Tag Archive: class


Butchered Justice

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

by Steven Gonzalez

In William Godwin’s  Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793), he contends that equality and justice in a society are eminently appealing and that the people within a society should look to achieve equality, not through the use of violence, but through peaceful means. Godwin admonishes the use of violence proclaiming, “Let us anxiously refrain from violence… The cause of justice id the cause of humanity. Its advocates should be penetrated with universal good-will.”(pg.789) Godwin notes that a society can achieve this ideal notion of equality and justice among all people through the individual’s focus on reason, tranquility, and the tireless pursuit of truth. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the character Justine personifies this idea of an “individual focus on reason, tranquility, and truth” as a manner to achieve equality and justice from the perspective of the reader. Consequently, upon Justine’s death, the ideal notions of equality and justice are eradicated within the society of Geneva along with her as a result of the lack of reason, tranquility, and truth expressed in her conviction and execution. Justine’s death, used to symbolize the death of justice in the novel, serves as a perfect exemplar for the consequences that arise from a person’s disregard for reason, tranquility, and the pursuit of truth.

 

Initially, Elizabeth introduces Justine into the novel in a letter to Victor by describing Justine’s past and her upbringing. Then, Elizabeth compares the republican institutions between France/England and Switzerland: she does this to convey the smaller distinction between people of different classes. She emphasizes this difference noting that “there is less distinction between the several classes of its inhabitants; and the lower orders, being neither so poor nor so despised, their manners are more refined and moral.”(Shelley 65). Additionally, Elizabeth further goes on to describe how Justine isn’t seen or treated as an inferior to the rest of Geneva because of her lower socio-economic status stating, “Justine… 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.”(Shelley 65). Next, Elizabeth describes the righteousness of Justine’s character calling her the “most grateful little creature in the world”. Observing this through the lens of William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice allows us to see the direct correlation between the benevolence of Justine’s character and the equality she experiences within her society. Following William’s death, we see a shift in Justine’s character and consequently, a shift in how society views Justine just like Godwin would predict. Justine begins to abandon her dedication to reason in her studies, tranquility in her demeanor, and truth in her statements and so society begins to see her as a wretched below human individual accusing her of murdering William. This is most evidently depicted in the lines, ” 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… In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable.”(Shelley 82). It seems that even Victor Frankenstein at this point seems to see her as being inferior referring her to her constantly as “poor victim” with a pitiful almost patronizing tone. It seems incredibly ironic that Victor, with the power to stop Justine’s death through truth, decides to let her die a violent death while simultaneously grieving and lamenting, ” I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation … Anguish and despair penetrated into the core of my heart, I bore hell within me which nothing could extinguish.”(Shelley 83). Finally, Justine dies because of Victor’s deviation from reason, tranquility, and truth and Victor Frankenstein acknowledges this lamenting, ” I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.”(Shelley 84).

Ultimately, Godwin’s solution for achieving equality through the individual’s pursuit of reason, tranquility, and truth was evident as being correlative but not necessarily causative: There happened to be equality and justice when Justine expressed a pursuit of reason, tranquility, and truth but not necessarily because of her expression. One idea I found interesting  was Elizabeth’s introduction of Justine in her letter because even though she describes how Justine is not seen as inferior, she herself uses patronizing and condescending language to refer to her, often calling her “little creature”, and “poor girl” perhaps indicating the inevitable lack of equality in a seemingly perfectly equal society. On this point is where I ultimately disagree with Godwin, not on his methods of achieving an equal society but simply whether an “equal” society is eminently desirable in the first place. In a truly equal society, there is no variance in class, in politics, in character, and most importantly in ideas. Godwin even mentions this idea and even champions it stating, ” Each man will find his sentiment of justice and rectitude echoed by the sentiments of his neighbors.”(Godwin 794) This seemingly homogenous authoritarian society is not ideal in any definition of the word. Moreover, we should seek to achieve the highest order of equality of opportunity and to preserve the dignity of all human beings, but we as a society should not expect nor desire the homogenous equality of outcome which Godwin seems to idealize as his final goal. Ultimately, the idea that subscribing to an easy to follow, simple ideology in order to solve nuanced inequalities within a society is reckless, irrational, and untenable.

 

 

By: Sandra Tzoc

In “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley writes about the creaturescapegoat‘s gruesome actions one which includes the ploy that eventually leads to Justine’s execution. This is a very questionable scene because Victor is well aware that Justine is not behind the murder of William however, he does not voice the truth and in the end, Justine pays the consequences. This raises questions as to why Victor stayed quiet, perhaps the answer is: he felt guilty. Through Burke’s eyes it is possible for it to be that way. In his writing Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke repels anything abstract, anything that is not in order. He condemned the French Revolution because he thought individuality was foolish and that the revolution would eventually translate into an anarchy. Burke states: “[prejudice] renders a man’s virtue his habit”, moreover that prejudice would act as a guide to every “man”. Burke was a man who preferred to believe in mainstream ideas even if they were prejudice because he thought that a person’s individual thoughts could not compare.

This is important to note as Burke believed in submissive women and found beauty in their obedience to the state and church. Burke valued class and order and the French Revolution dismantled this rank thus, destroying his perception of beauty. He would probably be proud of Victor and his silence because although Victor was foul for staying quiet, Justine would simply be an offering to the state, to Victor, to the men. Furthermore, she was a servant who was below Victor and Burke would probably care less about her execution given that she was lower class. The prejudice that Victor used against Justine could possibly be presented in the form of scapegoating. He projected all his feelings of guilt onto Justine and let her take the blame for what he had created. He could not possibly come forward to say the truth, that the creature was to blame, because then that would mean he himself was a culprit.

justine2

I find Justine’s death rather interesting, whilst reading the passages regarding her I noticed a few things. On page 66 when Elizabeth describes Justine in her letter to Victor she says, “‘…and I recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill-humour, one glance form Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that Aristo gives concerning the beauty of Angelica—she looked so frank-hearted and happy.’” When I read this, I automatically thought of the fact that Elizabeth basically devalues Justine and her personality and just makes her out to be one thing—pretty. The first thing that comes to mind when she thinks of Justine is her beauty. She is objectified, and everything that the reader comes to learn about her is automatically forgotten or disregarded because the only thing that matters when it comes to her is her beauty. This reminded me of Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay where she says society—specifically men have taught women that they were created by God to only be pretty. And because they were created to only be beautiful they don’t need to bother with things like “truth, fortitude, and humanity,” which are “within the rigid pale of manly morals…” (47).

In her essay, Wollstonecraft is basically trying to argue that women should not just be regarded as objects used for pleasure or aesthetic purposes. Instead, they should revolutionize and show the world that they are capable of anything they want to do, and should be held as equal to males. They should not be seen as a “lower class” just because they are women, they should also not be seen as lesser or inferior to men because of their gender. Their gender is not something that should hold them down in the eyes of society. Instead it should be something that uplifts them and empowers them to progress in the world. Because they are just as capable as men are when it comes to having certain characteristics or doing certain things.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Image result for class injustice in society

Christopher Martinez

As citizens in a society, we tend to have the divisions in gender and class. There are laws in the nation, but sometimes the ones with power can find the loopholes to innocence (just like in the French Revolution). In Mary Wollstonecraft’s writing, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, she strongly makes a stance for gender and class equality. She makes several points about her views such as in the quote, “To say the truth, I not only tremble for the souls of women, but for the good-natured man, whom everyone loves” (48). She wants to create the idea where there is no advantage in society. In other words, she stands with the common citizen during the French Revolution.

Frankenstein shows the injustice of class and gender within Mary Shelley’s time. When Justine gets convicted of the murder of William we see the injustice that is happening. It is as if Justine is representing the continuation and sacrifice of the French Revolution by the common man in the quote, “Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may Heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so” (84). The way Justine sounds when she says goodbye is as if she is making a sacrifice for the happiness of her family. In addition, there is a motif of courageousness in a woman in this part of the story. Justine isn’t afraid of her death. Mary Shelley is showing the strength in Justine. Likewise, Mary Wollstonecraft expresses the strength of a woman in her writing. She states, “If beautiful weakness be interwoven in a women’s frame, if the chief business of her life be (as you insinuate) to inspire love, and Nature has made an eternal distinction between the qualities that signify a rational being and this animal perfection, her duty and happiness in this life must clash with any preparation for a more exalted state” (48). Mary Wollstonecraft dedicates this part in her writing to state that a woman is equal to everyone; in this way, there can be a prosperous state. The idea of a woman standing up and not being afraid of anything is pretty clear. Finally, Mary Wollstonecraft dismisses the idea of the common nature of woman. She says words like, “little, smooth, delicate,” (47) aren’t the respectful words for a woman for she is powerful! Connecting this to times like today, it is as if there is no change in how we see a man, woman, and class. The Revolution for change hasn’t ended!

Mary Wollstonecraft’s text highlights her intolerance for the church as well as the classifications of class and rank in society. In regards to women and their treatment, she is dissatisfied because they are valued more through the idea of beauty than through their intelligence or morals.  Her views are intertwined and seen in her daughter’s novel Frankenstein, specifically through the character Justine and her unjust death. In order to understand Justine’s situation we must remember that Victor’s creature is the one who framed her for his crime. This supports Wollstonecraft’s view that men can’t be trusted and only care about themselves since they are “men who have no titles to sacrifice,” (49) The creature loathed Justine because she was beautiful and normal, which overshadowed the fact that she was of low status. Where was chivalry when Justine could have been saved by Victor’s confession or when the creature was planning to escape the consequences if his own crime? It was nowhere because the men valued themselves more than an innocent woman. frankenstein08.jpg (560×777)

Justine reveals that she is threatened with “excommunication and hell fire in her last moments.” (83) by her confessor. Here we can see how Justine is being deeply influenced by the church, so much that she fears what will come after death more than being charged for a crime or the act of death itself. She has been made to believe her life is meaningless if she does not conform to the ways of the church, when in reality the church is nothing but a group of over religious men who do as they please. Being aware of her innocence is not enough to keep her safe. However, it’s easy to see that if she were a man, Victor for example, her guilt would have been immediately questioned if charged with murder. In contract to Justine, Victor was an intelligent, educated man…to most. As a woman with no outstanding education or valued status, it was easy to place the crime on Justine. In relation to Wollstonecraft’s views, now that Justine’s beauty was tainted she was of no use to the church or society, even though her good reputation from Elizabeth and little education should have been enough to save her from injustice in a fair society.

By Galilea Sanchez

As I have read through the novel, I cannot help but agree with his statement, “not so much the sign of the proletariat as it is of its unrepresentability.” For the proletariats are the underrepresented population. From the beginning, it is described the origins of the creature whom Victor Frankenstein created. A creature that was to serve him and meet his expectations. The words, “a new species would bless me with as its creator, and source…” (57). Similar, we can see how mankind or society places such expectations to the world.  Once Frankenstein realized the fruits of his labor he fled. He left the creature without knowing the literal fruits of his labor. Thus, the creature is left to find his own way of figuring out his existence.

 

As the novel expresses, the creature like a child begins to look at his surroundings and learns through it. Which frankly is the process by how a human and animal learned. Visual input which then progressively turns into conceptualizing and forming a “self”. As readers, we are told by a lens of narrative how he formed a “self”. We can infer this by reading the passage from the DeLacey family, “I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny…. these thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply fresh ardour the acquiring the art of language … (pg. 104-105). In other words, the creature began to apply himself to the world and adapt to its teaching and language. Only to realize that all his efforts will never be accepted whether by his conformity or his “monstrosity.” Because either way, he will never be that of a human despite his intelligence, his love, or capacity.

 

The proletariats or the laboring class conformed with society. The laws were laws, and nothing could be changed. In fact, most bourgeoisie’s thought that teaching the poor was the most uneducated thing to do. As the saying goes, “you give a man a hand, he will then grab your toes.” That is precisely what the all-justified Victor thought of by denying his own creature’s proposal.  As such, when the laboring class was denied basic rights just like those in the upper classes, revolted. Similarly, a right even given by God and thus mankind was denied to the creature and revolted against his creator.

Karla Garcia Barrera

The Fickle Boundary of Class

My review of my blog posts led me to the conclusion that Frankenstein’s monster is not so much the anti-thesis of society as it is an attack on the bourgeois social dynamic represented by Victor and Walton. The society that Mary Shelly attacks with the monster is the canonical sanctum of civilization that so very often represents the whole. Therefore the conflict in the novel is not defined by the Burke-an ideals of the human and the beast, but by the Marxist concept of class that, in some extreme conditions, transcends the petty boundaries of species.

For instance, a formal definition of society would include Victor, Walton and Justine in its ranks, and reject the Monster based on some abstract criterion for civility. And yet, ironic as it may seem, all these characters, at some time, experience solitude in their own way. Victor finds no parallel in intellect; Walton, none in curiosity; Justine, none in misery; and the Monster, none in, well, anything. And so no matter whose perspective the reader favors, a shared predicament means that all characters elicit some measure of sympathy. Curiously, however, both Victor and Walton find companionship in each other in the end, whereas the Monster and Justine exit the novel as alone as they had entered. Thus, this communal solitude erases one line and draws another.

Similarly, Justine and the Monster are both betrayed. Justine, by the prospect of reciprocated justice; and the monster by the prospect of reciprocated humanity. In one case it is Victor’s silence that seals Justine’s fate; in another, it is his impulsive disgust. And strangely, Walton’s journal does not contain any comments about his disapproval of Victor’s actions. It is worth noting that, again, on one side of this new line, Walton and Victor are in perfect harmony whereas the proletarian characters are suffering the consequences.

Having established that class division is a driving force, a question arises: Was not Victor too betrayed by his monster when his relatives and friends were murdered? Perhaps he was. However, both Victor and his Monster are appearing distinctly on the opposite ends of this class division that they consider synonymous with right and wrong. Who betrayed who is a matter of perspective. What matters is the fact that both sides evolve in parallel. Moreover, their evolution is triggered by the other side; a chain of causality that maintains the contextual relevance of both classes (that they are mutual anti-theses). Take for example, the monster’s evolution in response to victor’s rejection, or Victor’s vowed vengeance after his brother’s murder. Both the bourgeois and the proletariat need the other side to evolve and to justify their actions. Therefore in the paradoxical face of this mutual dependence that allows each side to proclaim absolute righteousness, the much more baser division of class starts to seem counterproductive. Had there been no class divisions, there would have been complete homogeneity that the bourgeois and the proletariat now only individually enjoy.