In reading the Justine excerpts a few things are shockingly obvious. She was incorrectly found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit, forced to confess to this crime or face repercussions eternally, and not given the benefit of the doubt when both Elizabeth and Victor tried to plead her case for her. All of this amounts to what Godwin would have considered to be failures on the part of mankind, especially those who tried her, because they did not adhere to his two plain duties as outlined in Reflections. These two duties are described as “first…an unwearied attention to the great instrument of justice” and “second…tranquility.” In reference to the first duty of justice, Godwin’s sentiments as expressed by the text were that people “should communicate [their] sentiments with the utmost frankness” and “be pervaded with a sense of the magnitude of [their] cause…to do justice to [their] principles.” Tying this back to Justine it becomes abundantly clear that she did attempt to do this initially but instead of receiving justice as Godwin expects, she received a priest who forced her to self-incriminate herself or face eternal punishment in exchange. Which for someone as god-fearing as Justine was a far worse punishment than hanging. Not only does Justine fail to get the justice she deserved by doing as Godwin wanted but the rest of the people at the trial, the judges, failed completely in this first duty as well. They did not seek to understand the magnitude of their actions nor did they attempt to be clear in their sentiments. Instead they allowed someone to force her into guilt and did not allow for anything but their decided upon story of events. The judges and all the other people are far guiltier than Justine ever was for their failure to fulfill one of their two duties.

As for the second duty of tranquility once more the ones truly guilty of not fulfilling this duty are the judges and others who deemed Justine guilty. Justine herself comes to terms in the cell with Victor and Elizabeth that her fate has been sealed and instead “assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her bitter tears” because she was fulfilling her duty of tranquility. While instead the priest instead forced her into submission with angry words. Had they only fulfilled that duty of tranquility and seen the situation with a calmer and more objective perspective this situation could have perhaps been avoided. Instead they failed and in doing failed in serving justice.

Ultimately if they had fulfilled their duties as Godwin would have wanted then perhaps Justine would have gotten the justice she was meant to represent. The failure to fulfill their duties was a reflection of the corrupt society in which justice could not be obtained and Justine’s fate was just another product of that corruption.

By Diana Lara