Rilee Hoch

William Godwin has a unique perspective in his criticism of the French Revolution.  He believes that if humanity would use our knowledge to properly communicate our thoughts and emotions, that justice would come naturally and a peaceful revolution would ensue. Then, that peaceful revolution would dissolve the unjust class system and result in an equal distribution of property. Justine’s death from this perspective then represents the rash actions of the French people who, rather than causing positive change with no violence, murder justice with their revolution. Justine in the passage literally represents justice, and her death the destruction of it. The Creature in this case represents the foolish French who rushed into to their revolution with action rather than sentiment which resulted in death, destruction and overall anarchy. The passage overall can be seen as a critique of Godwin’s ideology, but not in a way to disprove its idea but rather that it cannot work because the emotions of people do not allow for it.

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If instead they had used reason and negotiations, the French and the Creature would have both received better results. Just like how the Creature places the blame for his crime on Justine without thinking it through and considering different approaches, the people take their anger out on the monarchy and throw all justice aside for death via guillotine. The Creature let his anger take over, just like the French, it  “stirred the fiend within me” (127), and yet for both parties there was no positive result. They both blame Justice or the lack thereof so they decide to make it pay recompense. Due to this many innocent lives are lost, including the life of Justine who is simply an innocent child. The Creature was never shown Justice so he decides make Justine pay saying “She shall suffer.. she shall atone” (127). It is ironic that he says he has learned this practice from Felix who had previously done an injustice to the Creature, so we see the pattern of abuse continue, which started when Felix also suffered injustice via Sofie’s father. If he had followed Godwin’s model however, he would have though more clearly and paid attention to the “the great instrument of justice, reason. We should communicate our sentiments… press them upon the attention of others” (Godwin 790). This idea of contemplating different approaches is clearly absent in the text. We can see that the cycle of pain will only stop when we choose to use truth over violence, and put our selfish emotions and desire to shed blood from anger aside. If they had not resorted to violent uproars and a bloody revolution, Justice would not have paid the price for other peoples mistakes and the outcome might have been a peaceful and happy ending. This however is not done, in the text or in history. Here we can see the commentary against Godwin’s ideology in actual practice, that we simply will not allow it to work, we cannot.