By: Mary Russell

In Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, he mourns the destruction of beauty. He bemoans the execution of Marie Antoinette claiming she was so beautiful and perfect that, “Ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult,” (76). She was the epitome of a perfect queen, and woman to him. Burke then moves on to argue that without the admiration of Marie Antoinette and others like her – kings and other such royalty – none will be moral. He claims that, “To make us love our country, our country must me lovely,” (78). If none admire or love their country then none will abide by the laws or engage in “natural” behaviors. That is also Burke’s argument. Revolutionaries are ugly because they seek to destroy the “natural” order of things. According to Burke, man desires to be subjugated and without a beauty in the subjugation, everyone will become unnatural and revolt.

Mary Shelley was raised by two radicals however the death of Justine in Frankenstein seems to mirror Burke’s sentiments. Justine is described as beautiful and kind. During her trial she is, “Confident in innocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed,” (79). This description of her trial matches Burke’s description of Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment which she faced gracefully as a queen should. Justine’s beauty is ignored because the mob is chaotic and not thinking straight, imagining they are justified and obliterating her innocence. They are a revolutionary hive mind set out to destroy Justine’s beauty. Looking even further, the creature is technically at fault for Justine’s death. Had he not planted the evidence on her, she would not have been accused. Following Burke’s logic this ugly, unnatural being is at fault for the death of beauty and order. Justine’s death marks the poignant beginning to the creature’s murderous rampage. Even though William’s death is technically the first, the readers do not see it. They see Justine’s death and following this, more and more people are killed in the creature’s reign of terror. The destruction of beauty is the destruction of order and the beginning of the end.