Tag Archive: mary wollstonecraft


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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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.

Alexuz Bejarano

In Frankenstein, Justine confesses to a crime she didn’t commit, not only could she not defend herself due to women having to voice around this era. In Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, she interprets the way women are viewed, nothing more than “beautiful”. She describes beauty as demeaning, her text represents how the world see women, their reason for existing is only because of their beauty. They lacked many strengths because they believed they had nothing other than beauty. “Never, they might repeat after you, was any man, much less a women, rendered amiable by the force of those exalted qualities, fortitude, justice, wisdom, and truth;” (p 47). Even if Justine was able to defend herself, she was only a servant which was in the lower class, she was in no place to have any “fortitude” or “justice”. She didn’t murder William, and knowing that she still confessed because she knew she didn’t have a voice and no one was going to believe her. In the novel Justine’s beauty got her nowhere, what Wollstonecraft is trying to show is that women shouldn’t be fixed on their beauty, there should be more to women than looks.

 

Beauty and the Creature

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Mary Wollstonecraft advocates for equality of women in “A Vindication of the Right of Woman” and asserts that in society for women to be seen as equal, society must “wish to render men more virtuous, we must endeavor to banish all enervating modifications of beauty from civil society” (Pg 48) Wollstonecraft is stating that men must eradicate this stereotype of women being gentle and weak. If this does not occur, situations such as “Justine Moritz” will occur. The character of  “Justine Moritz” in Mary Shelley‘s “Frankenstein” is a servant that lives with the Frankenstein family and is described as appreciative and lighthearted, this is heavily reflected by the action she takes right before dying. The novel includes, “Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed gained the resignation she desired.”(Pg 84) Usually when your life is in danger a human’s reaction is to try to save themselves, yet the text illuminates the complete opposite. Justine is seen comforting others instead of herself, the selfless action implies that she is conscious of others which is why she is giving strength. By this point Justine has given up completely—in a way that is different from the female stereotypes, she sacrifices herself for others because she understands what’s it’s like to be looked down upon—and submits to her accusers which costs her, her life. Gender inequality clearly is seen in the novel, the fact the the Monster choose “Justine” to blame is not by chance.  

Wollstonecraft sees social class as a barrier to reach equality for women. In the novel, we are given background to the character of Justine. Justine was provided with a higher education by the Frankensteins, however, what is said about her are things like, “Justine was the most grateful little creature in the world” (pg 84)  A “creature” has the connotation of an animal, which when describing a sentient human, is seen as a form of degradation. Even though she has an education, she is viewed as inferior compared to the wealthy. An education is supposed to make a person be held to a higher standard, yet her title of servant still defines her. Furthermore, the Frankenstein’s contradict themselves as they continue to mention that a servant in Geneva is different from England and France as they state that they are not mistreated, nor belittled rather they are seen as humans and a part of the family. The Frankenstein’s state “Justine, thus received in our family, learned her duties as a servant; a condition which, in our fortunate country, does not include the idea of ignorance, and a sacrifice of the dignity of human being” (pg 66), this means that even with a status of “servant,” Justine should be treated humanely, yet the complete opposite is seen. Justine is called a creature. The social class defines who you are regardless of education or geographic location. Wollstonecraft argues that if the class structure is not changed, those with wealth decide what class is and how gender is perceived. She is killed without a trail, she is told that she will be excommunicated from the Catholic Church which ultimately leads her to states that she committed the crime. 

Levit Martinez Arias

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

Mary Wollstonecraft cared more about morality than beauty. She believed that women should have jobs, go to school and become thinkers instead of being an object of beauty for men. “Nature, by making women little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures, never designed that they should exercise their reason to acquire the virtues that produce opposite…” she knows women can amount to more and be great like men. Beauty should not be important, having morals and standards is important and valuable. Men only wanted women to look beautiful and not voice their opinions. Like many women, Justine did the same and kept her silence when convicted for the murder of William.

Justine takes the blame “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 knew her death was certain the moment they framed her because nobody would believe that she did not kill William. She did not say anything to defend herself because it was useless against the people. They already had their mindset to kill her. Wollstonecraft would have wanted Justine to speak up and not be scared. Justine had morals because she knew it was wrong to admit that she killed William when she did not. She also knew it was the right thing to tell Elizabeth the truth, “I had none 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). Justine was alone with nobody to help her and everyone was against her. She was innocent and beautiful and they blamed her because they knew she would not say anything to contradict them. Justine takes responsibility for Victor’s actions. They kill the innocent beautiful woman because of a man who couldn’t take responsible for his own actions.

-Marycarmen Nieto

By Mahealani LaRosa

Mary Wollstonecraft vehemently speaks out against the church and stereotypical gender roles in her text A Vindication of the Rights of Men. She continuously says that she believes women are solely important in society for the way the look, and specifically for their beauty. However when she defines beauty, she says that it is not just a surface level idea. Men have convinced women “that littleness and weakness are the very essence of beauty” and that nature, by “making women little, smooth, delicate, fair creatures” has taken away their right to “exercise their reason” and “excite respect” (47). Women exist to only create “pleasing sensations” by being “uniform and perfect” (47). To Wollstonecraft, whether or not women are intelligent or have morals is unimportant in society. In relation to her criticism of a woman’s place in the world, she asks an important question: “Is hereditary weakness necessary to render religion lovely?” (50). The radical feminist is saying that the connotated weakness that comes with the the idea of beauty also comes with religion. Ultimately, she says that “politics and morals, when simplified, would undermine religion and virtue” (59). And in society, women are not allowed to express their opinions surrounding politics or morals, because they are beautiful and weak, and “weakness and indulgence are the only incitements to love and confidence that you can discern” when “you love the church, your country, and its laws, you repeatedly tell us, because they deserve to be loved” (51). Overall, Wollstonecraft argues that to be beautiful is to be weak, and to be weak is to fear the church so greatly you believe it is love and devotion.

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Shelley, communicates some of these thoughts and opinions in her groundbreaking novel Frankenstein, especially in the characterization and life story of Justine. Justine is described as “frank-hearted and happy” and “the most grateful little creature in the world” (66). However, when she is accused of murder, her fear of the church and of God lead to her untrue confession and then to her unjust death. Over and over she says “God knows how entirely I am innocent” (80). She says that “the God of heaven forgive me!” and that that “God raises my weaknesses, and gives me courage to endure the worst” (83). Her complete trust in God is a sign of her weakness that is truly a sign of her fear.

Justine dupes herself into thinking she needs to be forgiven. She knows that she is innocent, but threats of damnation and hell scare her into confessing something she did not do. Because Justine is a woman, she is seen as weak and fearful by the men who run the church she obeys. She is an easy target because her beauty and innocence and terror end up ruining her in the end. Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, mother and daughter, both show that beauty should not be a characteristically defining trait. If Justine had based her confession off of her morals and her education and had been respected by the men who ran her church, she would have been found innocent. After further discussion, I still believe Wollstonecraft does a fantastic job calling out the issues in society and in various societal systems, and these thoughts and opinions ae translated very well into Shelley’s Frankenstein, especially in the scene of the death of Justine, or more accurately, the death of Justice, for women and for all.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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