Tag Archive: french revolution


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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By: Leena Maria Beddawi

In Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the feeling of melancholy is severely prevalent, not only in his admonishment of the form of justice the we internalize in society and politics, but also of the misogyny that has embedded itself into their very culture, surrounded them in all forms of life. Told best in this statement, “you love the church, your country, and its laws, you repeatedly tell us, because they deserve to be loved; but from you this is not a panegyric: weakness and indulgence are the only incitements to love and confidence that you can discern, and it cannot be denied that the tender mother you venerate deserves, on this score, all your affection” (51).  Her view of men, and  the good-natured man view of a man, that loves his country but not his women, and how the men were vehemently believed to be of higher value than women, and especially in his political vantage point, this was amoral and misogynistic. Wollstonecraft would look at this story of Justine’s trial (or lack thereof) as a product of the already messed up system.

Chivalry

In “Frankenstein”, Justine is put on trial for the murder of the young William Frankenstein, and if Wollstonecraft were to read this story in the way Shelley described it, he would gag at the very disturbing story. Victor Frankenstein can save Justine, he is the only one who is incredibly certain of her innocence, “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), because he created the very thing that killed his brother, William. But, since Victor was a self-serving man with a God-complex, he believed himself to be of higher value, even if he did feel guilt, he still allowed it to take place, still allowed Justine to be imprisoned, and still believed his life held more meaning. Wollstonecraft would most certainly see this as a reflection of the universal view of the women in their society since they saw them as less than, and even then, she knew “such a glorious change can only be produced by liberty, inequality of rank must ever impede the growth of virtue” (48-49). Although, in this case, liberty is not in question, since Victor merely had to tell the truth to show his respect or morality.

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.

William Godwin expresses his advocation for peaceful, nonviolent revolution through reason and honest communication of sentiment, in order to obtain justice, as explained in his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, “Let us anxiously refrain from violence” (789), and “communicate our sentiments with the utmost frankness” (790). In addition, he encourages to “press them upon the attention of others” and “sharpen our intellectual weapons” (790) which will work to end injustice.

Godwin’s ideologies fail to be seen through Justine as she claims, “I did confess; but I confessed a lie that I might obtain absolution” (83), because she had admitted to the false accusation and did not communicate with the utmost frankness, which then contributed to the eventual death of Justine/justice. Ultimately, it is Victor Frankenstein’s dishonesty and failure to communicate his true sentiments of anguish and guilt that lead to the death of Justine/justice. This is seen when he confesses, “I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts” (85). Victor’s lack of truthful communication and complete failure to bring attention of his sentiments to others therefore lead to further injustices, including the deaths of all his loved ones. However, we see Godwin’s faith in reason and sentiment through Elizabeth, who explains that she will obtain justice for Justine, saying, “I will proclaim, I will prove your innocence” (83) with the knowledge that Justine truly was innocent regardless of the evidence that proved her to be guilty. In Godwin’s eyes, Elizabeth is his only hope to restore and save Justine/justice. Unfortunately, any of these efforts fail because of the pervasive absence of nonviolent revolution through frank reason and sentiment. We can further draw parallels from the French Revolution and Justine’s death because of humanity’s failure to communicate and refrain from violence, which then brings an even more constant stream of injustice, deaths, and barbarity.

-Serena Ya

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.

Although Wollstonecraft and Burke pose startling arguments on the French Revolution that remain on separate ends of the spectrum, Godwin speaks of sentiment and knowledge being humanity’s gateway to equality and prosperity. His philosophy is subtly etched into the passage of Justine’s death in the forms of communication and reason, or rather, the lack of it.

Godwin says in a sort of hopeful demeanor, exuding optimism with the words, “We should communicate our sentiments with the utmost frankness.” Justine has no problem doing so as she earnestly wishes for Elizabeth to have faith in her innocence. Elizabeth and Victor work to reason and communicate with the jury responsible for deciding Justine’s fate as they stand before them offering their perspectives and assurances. They do exactly as Godwin says to do as their sentiments are expressed vocally and vulnerably in a manner that is “of utmost frankness”. However, their efforts prove to be of no avail as Justine proceeded to face punishment for a crime she wouldn’t ever dream of committing. Thus, showing the jury’s lack of sentiment and regard. Their stance on the philosophy of Godwin remains on a completely different scale than that of Elizabeth and Victor’s as they seem to be blinded by what they believe to be the right knowledge rather than what they should see to be the efforts of communication and reason.

by Steven Gonzalez

In “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein by Warren Montag, Montag draws parallels from the French and English Revolution to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  One of the most compelling comparisons I found in Montag’s essay is the comparison of the “new elites” having to mobilize the “plebian” masses in the attempt to overthrow absolutist monarchies and Victor Frankenstein’s creation of the creature in the novel. Eventually, Montag comes to the conclusion that “Frankenstein’s creation, is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability.” Ultimately, I agree with Montag’s Marxist reading of the novel as throughout the novel that there are undeniable similarities between Frankenstein’s monster and the proletariat.

Frankenstein’s monsters’ similarity to the proletariat and their “unrepresentability” is best depicted in the passage on page 109 beginning with ” I learned that…” and ending with “… all men fled and whom all men disowned?” Initially, the monster describes the possessions that humans find “most esteemed” and in the following sentence discusses how without either of the two possessions he describes (high unsullied descent and riches) men are seen as a “vagabond or slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few!”(Shelley 109). This statement clearly carries an allusion to the proletariat through the lack of socio-economic status and the arduous and forever-lasting journey to obtain it; The exclamation point following the last statement as well as the choice of words of like vagabond and slave carry some sort of resentful tone further showing the monster’s self-identification with the proletariat. In the following sentence, the monster depicts himself as being innocent and ignorant creating a sort of  sympathetic mood much like one would expect the proletariat would do stating, “Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property.”(Shelley 109). Then, the monster uses loaded words associated self-hatred and pity mirroring the mindset of people with nothing to lose like the proletariat often experience; the phrases the monster used to describe himself being ” hideously deformed”, “loathsome”, and ” I was not even the same nature of man.”Next, is perhaps the most significant line relating to Warren Montag’s argument of the creature representing the proletariat’s unrepresentability in the novel; After describing himself as this poor, ignorant, disfigured creature and being less than man, he notices, “When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me.”(Shelley 109). Why would Shelley intentionally exclude peasants and people who would be classified as proletariats from the novel? Is it perhaps to exemplify the incongruence of proletariats in a society ruled by the new elites? Warren Montag seems to think so, So I ask, why would Mary Shelley have the creature acknowledge that omission of the proletariat class in this paragraph? Finally, the paragraph ends with the creature’s use of a rhetorical question to emphasize his low self-worth, questioning, ” Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”(Shelley 109). This question is peculiar because it not only feels like it is a questioning of the creature’s self-worth but it almost seems as if this portrays the struggle between the upper and lower classes by mirroring  the upper class’ perspective of the proletariats thinking of them as simply “a blot upon the earth.”

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