The wrongful execution of Justine for a murder that Frankenstein’s monster actually commits is an unusual part of Dr. Frankenstein’s narrative; the character of Justine is not mentioned before Victor hears of the murder accusations, yet the man expresses deep feelings upon her imprisonment and passing. If we take Justine to be the symbol of Justice, then Mary Shelley’s ideas on the subject would have undoubtedly been shaped by those of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.

Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication on the Rights of Men” in response to Edmund Burke’s ideas on the sublime and beautiful and his opinions on the French Revolution. Justine goes against Burke’s vision of the “beautiful” woman, a view that Wollstonecraft vehemently attacks, “Never, they might repeat after you, was any man, much less a woman, rendered amiable by the force of those exalted qualities, fortitude, justice, wisdom, and truth; and thus forewarned of the sacrifice they must make to those austere, unnatural virtues, they would be authorized to turn all their attention to their persons, systematically neglecting morals to secure beauty…”. Wollstonecraft attacks Burke’s notion that beauty can only exist in man if it is separate from strength and courage – only the weaker emotions highlight beauty. Justine is an exact contradiction to this ideal, she is described as beautiful by Dr. Frankenstein, yet she is “a girl of merit” and despite the harrowing circumstances she, “did not tremble” (both quotes on 79). Justine displays courage in facing the fate that awaits her, even if it is an unjust one, a trait that Burke would not have found “beautiful”, but one that Wollstonecraft would have admired in its genuineness.

Another aspect of Wollstonecraft’s influence on Shelley’s character of Justine is the way society treats her (and therefore Justice) with a callous air. Wollstonecraft criticizes Burke’s assertion that veneration of civil institutions is a product of Nature and the natural order. If Justine is Justice personified, then the illegitimacy of her death must be viewed not as an act of civil institution – in this case law – that should be venerated, but as a problem in the system: a problem that Burke implies is not there in a civil society. Interpreting Justine’s death with Mary Wollstonecraft in mind creates the character to be a direct counter to the ideals that Burke had in terms of beauty and the role of Nature.

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