Tag Archive: justine’s execution


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

By Maya Carranza

Just like most women, Mary Wollstonecraft, believed that all women should be treated equally. So how is it that her daughter, Mary Shelley, wrote a book that totally lacks a strong female role? In the novel Frankenstein, although men are the main characters, the novel is full of mistakes that they made, which can be seen as a true feminist point illustrating that all women are the main foundation of society and that they aren’t just clueless minds behind a pretty face and body.

Justine goes from being very “gentle” and “pretty” to a monster when she is falsely accused and executed for the murder of Frankenstein’s brother, William. She states, “I did confess, but I confessed a lie… Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was.” (83) Although Victor could have saved her, she confessed to a crime she did not commit because she was pressured into it but still accepted her fate. This also comes to show that Justines words meant nothing because society sees women as “little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures”(47), as said by Mary Wollstonecraft, who aren’t capable of having their own thoughts.

    Justine didn’t deserve to die. She and Elizabeth exchange expressions of guilt, confession, and empathy in the virtue-signaling conversation regarding Justine’s upcoming execution in Chapter VIII of the Gothic novel. The most important part of this scene, set relatively early in the unfolding of the plot of Frankenstein, is Mary Shelley’s emphasis on secondary characters in analyzing the deceiving and corrupt nature of the fictional execution. “Why do you kneel, if you are innocent?” (83) asks Elizabeth, in recognizing Justine’s kneeling as an act of not protest, but rather, subjugation to law, and because everyone knows that the law only applies when punishing a criminal caste, Elizabeth and Justine become the vessels for which the stakes of an entire criminal justice system rely on for representation. This is unfair for women, for the oppressed class, or even for the supposed monster and/or mobs who, according to values of Enlightenment during Shelley’s conception of the novel as a likely response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, are worthy of the rights to a basic life guaranteeing liberty and the pursuit of property. Victor was a property-owning, white male and member of the scientific elite and thus makes a better subject than Justine for a Burkian formation of human rights criticism.

    Justine must be disqualified as a representation of women during the (French) Revolution. Further emphasis on the distance of Justine from the male, principle characters of Frankenstein is evident in the framing of Elizabeth and Victor’s conversation in a previous chapter. “Elizabeth Lavenza,” (67) signs off a letter with Justine’s flashbacks- which is proceeded by Victor’s reply in “Geneva, March 18th, 17-,’ (67). Character observations about Justine first have to pass through Elizabeth’s pen, then on page 64, through Clerval’s hands, then at the start of the letter, in addressed to the familial tradition, each of these layers of communicating ultimately function to filter authenticity of the actual story being told. The degradation of the truth told is apparent enough in Burke’s essay to be repeated in the cautionary tone, “Is this a triumph to be consecrated at altars […] to be offered to the divine humanity with fervent prayer and enthusiastick ejaculation?” (Burke 72). The irony here is that Victor writes from the future location of the Human Rights Council at Geneva before the formation of the United Nations could become content for Shelley’s feminist work. There is nothing feminist about the sacrifice symbolized through Justine’s wrongful execution; Burke sees this incompatibility of human representation in the tragic for predicting attacks on the Church, “The actual murder […] was wanting to the other auspicious circumstances of this ‘beautiful day.’ The actual murder of the bishops, though called for by so many holy ejaculations, was also wanting,” (73) and warns us about a second ejaculation, which I interpret as a vindication of the human rights framework which is evoked in the name of Justine. In conclusion, the lens of a Burkian reflection in reading Frankenstein is revealing in that, unlike the executions of the Revolution, this execution of Justine, for murdering the relative of our protagonist, is one that is very much deserved in the name of justice to punish “the patriotic crimes of an enlightened age,” (73). Burke in effect is criticizing human nature defense synthesized through moral law which is the object of the very tension underlying Elizabeth and Justine’s altercation about life and human dignity. Although a Godwinian lens convinces the contemporary reader of the collective duty to speak on violence, a Burkian approach to Shelley’s Gothic novel becomes an appropriate counter-culture mode of identifying the problems of feminine representation, images of violence, and historical context on the French regicides which complicate the secondary characters of Elizabeth and Justine’s convictions on truth and capital punishment.

🌀Bradley Dexter Christian

   

– 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 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.

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

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.

Jocelyn Lemus

We speak, we move, we do all these sorts of things because that is what makes us human. As a person we take certain actions because the world asks us to. We invest so much time to satisfy society that we truly forget our personal instincts and beliefs. For a women, it is hard to freely express what is truly kept inside, since majority of the the time in the past and now women have no say.

Image result for women mouth covered

Mary Wollstonecraft expresses this sort of action in her writing of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman… when she states, “Nature, by making women little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures”(47). This indicates that once a women is implemented in such image, there isn’t quite a possibility that that expectation will change. Nothing they say or do can be justifiable as long as the words come out of their mouths. To add on, this correlates so well with Justine’s death sentence in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. They correlate because it is shown that women don’t quite defend themselves because they internally believe that their words don’t quite make a difference to society. As Justine says, “I did confess; but I confessed a lie”(83). Why would she lie about something that involves death? A women is seen as this target, this vulnerable human being with no will to express their own feelings. This is important because nature and beauty have a lot to say more about women than women can, according to society. The world has stitched the mouths of women together, up to the point where every word they say comes out as pure muteness.

Sympathy

If you open up my copy of Frankenstein, you’ll see a fair amount of underlines and check marks, maybe the occasional star or exclamation point. But if you really want to know how I felt while reading, you’d need to look at the little faces I’ve drawn on the margins. There are happy faces, angry faces and surprised faces, but it’s no surprise that the sad, frowning, pensive faces are what dot these pages the most.

And yes, this is one of those sad-face passages.

Victor’s reaction to Justine’s execution illustrates a complete failure on his part to sympathize with his supposed loved ones. From the start, Victor focuses not on putting himself “into the place of another man, and affected in many respects as he is affected” as Edmund Burke explains sympathy in A Philosophical Enquiry, but instead in announcing “the tortures of my own heart” (Burke 41). This is somewhat understandable; Justine’s death ought to fill Victor with guilt. However, he quickly repeats the word “my” an absurd four more times: “my Elizabeth,” “my doing,” “my father’s woe” and “my thrice-accursed hands!” (Shelley 85). Egomaniac much? Nowhere does he console Elizabeth or Alphonse. Worse, he rationalizes, choosing not to share in or feel, but to “contemplate” (85) Elizabeth’s grief, driving his focus further inward.

Victor’s narration switches to speak to his family — while concentrating even more on himself. Burke writes, “there is no spectacle we so eagerly pursue, as that of some uncommon and grievous calamity […] it always touches with delight” (Burke 43) but it is this sympathy that prompts humans to positively “relieve ourselves in relieving those who suffer” (43). Victor, far from comforting his heartbroken family, appears only to delight, perversely prophesizing worse things to come. He ironically claims he will be “happy beyond his hopes, if thus inexorable fate be satisfied” by Justine’s death, but only after he assures his loved ones, “Again shall you raise the funeral wail” (Shelley 85). Instead of relieving suffering, he indulges in it and even divests himself of any responsibility for the execution, pointing toward “inexorable fate” (85) instead. At one point Victor appears to demonstrate compassion like that which Burke describes, claiming he “has no thought nor sense of joy, except as it is mirrored also in (his family’s) dear countenances” (85), but the truth is in the writing. The only action verb in that final, excruciatingly long sentence is “bids you weep” (85), as Victor urges his family members to not smile, but “shed countless tears” (85). You don’t want anyone happy, do you, Victor?

I confess. I initially drew that sad face because I fell for Victor’s seemingly agonizing exclamations. It didn’t take much further examination, for me to realize that this sad face should definitely not be for Victor. Nor should it be for Elizabeth or Alphonse or Justine. It’s for the lost humanity. The total absence of sympathy.