Tag Archive: Edmund Burke


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

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It is evident that Justine’s death in Frankenstein was a tragic and unjust one. Despite her innocence, shortly after her conviction, she confessed to have murdered William knowing that it would end in her execution. During her last encounter with Elizabeth, Justine admits to have lied about being responsible for Williams murder when saying, “Dear lady, I had no one to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable” (83). Here, she makes it clear that she felt alone during her moments of conviction because although there really was no solid evidence that proved her guilty, once blamed, Justine was labeled the murder by the entire town without any hesitation. In addition to this, Justine also voices how from the moment she was condemned, “[her] confessor besieged [her]”, as well as “threatened and menaced, until [she] almost began to think [she] was the monster he said [she] was”(83). It was during her time of weakness that the law took advantage of her in order to obtain a confession; even if it meant manipulating her into believing she truly was a demented murderer.
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Now, taking into consideration Justine’s death in Frankenstein, a lot of the way it was handled can be interpreted through Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France 1790. As described in Burke’s writing, death was a prominent occurrence due to the ongoing revolution; including executions as well as the suffering of many. In one instance, Burke confesses, “that much allowance out to be made for the Society, and that the temptation was too strong for common discretion” (72). Returning once again to Justine’s death, she felt isolated from her homes community after she was accused of murder and because of it she saw no other option but to untruthfully confess. As one can see, society played a big role in a persons downfall and although some may have thought it to be unjust, the “temptation” or inclination to be on the side the majority thought to be right, was so powerful it caused individuals to loose their “common discretion”. Another point brought up by Burke describes how he began to think, “such treatment of any human creatures must be shocking to any but those who are made for accomplishing Revolutions” (74). By this he means the suffering that was allowed to go on during the revolution in France would be surprising to those who would normally be opposed to violence and an uprising. In the same manner, Justine’s confessor threatened and pressured her into a false confession; something no one in their right mind would take part in. Yet, this individual tortured Justine because they needed an murder and would stop at nothing spill their blood in an execution; even if that person was innocent.

– Juanita Espinoza

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.

By ~ Amber Loper

In Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, he talks briefly about the importance of beauty in the role of natural order. Should anything disturb the natural order of things, justice, and therefor beauty, die. A minor character in Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, plays a crucial role in advancing this rhetoric. Justine, a servant to the Frankenstein household, favorite to the late Mrs. Frankenstein, and serving the family for most of her life, ends up tragically accused for the murder of their youngest boy, William. The family claims to love her dearly, but at the appearance of the smallest amount of evidence, they all turn their backs on her, except Victor who knows for a fact she is innocent. She is a pretty young woman, death_of_the_justice_by_quadraro-d6sapo4.pngobedient and humble in her ways, which makes her death all the more poignant. Burke examines the effects of the French Revolution, saying, “never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience…”(p.70). He believes the French Revolution was the end to such niceties and never again would society prosper as well as it had. Such is the way that Justine accepts her fate. She is well aware of her rank in society as a servant, and she is a woman. Being the epitome of her sex and class, she obediently confesses to a murder she did not commit. In her final moments with friends, she says, “learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven”(FRANKENSTEIN p.83). Justine believes her death is not the failings of society, but an act of God’s will, something far beyond anyone’s control and it is not to be tampered with and only met with patience. Her death, as is the French Revolution, is the end of Justice in Frankenstein’s world.

Burke would admire Justine’s actions, thinking her an exemplary woman. Maybe even comparable to Marie Antoinette. He briefly mentions Antoinette’s death, saying, “in the last extremity she will save herself from the last disgrace, and that if she must fall, she will fall by no ignoble hand”(BURKE p.75). That is to say, a woman in the face of death, no matter what ranking, must go down gracefully, not fighting or begging, that is not the way of life. To fight back is disgraceful, piteous, and frankly, ugly. The French Revolution is a wart on society in Burke’s eyes. Similar, everything in Frankenstein after Justine’s death goes against the dignified, obedient world Burke believes in. Dr. Frankenstein descends into madness, tries to fight back against his monster and all sense of justice becomes lost on him.

Mary Wollstonecraft is a renown feminist who published an essay entitled “A Vindication on the Rights of Man” in 1790. The essay is a response to Edmund Burke’s dramatic defense of the beheaded Marie Antoinette and the French monarchy. He claims that the revolution was absolutely barbaric and that it was an obstruction of the natural order, because evolution totally dictated that we be ruled by a monarchy. Years later, Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelly released the novel Frankenstein which included the death of a young hapless maid named Justine Moritz.  Wollstonecraft would have interpreted Justine’s character as an indictment of the clerical system and a representation of the oppression that women face. Wollstonecraft would have none of the argument that says that “Justine was killed by the monster and no one else”; she would absolutely blame the church in addition to blaming victor for the creation of the creature. She would not see Justine as a tragic martyr, someone to idolize and beautify for her obedience- she would see Justine’s obedience to the church and social norms as a symptom of a much larger problem: gender inequality and a meek populace.

Let’s remember that because Justine was a God-fearing Catholic, she did her best to do right by God and this meant listening to the authority of the church and subscribing to the standards that they set. This turned sour for her once she is badgered by her confessor (a local priest) into confessing for a crime she hadn’t committed and she said that she “began to think that she was the monster he said she was. He threatened excommunication and hellfire” (83) if she didn’t confess to this crime- what was a good catholic supposed to say to that? She would be branded for life as a terrible woman and a terrible catholic- ruining her place in society.

Justine’s character arc ends tragically, heading straight to death after Elizabeth’s visit. But please, don’t think that it was her devotion to God that ruined her. After all, would you blame a sheep about to be murdered by the farmer who raised it for following him to the slaughterhouse? She was just doing as she was taught- she was modeling what it meant to be an exemplary woman: little, quiet, smooth, and fair.  This is something that Wollstonecraft is very critical of. She said that it is not right to assume that “nature [would make] women little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures, [women were] never designed that they should exercise their reason to acquire the virtues that produce opposite, if not contradictory, feelings” (47). From this we can infer that she would have thought that women shouldn’t be bashed or hung for being self aware and capable of defending themselves. Nor should a large system with enormous amounts of power such as the clergy endorse having a priest (or anyone) push women to conform to this standard. This is corrupt and a severe misuse of power.

Edmund Burke, on the other hand, would have thought this to be an injustice only because they killed someone who was so obedient. Hell, he would have thought Justine as divine or beautiful for emulating the malleable Marie Antoinette. He would have blamed the monster for Justine’s execution.

Wollstonecraft would have argued that Justine should not be considered divine or beautiful because she did what she was told. Justine was ignorant of what she could have been, stifled because she was not raised in a society that valued her intelligence. Instead, Justine was referred to as “the most grateful creature in the world” (66) and after the death of Elizabeth’s aunt was praised for the “softness and winning mildness to her manners, which had before been remarkable for vivacity ” (66). It was her meekness and obedience that made her valuable and Wollstonecraft would have absolutely wanted audience to want see more for Justine and women in society.

Wollstonecraft would interpreted her as the portrait of the chronic condition that women in 1818 were plagued by and a symptom of the problem with assuming that following the church is the natural state of man.

We cannot just follow things or people because their authority is based on their seniority.  Wollstonecraft would want you to question the powers that be because “asserting that Nature leads us to reverence our civil institutions from the same principle that we venerate aged individuals, is a palpable fallacy” (51).

So anyway, catch you at the revolution comrades!
Maria Nguyen-Cruz

Mary Wollstonecraft challenges the popular concept of beauty put forth in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France 1790 in her A Vindication of the Rights of Man, illustrating how its idealizations of complacency and silence, in all people not just women, creates an ugly society that makes it difficult for individuals to fight for their grievances. The consequences of its preservation are manifested during Justine Moritz’s trial in Frankenstein where Justine’s confession speaks volumes about established societal pressure to conform and let others have the victory. Wollstonecraft argues that in order to incite change, one must make themselves and their demands heard, even if it means breaking from “beautiful” social values and being demonized. In contrast to Burke, it is insinuated that there is beauty in being vocal and disagreeing with the tenets of the ruling society instead of submitting to their rules and beliefs. Wollstonecraft states, “Weak minds are always timid. And what can equal the weakness of mind produced by servile flattery, and the vapid pleasures that neither hope nor fear seasoned?” (Wollstonecraft 49). One cannot be complacent and stand by the actions of government or other high members of society when they, along with others in their community, are personally affected by their laws and unjust practices. If the impoverished French population during the late 1700s would have stayed silent about their suffering instead of revolting, just to be a part of an imbalanced utopia that favored the rich and be “beautiful,” law-abiding citizens, they would have never made their power and demands evident to the thriving French aristocracy, much less overthrow them. Instead they demonstrated the beauty of defying government and fighting for one’s right to be acknowledged as an individual and their rights.

Justine, unfortunately, submits to the latter philosophy when she confesses that she murdered William, even though she did not and makes her conviction and execution certain. She later regrets her decision as she tells Elizabeth, “I confessed that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier in my heart than all my other sins” (Shelley 83). This moment indicates that Justine wants to achieve absolution not only by God and secure a place in heaven, since the confessor would not excommunicate her, but also be absolved by society by complying with the court’s agenda and not putting up a fight to clear her name. She simply agrees with the accusations and hoped for the rest to solve itself. Rather than embrace the beauty of agency and rebellion that would come with vocally rejecting the claims against her and asserting her innocence Justine “commits [her] cause to the justice of [her] judges” (Shelley 80) and allows the court to have all the authority in the matter. As a result, she maintains beauty in the aspect of social order and submission to government but at a great, fatal cost.

-Wendy Gutierrez

Melanney Giron

In Edmund Burke’s Relations on the Revolution in France, he believes that the beauty of equality and humanity work hand in hand to destroy nature. As he talks about the French Revolution, he refers to it as a “…liberal refinement in the intercourse of mankind,” (71). Burke’s interpretation of the revolution creates a sense of relation to Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein. In the novel, the second death committed by Frankenstein’s creature was Justine, a girl who, after her family died one after another, stayed with Victor’s family. Burke believes that nature cannot occur without order, alongside social institutions, especially when people are wrongfully accused. Burke wrote, “[The French Revolution] unhappily was left unfinished, in this great history-piece of the massacre of innocents,” (73).

In the novel, poor Justine was wrongfully accused of murdering young William, rather than to continue fighting the social institution of the justice system, she “…confessed a lie. [She] confessed, that [she] might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at [her] heart than all [her] other sins,” (83). In the eyes of Burke, Justine’s death was not only based off of a lie of her own making but he noted that, in humanity, women “…will save herself from the last disgrace, and that if she must fall, she will fall by no ignoble hand,” (75). The way I analyzed Burke’s ideas of chivalry and order was based on what he saw it as: women trotting behind the mistakes of a man. Based off of Burke’s understandings in his writing, both the French Revolution and the representation of Justine’s death in Shelley’s novel are products of the beauty of sentiment.

Tania De Lira-Miranda

justine_in_prison

In his political pamphlet, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke wrote against the French Revolution. He specifically talks about how because of the revolution, the age of chivalry, “the sum of the ideal qualifications of a [person], including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arm (dictionary.com)” would come to end. He explains this in his pamphlet that before the revolution, when he saw the queen of France, she “hardly seemed touched, a more delightful vision…glittering like the morning-star. full of life, and splendor, and joy” (75) but that now because of the revolution “disasters [falls] upon her in a nation of fallen men” (76) which shows that the age of chivalry is gone.

The idea that the age of values such as bravery, honor and great gallantry toward women were held in high esteem is no over can be seen in Frankenstein. In the novel, Justine Moritz is being accused of murdering William Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s brother. While mostly everyone in the town believes that she is guilty, only two people other than herself think otherwise: Elisabeth and Victor. But of those two, the only one who truly knows that Justin is innocent is Victor. He knows that the actual killer is the creature as when he saw the creature in the Alps, Victor realized that “Nothing in human shape could have destroyed the fair child. He was the murderer! I could not doubt it. The mere presence of the idea was an irresistible proof of the fact.” (75) But even though Victor knew that Justine was not the murderer, he did not tell anyone of the creature’s existence or of the fact that it was the creature, not Justine who killed William. Instead of coming forward to defend Justine’s honor, Victor just let the town kill Justine. It is only to himself at the graves of William and Justine that he admits that they are “the first hapless victims to [his] unhallowed arts.” (85) By staying quiet, Victor is cowardly in the fact that he did nothing to stop Justine’s unjustly death. His actions were not chivalrous thus proving Burke’s points that the age of chivalry is gone.

justine2

Arlyne Gonzalez

Mary Shelly explores the demeaning and uprising of humanity and civilization in her novel, Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, Victor and the creature project a mutual hate toward one another, but little do they know that they both reflect each other’s nature, and that nature is negatively projected onto Victor’s loved ones and their unfortunate fates. For instance, Justine Moritz. A minor character in the novel whose livelihood is to be the Frankenstein’s family servant. A servant whom the Frankenstein’s hold dear love for and consider her as part of their family. Justine was erroneously accused and executed for the murder of Victor’s younger brother, William. When in truth, William was murdered at the hands of the vengeful creature. Victor was aware of what the creature had done and stayed reticent about the truth. Victor did not put forth any effort in defending nor helping Justine be free from this false accusation. This demonstrates how Victor was abandoning his humanity along with civilization. Victor selfishly did not want to advocate for Justine because he did not want to take accountability for his unwise experimentation. Victor cared more about his reputation and conformed with what the townspeople concluded on Justine.

This event in the novel indeed associates with Edmund Burke’s political and societal outlook on humanity. More specifically, the French Revolution. Burke condemned the French Revolution to be insidious and the demolisher of nature, power, humanity, and civilization. The concept of violence and people betraying one another was what Burke believed to be a contributing factor to a lost and broken society. Burke believed revolutions compelled individuals to follow a system where “laws are to be supported only by their own terrors, and by the concern, which each individual may find in them, from his own private speculations, or can spare to them his own private interests” (Burke, 77). Burke is describing Victor and his lack of having a conscience. Victor was allowing himself to be governed by his fear of being exposed by his ill-doings. Burke is emphasizing how individuals tend to develop the habit of conforming with what others are doing, regardless if that doing is unjust and unmoral. Burke concluded that the French Revolution destroyed the age of chivalry because people were surrendering their morals and justice out of fear and terror. Revolutions demolished gallantry societies and manufactured a society where citizenship and social order were abandoned due to compelled fear conformity within individuals. The French Revolution and Justine’s execution are manifestations of the ill consequences of revolutions and the downfall of humanity and civilization.

An Attempt at Sympathy

p. 105: “My thoughts…blows and execration.”  In these paragraphs, the creature is remarking how he wishes to understand the “lovely creatures” in the cottage, to know why they are so sad and miserable, and restore happiness to them. Through his narrative, it is clear the creature is attempting to grasp at feelings that Burke has recognized as sympathy, and while it is possible that it was impossible for the creature to feel true sympathy, the passage presents him as at least striving towards this goal of feelings.

Through the passage, the creature uses a lot of terms to describe Felix, Agatha, and the father, all of which serving to elevate the beings.  In fact, the creature almost seems to extol them: “I looked upon them as superior beings, who would be the arbiters of my future destiny” (105).  The irony is fairly evident in this passage: these people are flawed and upset, yet the creature sees this as signs of their character strength and a source for his admiration. Because he admires them so, he wishes and hopes that it is in his power to “restore happiness to these deserving people,” which is rather clearly running parallel to Burke’s ideas of sympathy.  We discussed in class for a lengthy period how one of the primary reasons why people take such interest in people who are suffering or are distraught is in order to relieve it, and how this deliverance of Burke’s idea of Delight provides the giver themselves pleasure.  In this way, the creature is strongly exhibiting sympathy, or at least a close replica of the feeling.

Speaking from a broader perspective, the creature is in a correct position to be feeling sympathy for these people. He has been observing them, and witnesses their emotions regularly.  So when you account for the fact that he is destined to not be involved with them, and does not attempt to be for a good period of time, you cover the idea that the person should be close to the action but not in it themselves.  But perhaps he is not truly sympathetic, and he is merely curious to uncover the dynamic for these people.  It seems that the creature himself is selfish, for he wishes to learn how they are in order to be accepted and loved by these people.  This is a point for a different discussion, however; the creature has been adequately portrayed to, at minimum, desire the experience of this sympathy.