an instance between the beadle and the judge shortly after Judge Turpin sentences a young child of a lower income family to death. When walking out of the courthouse the beadle congratulates the judge on his sentencing, “Just the sentence we wanted” to which the judge responds, “Was he guilty?” From this portion of the conversation alone it is clear that the Judge abuses his power, using it to carry out sentences that agree with his friends wishes instead of deciphering whether or not the accused is guilty. Continuing the previous conversation between the beadle and the judge, the immense abuse of power to uphold a sense of unchallengeable decisions can be seen when beadle answers the judge’s question by saying, “Well, if he didn’t do it, he’s surely done something to warrant a hanging.” Bearing in mind that the person in question was a young child, not even in his teens, it’s almost impossible to think of anything the child could have possibly done anything to warrant a hanging. But being that the child appeared before the judge in ragged clothes, covered in dirt and otherwise indisputably from the lower class, the judge sides with the beadle, even though there was no clear evidence to condemn the boy.

Turpin not only uses his immense sense of power to manipulate the court, but this behavior also carries over into his personal life. After Todd is sentenced, his grief stricken wife then engages in a string of events that leads to Judge Turpin having custody of Todd’s daughter, Johanna. Once Todd has returned, we see Johanna as a young adult, confined to the judge’s mansion. Ironically she meets and plans to run away with the sailor who helped Todd on his voyage home. This is in response to the judge’s marriage proposal to the girl, however once the judge hears of her plans he once again enlists his undeniable political power to punish Johanna, and oppress her until she bows to his will. We learn of this when the sailor, Anthony, rushes to Todd to seek his solace, telling Todd “He has her locked in a madhouse, in Fogg’s Asylum.” Because of the high stance Judge Turpin holds and how far reaching his political power extends, Turpin was able to lock up Johanna without being questioned or stopped. By using his familiarity with the owner of the asylum, and his knowledge of the seediness of how he runs the asylum, Turpin is able to manipulate the situation.

The examples of how Turpin uses his power to manipulate the circumstances around him are endless. Whether it was in court or in his social surroundings, it’s easy to see how Turpin abuses his level of power. As a highly esteemed judge, there aren’t many people who disagree with Turpin. But in almost every instance when the situation isn’t favorable for the judge he uses his high standings and his high level of power to manipulate the situation until it’s under his control. This sense of corruption can be paralleled to scrutinize how the corrupt upper-class elite oppresses the lower class through freedom to establish and uphold a sense of unchallengeable power.

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Analysis of Judge Turpin’s Character Through Marxist Theory. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from
“Analysis of Judge Turpin’s Character Through Marxist Theory.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019,
Analysis of Judge Turpin’s Character Through Marxist Theory. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Oct. 2021].
Analysis of Judge Turpin’s Character Through Marxist Theory [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 28 [cited 2021 Oct 19]. Available from:
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