In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Justine is the perfect representation of Godwin’s idea of what comes from a republican system and “the essence of beauty” according to Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Men. In Wollstonecraft’s excerpt, It is explained that the “Supreme Being” is the one who “[gives] women beauty in the most supereminent degree, [seeming] to command them, by the powerful voice of Nature, not to cultivate the moral virtues that might chance to excite respect…” (p.47), suggesting that the “Supreme Being” is man, and in Justine’s case this deemed to be true. Due to Justine speaking up about her case and not allowing them to categorize her as a murderer, she was not considered honest or strong, but instead “little” and “weak” (p. 47), which is considered “the essence of beauty” (p.47). Justine was robbed of justice due to the fact that she did not follow what the “Supreme Being” commands, which ultimately is putting one’s fate in the hand of man with no argument, or else she will be left unrespected. However, this goes against what William Godwin was presenting in Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, for Godwin stated that “the great instrument of justice [is] reason” (p.790) because Justine gave her reasoning behind what happened in regards to Williams death and rather them take her reasoning and find the truth in it, they decided to make an example out of her. This is implied through Godwin’s statement that “the selfish are not governed solely by the sensual gratification or the love of gain, but that the desire of eminence and distinction…” (p.791), revealing that “The Man”, as some may call it, will make decisions based on their rank with the goal of sustaining authority as a man, leaving Justine at the bottom of the totem pole considering she was a woman with a voice. Godwin also explains how “we can be persuaded clearly and distinctly to approve will inevitably modify our conduct… and when their neighbors are impressed with a similar disdain, it will be impossible they should pursue the means of it with the same avidity as before” (p.791),revealing that all it takes is for the majority to question the truth for it to be wrong, and this is exemplified through Elizabeth’s doubt of Justine’s truth. It is clear that the justice system much rather Justine, as Mary Wollstonecraft describes it “systematically [neglect] morals to secure beauty” (p.47) and “confine truth, fortitude, and humanity with the rigid pale of manly morals” (p.47) than invest in, as Godwin describes it, “the improvement… in a knowledge of truth” (p.794), considering that the court and jury were already set on pointing the blame on a woman. And considering Godwin’s statement that “our knowledge will be very imperfect, so long as this great branch of universal justice fails to constitute a part of it [truth]” (p.794), what year would it have to be in order for Justine to actually receive justice?

Jaimee Watson