Tag Archive: Justine Moritz


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

 

– Bianca Lopez Munoz

In William Godwin’s piece, “Enquiry Concerning Political Justice”, Godwin expresses that in his opinion, a revolution shouldn’t be violent and resentful. It should be a be a peaceful event where wealth is distributed among everyone equally. An event where all social classes have a conversation, have a mutual understanding of what everyone wants, and unite. Instead of men taking advantage of each other’s distresses, and in self interest, seek momentary gratification, that they should love liberty, love equality, pursuit arts, and have a desire for knowledge. And through this men will sympathize with each other and therefore a revolution would be a tranquil and orderly phenomenon.

By definition or mutual understanding, Justice is fair behavior and treatment, it is moral righteousness. During revolutions people seek justice and do things in the name of justice, good or bad. When I went back to the parts of Frankenstein where Justine was accused, tried, and executed for the murder of William, as I was reading, I would replace Justine’s name with the word Justice and it was incredibly interesting to see how well some passages worked with the change of language. “A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France or England, Justine… learned the duties of a servant; a condition which…does not include the idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of a human being” (66). Now replace Justine with the word Justice in this quote. Justice is a servant. Ignorance and the sacrafice of human dignity is not part of justice, like in England or France (where people were murdered and it was extremely chaotic and unjust). When Victor finally gets back to his father’s home in Geneva he tells Ernest, “You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor Justine, is innocent” (77). Again replace Justine with the word justice. Justice is innocent. The evil things like murder that people do in the name of justice actually have nothing to do with justice and it is just a way to defend their actions. During Justine’s trial, Elizabeth appeals for Justine and says, “when I see a fellow creature about to parish through the cowardice of her pretended friends…”(81). This again, goes back to people using justice as a tool to justify and not take responsibility for their wrong doings during revolution. I remind you that all of this is happening because Victor Frankenstein decided to bring to life, a creature, which killed his brother, which indirectly killed Justine. Victor know’s he holds some blame to the death of his brother but refuses to speak up about it since he fears people will think he is insane. Victor did what William Godwin thinks people should not do. Victor took advantage of Justine’s distress, and in letting someone else be blamed for the death of William, he found momentary gratification for his sins but it wasn’t too long before he became guilty of the death of Justine. The revolution of the creature shouldn’t be violent and resentful as are the actions of the creature and Victor. I believe these things could have been avoided if Victor hadn’t run from his creation. Had he stayed and like, Godwin stated, had a conversation and sympathyzed with the creature, things could have possibly has a more “natural and tranquil progress”(Godwin).

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.

 

 

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

Sabrina Vazquez

William Godwin in the excerpt from his book Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, writes about the common and basic axiom of embracing the good and bad in life. He states, “The cause of justice is the cause of humanity. Its advocates should be penetrated with universal good will.” (789). Justine through her trial and conviction seems to embrace her decision. Even after tried guilty states that she is prepared and has accepted that she will leave the “sad and bitter world”, because she has submitted to the will of heaven (Shelley, 83). She is innocent of a highly serious crime and sentenced to death, yet she does not let that taint her convictions. Even though her death is not just, she remains true to herself and her true sentiments. This very much compliments Godwin’s thoughts of who we should remain when tested in face of fairness.

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

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

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.

Here’s a full pic of our completed in-class graphic idea map.  Students can use it as a study guide to help them prepare for the blog summary due next week.  The green color is for William Godwin, the red for Edmund Burke, and the blue for Mary Wollstonecraft.

We’re making steady progress in our historicist analysis of the Justine episode in Frankenstein.  Please feel free to comment on students’ impressive idea map.

 

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