In his work, “Enquiry Concerning Political Justice” William Godwin argues that the only way humanity and mankind will progress and evolve smoothly is if they begin to value communication, truth and reason above all other virtues. He states, “If there be any force in the arguments of this work, we seem authorized to deduce thus much from them, that truth is irresistible. Let then this axiom be the rudder of our undertakings” (789) thus showing how much he valued the act of truth. Godwin believed that truth and reason should govern the way in which disputes were settled and only through reason/truth would justice be achieved. His view relies on the idea that reason, truth and communication above all other things would decide the best course of action for everyone. Godwin also emphasized on the importance of communication when he said, “We should communicate our sentiments with the utmost frankness. We should endeavour to press them upon the attention of others.” (790) He thought that through communication, and people’s willingness to shed their selfish natures, society would be able to progress and move forward. Therefore, when we view Justine’s death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein under Godwin’s lense, we notice that Shelley is affirming her father’s beliefs and through Victor’s selfishness and inability to communicate or tell the truth, he was unable to meet up to Godwin’s beliefs and therefore created a setback for the progression of society – which was represented by Justine.

The death of Justine not only holds significance because it was the second death of the novel due to the acts of the monster but it also represents the failure to serve justice due to lack of truth and communication, just as Godwin feared. Justine, who was wrongfully accused for the murder of William, was being sentenced to death due to her false confession and the fact that it was her word (a woman’s) against those who accused her. Victor Frankenstein is tormented by these facts the day before her sentence because he knows the truth regarding the actual murderer and who is truly responsible – and it is himself just as much as the creature. Victor states, “But I, the true murderer, felt the never dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation” (84) and this is when his guilt and anguish truly began. He later states, “Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell within me, which nothing could extinguish.” (84) showing just how much the truth was beginning to torment him. Yet we ask ourselves, why didn’t Victor just bring himself to tell the truth and confess? I believe it is because Mary Shelley was demonstrating the idea her father was well known for, the idea that when society lacks communication, reason, and truth justice will not be attained and there will be a disturbance in society. She is demonstrating that without any of Godwin’s important virtues, innocent members of society would suffer due to lack of knowledge and rationalization. Not only that, but she is also affirming the idea that selfishness in people is what causes setbacks for society to be able to progress. In this scene, I believe Victor was acting as a setback for society because due to his selfish nature, and selfishness fogging his reasoning kept justice from being served for Justine. Overall, through the use of Victor’s anguish and despair, and yet his inability to tell the truth to spare Justine’s life, Shelley reflects her father’s ideas and deeply rooted beliefs. She uses Justine’s unfair death as a way of representing not only that violence led to her unjust death but also how the course of action was greatly altered due to Frankenstein being unable to prioritize truth in his decision and therefore Justine’s fall also signals the fall of justice. I also believe Shelley used Justine’s death as a mean to reflect on what was her current society and the fact that revolution had altered the lives of many simply because society refused to communicate and didn’t place much importance on the ideas of communication, truth, and reason – like her father hoped for. Overall, I believe that through Justine’s death Shelley was using her father’s ideas and beliefs in her work to prove to society why that course of thinking was still relevant to their time.

-Beverly Miranda-Galindo