Tag Archive: Justine

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

In Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men she goes on about the ways in which women were viewed and treated, “to be loved, women’s high end and great distinction they should ‘learn to lisp, to totter in their walk and nickname God’s creatures.’ and its in the novel that we see this sort of treatment first hand, through the ways in which Justine is treated even before she’s tried for murder. Through Elizabeth, we learn that Justine was educated, as she talks about her aunt who had become attached [to Justine] and had decided to further her education from what she had originally planned, although this itself is hardly brought up afterward with the exception of Elizabeth calling her clever. Then there’s also that instance to think of where Elizabeth is calling her clever because it’s not just her calling her clever she’s calling her “clever and gentle and pretty” furthering the emphasis on her beauty that was already there made by those around her. From there, we see the minor ways in which she’s objectified further, made to be this pretty innocent girl who’s image later shifts for the worst because of her bad timing. Through Wollstonecraft’s essay we see this fighting and want for equal opportunities for women, and through the novel, we see the opposite where Elizabeth is subtly talking down Justine when talking about her to Victor not helping her because of his own fears.

By Jade Graham

In a trial, there is the often used phrase, “Innocent until proven guilty.” but more times than not the phrase is flipped. In Frankenstein, there is Justine’s trial where she confesses a lie. Justine did not commit murder. She knows she is innocent but is become with guilt. She accepts her fate. Why? She fears she will go to hell after she dies, so there is a sense of moral within her.

Mary Shelley’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft was a believer in the idea of both gender and social equality. Justine, a young woman who is a servant of the Frankenstein household. That is her rank, as a female servant who needs help from others. There is not equality in Frankenstein, Justine is just one example of that. In the Frankenstein time period, women were expected to do what they were told and keep opinions to themselves. An innocent life was taken and because Victor did not speak up, Justine was sentenced to death. He is an upper-class man who has created a snowball effect. Justine’s death is just a part of the snowball that occurred. She was never meant to be a part of a trial or be killed. Justine, her name is close to the word justice. People have different views of what justice is. What is considered right after such as terrible wrong has been committed. There is the judge’s opinion and public opinion. Victor did not help Justine out of fear and cowardice.

The quote, “I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me.”  is a note on how the world can be cruel (83). Justine believes the world has turned negative, the words sad and bitter are examples of someone who is broken. How the world can be cruel and accepting of someone’s fate where they die for a crime not committed. Justine did deserve justice, but in the end, she was killed like many others. Others like Elizabeth who tried to help Justine when she was at her worst. It is because of Victor that Justine (and all the others) died. From the moment Justine was suspected with William’s photograph, she is guilty.

Added in class: Going back to the idea of being a woman, Justine can be considered pretty to admire. The opposite view of the creature who puts William’s picture to frame her. He has anger, resentment, and desire for revenge. The creature is made to be beautiful, yet turns out terrifying and unexpected. People are scared of the creature and because of that he knows human behavior. He decides to frame Justine and knows what will happen because of his actions. This is the cruel world that they (Justine and creature) both experienced.

In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Justine is the perfect representation of Godwin’s idea of what comes from a republican system and “the essence of beauty” according to Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Men. In Wollstonecraft’s excerpt, It is explained that the “Supreme Being” is the one who “[gives] women beauty in the most supereminent degree, [seeming] to command them, by the powerful voice of Nature, not to cultivate the moral virtues that might chance to excite respect…” (p.47), suggesting that the “Supreme Being” is man, and in Justine’s case this deemed to be true. Due to Justine speaking up about her case and not allowing them to categorize her as a murderer, she was not considered honest or strong, but instead “little” and “weak” (p. 47), which is considered “the essence of beauty” (p.47). Justine was robbed of justice due to the fact that she did not follow what the “Supreme Being” commands, which ultimately is putting one’s fate in the hand of man with no argument, or else she will be left unrespected. However, this goes against what William Godwin was presenting in Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, for Godwin stated that “the great instrument of justice [is] reason” (p.790) because Justine gave her reasoning behind what happened in regards to Williams death and rather them take her reasoning and find the truth in it, they decided to make an example out of her. This is implied through Godwin’s statement that “the selfish are not governed solely by the sensual gratification or the love of gain, but that the desire of eminence and distinction…” (p.791), revealing that “The Man”, as some may call it, will make decisions based on their rank with the goal of sustaining authority as a man, leaving Justine at the bottom of the totem pole considering she was a woman with a voice. Godwin also explains how “we can be persuaded clearly and distinctly to approve will inevitably modify our conduct… and when their neighbors are impressed with a similar disdain, it will be impossible they should pursue the means of it with the same avidity as before” (p.791),revealing that all it takes is for the majority to question the truth for it to be wrong, and this is exemplified through Elizabeth’s doubt of Justine’s truth. It is clear that the justice system much rather Justine, as Mary Wollstonecraft describes it “systematically [neglect] morals to secure beauty” (p.47) and “confine truth, fortitude, and humanity with the rigid pale of manly morals” (p.47) than invest in, as Godwin describes it, “the improvement… in a knowledge of truth” (p.794), considering that the court and jury were already set on pointing the blame on a woman. And considering Godwin’s statement that “our knowledge will be very imperfect, so long as this great branch of universal justice fails to constitute a part of it [truth]” (p.794), what year would it have to be in order for Justine to actually receive justice?

Jaimee Watson

Samantha Shapiro

Within Frankenstein, a large focus within the novel revolves around Victor, which cannot be avoided due to the nature of Victor being a primary speaker and self-centered perspective.

We see this through the approach of Justine’s seemingly unfair trial and later execution, in which she doesn’t receive any justice from a justice system. As the focus with Justine’s death is how it relates to Victor, the reader sees how Victor’s inner processes centralize his guilt, creating a situation that he can’t get out of. Victor victimizes himself through Justine’s situation, and we see this through the overall focus of the text. Due to this nature of the excerpt, as well as the nature and connection to William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, much of the passage appears to respond to core ideals found within Godwin’s work, especially in relation to suffering and the pursuit of humanity.

A primary focus to Godwin is that we have two major duties in order to perpetuate justice for humanity’s happiness: to focus attention to reason and communicate, or bring to light a way to “do justice to our principles,” and to do so peacefully (ECPJ 789-790). Justine, in giving a false confession to murder, did to to “obtain absolution,” but instead entered the courtroom knowing to have lied, but also now in the presence of a system, where “all looked on [her] as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition” (F 83). Her suffering in falsely communicating her reason correlates with Godwin’s view of a “tendency towards the equalization of conditions” through the eyes of Victor (ECPJ 791). Victor takes it upon himself and identifies with Justine’s feelings of “ignominy and perdition,” or even feelings of being dishonored due to his pursuits of science. Godwin notes that the followers in the pursuit of knowledge submitted to “servile dedications” and could only escape from this slavery with the “gradual revolution of opinion,” knowing that independence and ease are in reach, but he fails to look onward to other emotions, such as guilt and negative views of being brought to light (ECPJ 792, 793). Frankenstein is a “obsequious” and “servile” follower in character, to both science and his loved ones, and would “spend each vital drop of blood for [their sakes],…spend his life in serv[itude]” (ECPJ 792, F 85). However, the guilt of his pursuit of science and a fear of rejection leads to his guilt in creating, what he sees, as a violent monster. He loses a part of himself, and gains hopelessness when he feels like he isn’t even belonging to other humans, but a creator of a demon-like murderer. Victor sees himself as lost due to having a “never-dying worm alive in [his] bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation,” or guilt—while Justine can have resignation from suffering in death, his suffering of guilt, a metaphorical “never-dying worm” ate at him constantly due to his regrets in his pursuits (84).

The Injustice

In Reflections on The Revolution in France, Edmund Burke argues that the revolution destroyed the beauty of nature and he explains this when Marie Antoinette was about to be executed. For instance, Burke describes Antoinette’s execution as “I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. -But the age of chivalry is gone.” (76) In other words, Burke was trying to convey how beauty should have prevented the death of Antoinette since the beauty of a woman was all that justified the condemnations of one self, but that was no longer the case. In Mary Shelley’s novel Justine Moritz, was an innocent girl who was convicted of murdering William Frankenstein, when in fact she was wrongfully accused. Justine was described as beautiful and loving towards the family she cared for, but that didn’t save her from her death. Even though Victor Frankenstein knew about this social injustice that was about to occur he didn’t inform anyone that his own creation was the reason William Frankenstein died. Therefore, this goes back to Burke’s argument about how the age of chivalry is gone because Victor Frankenstein didn’t stand up for his actions and instead acted as a coward. Although Justine says “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.” (83) Justine lied because she knew deep down that even the townspeople wanted to execute her and wouldn’t believe a word she said. These people are a symbol of a revolution out to destroy beauty and innocent individuals.


-Guadalupe Andrade


Justine was an individual that never deserved to be executed. Justine, the girl that was being served within the care of Victor Frankenstein ever since she was a child. Now dead, throughout for most of the end transition of the novel, we can’t help but have this internal grudge for the early comeuppance of a character that was well-beloved by the Frankenstein’s only to have that shattered for a death that was never sure off who committed it in the first place. Justine is the stolid martyr who goes to her death with grace and dignity.  Naive to the fact that she was admitting such action through mere guilt and fear that for not complying she might up in hell. Like almost everyone in the novel, Justine is more of an authorial tool than a character in her own right. She’s a one-off anti-religious character; and she’s also there to remind us that, while God isn’t killing people she loves because of something she’s done, the monster is killing people Frankenstein loves. In other words, don’t blame God; blame yourself.

For such portion of the novel, we’ve come to the notion that Justice within society is lacked tremendously because of the stupidly willingness to accept her death, Justine is yet to portraited of anything else other than pure. Social justice is ultimately the concept of fair and justifiable relations between one individual and society. Edward Burke brings this her execution to light when outlining in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Outstandingly, Burke analyses on how the French Revolution was the stepping stone for the murder of beauty within society. “To make us love our country, our country must be lovely,” [78]. Burke’s assumption brings to the plate that for a society to flourish as one, we must be united as the country we’re living in. The French Government had many imperfections and one of the main flaws was their mediocre way to cure political problems. Alongside with Frankenstein, for as beloved of a character William was, Justine was an equally important within the Frankenstein family as she more righteously deserves, for the years of being the servant of the family. If William’s death symbolizes the loss of innocence, Justine’s death marks the end of all that is noble and righteous.

– Stephen Muñoz

Esther Quintanilla

In his essay Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, the ideas that are posed by William Godwin are very prevalent in the death of Justine in the novel Frankenstein. In his essay, Godwin focuses greatly on equality among the different classes in England and France and the knowledge that should be distributed throughout all the population. This idea is reflected in Frankenstein through the way the readers view Justine. Elizabeth, when introducing Justine, describes her as a valued and important member of her family. “Justine, thus received in our family, 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” (66). Although Justine was a servant, she was not treated so. She was treated with respect and was not the stereotypical depiction of a servant in France or England. Even Victor himself states, “A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England” (66). The idea of equality among the different classes, or even the abolishment of the classes themselves, is an idea that stems from Godwin’s thinking. He believes that justice can only be achieved through the equality of all, “the cause of justice is the cause of humanity” (Godwin, 789).

Although Justine is treated equally to others in Geneva, she eventually is treated as a servant would be in France or England. The execution of Justine is an event that contradicts the ideas of equality and justice, those in which her character is shaped around.  She is put to death for a crime that she did not commit but still admits to because of the pressure put upon her as a servant in her society. Equality is not seen in her conviction and she is not given the choice to have justice. Justine realizes her inequality and shares her thoughts with Elizabeth and Vicotr when they visit her to say goodbye: “’ I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me’” (83). This contradicts the Godwinian ideas that introduced Justine and forces her to become a mere replaceable servant. In the eyes of Godwin, Geneva becomes a place where justice just barely out of reach and ultimately unattainable.


I find Justine’s death rather interesting, whilst reading the passages regarding her I noticed a few things. On page 66 when Elizabeth describes Justine in her letter to Victor she says, “‘…and I recollect you once remarked that if you were in an ill-humour, one glance form Justine could dissipate it, for the same reason that Aristo gives concerning the beauty of Angelica—she looked so frank-hearted and happy.’” When I read this, I automatically thought of the fact that Elizabeth basically devalues Justine and her personality and just makes her out to be one thing—pretty. The first thing that comes to mind when she thinks of Justine is her beauty. She is objectified, and everything that the reader comes to learn about her is automatically forgotten or disregarded because the only thing that matters when it comes to her is her beauty. This reminded me of Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay where she says society—specifically men have taught women that they were created by God to only be pretty. And because they were created to only be beautiful they don’t need to bother with things like “truth, fortitude, and humanity,” which are “within the rigid pale of manly morals…” (47).

In her essay, Wollstonecraft is basically trying to argue that women should not just be regarded as objects used for pleasure or aesthetic purposes. Instead, they should revolutionize and show the world that they are capable of anything they want to do, and should be held as equal to males. They should not be seen as a “lower class” just because they are women, they should also not be seen as lesser or inferior to men because of their gender. Their gender is not something that should hold them down in the eyes of society. Instead it should be something that uplifts them and empowers them to progress in the world. Because they are just as capable as men are when it comes to having certain characteristics or doing certain things.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

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