Esther Quintanilla

In his essay Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, the ideas that are posed by William Godwin are very prevalent in the death of Justine in the novel Frankenstein. In his essay, Godwin focuses greatly on equality among the different classes in England and France and the knowledge that should be distributed throughout all the population. This idea is reflected in Frankenstein through the way the readers view Justine. Elizabeth, when introducing Justine, describes her as a valued and important member of her family. “Justine, thus received in our family, learned the duties of a servant; a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being” (66). Although Justine was a servant, she was not treated so. She was treated with respect and was not the stereotypical depiction of a servant in France or England. Even Victor himself states, “A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England” (66). The idea of equality among the different classes, or even the abolishment of the classes themselves, is an idea that stems from Godwin’s thinking. He believes that justice can only be achieved through the equality of all, “the cause of justice is the cause of humanity” (Godwin, 789).

Although Justine is treated equally to others in Geneva, she eventually is treated as a servant would be in France or England. The execution of Justine is an event that contradicts the ideas of equality and justice, those in which her character is shaped around.  She is put to death for a crime that she did not commit but still admits to because of the pressure put upon her as a servant in her society. Equality is not seen in her conviction and she is not given the choice to have justice. Justine realizes her inequality and shares her thoughts with Elizabeth and Vicotr when they visit her to say goodbye: “’ I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me’” (83). This contradicts the Godwinian ideas that introduced Justine and forces her to become a mere replaceable servant. In the eyes of Godwin, Geneva becomes a place where justice just barely out of reach and ultimately unattainable.