Archive for September, 2018


Frankenstein and the Uncanny

For next Wednesday (10/3), students will write a blog post on the following question prompt:

Using Freud’s theory of the uncanny (repetition-compulsion, the double, return of the repressed), interpret Victor’s “wildest dream” on page 60.  How is this strange Oedipal desire for the mother/spouse related to Victor’s relationship to his parents and his desire to animate a corpse?  Explain how this psychological state illuminates important themes in the novel.

The post is due by 9:00am next Wednesday (10/3) (remember that late submissions will not be graded).  Please categorize under “the uncanny” and don’t forget to create relevant and specific tags.

Here’s an inspiring YouTube video on Oedipus veggies, the story of Oedipus told through vegetable actors.  This story served as the basis for Freud’s theory of the unconscious.  Be warned: this video contains graphic scenes not suitable for vegetable viewers.

The character of Justine Mortiz plays a minor role in the Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but a significant role in the character development of Frankenstein and the creature. Justine was unjustly murdered and convicted of a murder she did not commit. Using Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men as a critical lens to interpret and analyze Justine’s death, I believe that it was wrong to punish and execute her.

Justine was first introduced in a letter from Elizabeth to Victor. In this letter, she was introduced as someone who was worth loving and that she was beautiful. “Justine has returned to us; and I assure you I love her tenderly. She is very clever and gentle, and extremely pretty; as I mentioned before, her mien and her expressions continually remind me of my dear aunt” (Shelley 65). Using the thoughts of Wollstonecraft, as well as my own, I believe that it is rather patronizing and demeaning to always think about a woman and her appearance. Wollstonecraft aims for women to know their worth, to be equal to men, but through the character of Justine, all of Wollstonecraft’s thoughts and ideas are nonexistent. Justine is only relevant in this novel due to Victor and the creature, a man’s world.

Wollstonecraft preached and fought for women’s right. She wished for women “… to [not] have power over men; but over themselves” (Wollsencraft). Justine’s character was everything Wollstonecraft was against and appeared weak and did not stand up for herself. After the letter Justine was introduced in, the next time she appears in the novel, she is convicted of the murder of William, Victor’s younger brother.  Justine not only takes the blame as she states “I did confess; but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins” (Shelley 83). I find it unfortunate that she was falsely convicted and unfair. However, I do wish her character was stronger and did not need men or a man to make her relevant. The fate of Justine and her life was put in a MAN’S hand which is wrong and goes against the thoughts and beliefs of Wollstonecraft.

Rahma Kohin

 

 

In the Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, written by William Godwin, he demonstrates to the reader that the use of force or violence is no longer a good tool, instead, nonviolent protest is the best form of combating what is “wrong” to attain justice in order to eventually have happiness. This belief can be seen in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this similar message can be seen manifested when the death of Justine happens. In this scene when Justine passes away it can be interpreted as the death of justice. This can be interpreted because it demonstrates how violence will not achieve any good for the rest of the people and will only bring harm.

There is a certain scene on page 83 of the novel in which Elizabeth asks “why do you kneel if you are innocent?”. The meaning of this quote is beyond what it describes, it shows how Justine is truly innocent and pure. All people believe in justice, however, Justine is experiencing injustice for being accused of a murder that she did not commit. Moreover, it can be seen that the blame for Williams death takes a toll on Justine because eventually, she starts believing that she is the monster. Similarities can be seen in this scene and the French revolution because it causes the reader to start understanding whether something is right or wrong. While people decide to fight and advocate for what they think is correct and Godwin himself demonstrates that violence is not the best option, rather peaceful revolution is the best way to handle certain situations. As demonstrated by Godwin’s beliefs about violence, the violence in this story comes from the actions committed by the creature and eventually leaves Victor in a state of sadness. In a way, the creature can mirror the people while Victor is the monarchy in comparison to the French revolution. Resorting to violence as the people did allows for violence to spring from these actions which eventually destroyed the sense of justice. Godwin’s position or belief can be seen through Justine’s death, the violence resulting from the accusations allowed for injustice to come about and become the destruction when attempting to reach a peaceful and happy conclusion.

By: Daniel Olmos

David Obeso

William Godwin sits in the middle of the spectrum between Mary Wollstencraft on the far left with radical and extreme passion over injustice and inequality, and Burke on the far right reasoning that oppression is good for humanity because it brings control and ignores mayhem. However William Godwin, with the right sense of justice prefers to not involve violence as the key to solve inequality and injustice and ’tis true for the desperate people of France knew no mercy in times of crisis. They executed the king and queen without hesitation and after brought their punishment upon themselves.

In the book Frankenstein  we can see this as well with a similar event that happened to Justine. Although Justine and Elizabeth had reason within their argument that Justine is not the murderer, the people of the town demanded justice by bloodshed. The ultimate punishment that satisfies the cries of the desperate and just like many others who lost their lives through innocence on 1793, so did Justine. This barbarity and bloodlut blurs the image of justice because “force is not conviction, and is extremely unworthy of the cause of justice”. Instead like Godwin says we should “communicate our sentiments with utmost frankness”, and just like in the French Revolution, Justine’s death is symbolical. Perhaps can we say that justice dies when lives are lost? And for the actions of others we shall pay the debt. Because of the irresponsibility of Frankenstein with his creature, and the apathy of the French monarchs, the hand of justice was twisted with blood and lost through the mayhem and barbarity of the human soul in desperation.

In the novel Frankenstein, we readers witness the execution of Justine, the maid of the Frankenstein household, for the death of William. Although she was never guilty, she was still put on trial and found guilty for planted evidence. After reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the connections between Justine/Justice and the writing material is very strong.

For instance, Wollstonecraft focuses the majority of her paper on the idea of beauty, and how it is treated towards Justine and all women found in Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft quotes that “littleness and weakness are the very essence of beauty” (47). With Justine being a female, this same idea of beauty collided with her, and her wretched state as she goes on trial, knowing that she herself is innocent. At this point in the novel, Justine is tear-faced and broken to hear the news of her guilt from the jury. Wollstonecraft shows us that in order to be considered beautiful by men, we must appear smaller than them, and act as if we have a necessity for males in our lives in order to survive. Justine was not able to fit in that category, since she was “guilty” of William’s murder, which led to her demise.

-Jody Omlin

In reading the Justine excerpts a few things are shockingly obvious. She was incorrectly found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit, forced to confess to this crime or face repercussions eternally, and not given the benefit of the doubt when both Elizabeth and Victor tried to plead her case for her. All of this amounts to what Godwin would have considered to be failures on the part of mankind, especially those who tried her, because they did not adhere to his two plain duties as outlined in Reflections. These two duties are described as “first…an unwearied attention to the great instrument of justice” and “second…tranquility.” In reference to the first duty of justice, Godwin’s sentiments as expressed by the text were that people “should communicate [their] sentiments with the utmost frankness” and “be pervaded with a sense of the magnitude of [their] cause…to do justice to [their] principles.” Tying this back to Justine it becomes abundantly clear that she did attempt to do this initially but instead of receiving justice as Godwin expects, she received a priest who forced her to self-incriminate herself or face eternal punishment in exchange. Which for someone as god-fearing as Justine was a far worse punishment than hanging. Not only does Justine fail to get the justice she deserved by doing as Godwin wanted but the rest of the people at the trial, the judges, failed completely in this first duty as well. They did not seek to understand the magnitude of their actions nor did they attempt to be clear in their sentiments. Instead they allowed someone to force her into guilt and did not allow for anything but their decided upon story of events. The judges and all the other people are far guiltier than Justine ever was for their failure to fulfill one of their two duties.

As for the second duty of tranquility once more the ones truly guilty of not fulfilling this duty are the judges and others who deemed Justine guilty. Justine herself comes to terms in the cell with Victor and Elizabeth that her fate has been sealed and instead “assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her bitter tears” because she was fulfilling her duty of tranquility. While instead the priest instead forced her into submission with angry words. Had they only fulfilled that duty of tranquility and seen the situation with a calmer and more objective perspective this situation could have perhaps been avoided. Instead they failed and in doing failed in serving justice.

Ultimately if they had fulfilled their duties as Godwin would have wanted then perhaps Justine would have gotten the justice she was meant to represent. The failure to fulfill their duties was a reflection of the corrupt society in which justice could not be obtained and Justine’s fate was just another product of that corruption.

By Diana Lara

 

By Maya Carranza

Just like most women, Mary Wollstonecraft, believed that all women should be treated equally. So how is it that her daughter, Mary Shelley, wrote a book that totally lacks a strong female role? In the novel Frankenstein, although men are the main characters, the novel is full of mistakes that they made, which can be seen as a true feminist point illustrating that all women are the main foundation of society and that they aren’t just clueless minds behind a pretty face and body.

Justine goes from being very “gentle” and “pretty” to a monster when she is falsely accused and executed for the murder of Frankenstein’s brother, William. She states, “I did confess, but I confessed a lie… Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was.” (83) Although Victor could have saved her, she confessed to a crime she did not commit because she was pressured into it but still accepted her fate. This also comes to show that Justines words meant nothing because society sees women as “little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures”(47), as said by Mary Wollstonecraft, who aren’t capable of having their own thoughts.

Throughout the course of human history, one concept has remained in constant discussion: the perpetual battle between men and women’s rights. The argument of women’s rights and equality continues to be discussed in today’s modern day society. In Molly Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the author explains the importance of gender and social class equality for women and the need for revolution. Wollstonecraft explains “never was any man, much less a woman, rendered amiable by the force of those exalted qualities, justice, wisdom, and truth; thus forewarned of the sacrifice they must make to those unnatural virtues…they would be authorized to turn all their attention to their persons”. This statement explains that women are forced to conform with society’s values instead of creating their own self-images. A woman must comply with what is asked rather than following her own moral beliefs. Wollstonecraft’s ideas on society’s view of women directly correlates with the unfortunate fate of Justine’s death in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

As Justine converses about her unavoidable death, she explains “I do not fear to die…I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven” (Shelly 83). This passage exemplifies the distorted self-perception of women, and how women are made to justify and accept the cruel “punishments” that await them for their “wrong doings”. Justine’s perspective on her death validate Wollstonecraft’s statements that women become submissive to the distorted ideals that they are exposed to since birth. These ideas allow for Justine to submit to her “fate” of death without any justification of her being the true murderer. As a result, Justine continues the ever-lasting cycle of women submissiveness and is merely a product of the ideals that were passed down from the generations before her.

Written by Cathryn Flores

    Justine didn’t deserve to die. She and Elizabeth exchange expressions of guilt, confession, and empathy in the virtue-signaling conversation regarding Justine’s upcoming execution in Chapter VIII of the Gothic novel. The most important part of this scene, set relatively early in the unfolding of the plot of Frankenstein, is Mary Shelley’s emphasis on secondary characters in analyzing the deceiving and corrupt nature of the fictional execution. “Why do you kneel, if you are innocent?” (83) asks Elizabeth, in recognizing Justine’s kneeling as an act of not protest, but rather, subjugation to law, and because everyone knows that the law only applies when punishing a criminal caste, Elizabeth and Justine become the vessels for which the stakes of an entire criminal justice system rely on for representation. This is unfair for women, for the oppressed class, or even for the supposed monster and/or mobs who, according to values of Enlightenment during Shelley’s conception of the novel as a likely response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, are worthy of the rights to a basic life guaranteeing liberty and the pursuit of property. Victor was a property-owning, white male and member of the scientific elite and thus makes a better subject than Justine for a Burkian formation of human rights criticism.

    Justine must be disqualified as a representation of women during the (French) Revolution. Further emphasis on the distance of Justine from the male, principle characters of Frankenstein is evident in the framing of Elizabeth and Victor’s conversation in a previous chapter. “Elizabeth Lavenza,” (67) signs off a letter with Justine’s flashbacks- which is proceeded by Victor’s reply in “Geneva, March 18th, 17-,’ (67). Character observations about Justine first have to pass through Elizabeth’s pen, then on page 64, through Clerval’s hands, then at the start of the letter, in addressed to the familial tradition, each of these layers of communicating ultimately function to filter authenticity of the actual story being told. The degradation of the truth told is apparent enough in Burke’s essay to be repeated in the cautionary tone, “Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars […] to be offered to the divine humanity with fervent prayer and enthusiastick ejaculation?” (Burke 72). The irony here is that Victor writes from the future location of the Human Rights Council at Geneva before the formation of the United Nations could become content for Shelley’s feminist work. There is nothing feminist about the sacrifice symbolized through Justine’s wrongful execution; Burke sees this incompatibility of human representation in the tragic for predicting attacks on the Church, “The actual murder […] was wanting to the other auspicious circumstances of this ‘beautiful day.’ The actual murder of the bishops, though called for by so many holy ejaculations, was also wanting,” (73) and warns us about a second ejaculation, which I interpret as a vindication of the human rights framework which is evoked in the name of Justine. In conclusion, the lens of a Burkian reflection in reading Frankenstein is revealing in that, unlike the executions of the Revolution, this execution of Justine, for murdering the relative of our protagonist, is one that is very much deserved in the name of justice to punish “the patriotic crimes of an enlightened age,” (73). Burke in effect is criticizing human nature defense synthesized through moral law which is the object of the very tension underlying Elizabeth and Justine’s altercation about life and human dignity. Although a Godwinian lens convinces the contemporary reader of the collective duty to speak on violence, a Burkian approach to Shelley’s Gothic novel becomes an appropriate counter-culture mode of identifying the problems of feminine representation, images of violence, and historical context on the French regicides which complicate the secondary characters of Elizabeth and Justine’s convictions on truth and capital punishment.

🌀Bradley Dexter Christian

   

– Bianca Lopez Munoz

In William Godwin’s piece, “Enquiry Concerning Political Justice”, Godwin expresses that in his opinion, a revolution shouldn’t be violent and resentful. It should be a be a peaceful event where wealth is distributed among everyone equally. An event where all social classes have a conversation, have a mutual understanding of what everyone wants, and unite. Instead of men taking advantage of each other’s distresses, and in self interest, seek momentary gratification, that they should love liberty, love equality, pursuit arts, and have a desire for knowledge. And through this men will sympathize with each other and therefore a revolution would be a tranquil and orderly phenomenon.

By definition or mutual understanding, Justice is fair behavior and treatment, it is moral righteousness. During revolutions people seek justice and do things in the name of justice, good or bad. When I went back to the parts of Frankenstein where Justine was accused, tried, and executed for the murder of William, as I was reading, I would replace Justine’s name with the word Justice and it was incredibly interesting to see how well some passages worked with the change of language. “A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France or England, Justine… learned the duties of a servant; a condition which…does not include the idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being” (66). Now replace Justine with the word Justice in this quote. Justice is a servant. Ignorance and the sacrafice of human dignity is not part of justice, like in England or France (where people were murdered and it was extremely chaotic and unjust). When Victor finally gets back to his father’s home in Geneva he tells Ernest, “You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor Justine, is innocent” (77). Again replace Justine with the word justice. Justice is innocent. The evil things like murder that people do in the name of justice actually have nothing to do with justice and it is just a way to defend their actions. During Justine’s trial, Elizabeth appeals for Justine and says, “when I see a fellow creature about to parish through the cowardice of her pretended friends…”(81). This again, goes back to people using justice as a tool to justify and not take responsibility for their wrong doings during revolution. I remind you that all of this is happening because Victor Frankenstein decided to bring to life, a creature, which killed his brother, which indirectly killed Justine. Victor know’s he holds some blame to the death of his brother but refuses to speak up about it since he fears people will think he is insane. Victor did what William Godwin thinks people should not do. Victor took advantage of Justine’s distress, and in letting someone else be blamed for the death of William, he found momentary gratification for his sins but it wasn’t too long before he became guilty of the death of Justine. The revolution of the creature shouldn’t be violent and resentful as are the actions of the creature and Victor. I believe these things could have been avoided if Victor hadn’t run from his creation. Had he stayed and like, Godwin stated, had a conversation and sympathyzed with the creature, things could have possibly has a more “natural and tranquil progress”(Godwin).