Tag Archive: revolution


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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– 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).

Equality for All

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Christopher Martinez

As citizens in a society, we tend to have the divisions in gender and class. There are laws in the nation, but sometimes the ones with power can find the loopholes to innocence (just like in the French Revolution). In Mary Wollstonecraft’s writing, A Vindication of the Rights of Men, she strongly makes a stance for gender and class equality. She makes several points about her views such as in the quote, “To say the truth, I not only tremble for the souls of women, but for the good-natured man, whom everyone loves” (48). She wants to create the idea where there is no advantage in society. In other words, she stands with the common citizen during the French Revolution.

Frankenstein shows the injustice of class and gender within Mary Shelley’s time. When Justine gets convicted of the murder of William we see the injustice that is happening. It is as if Justine is representing the continuation and sacrifice of the French Revolution by the common man in the quote, “Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may Heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so” (84). The way Justine sounds when she says goodbye is as if she is making a sacrifice for the happiness of her family. In addition, there is a motif of courageousness in a woman in this part of the story. Justine isn’t afraid of her death. Mary Shelley is showing the strength in Justine. Likewise, Mary Wollstonecraft expresses the strength of a woman in her writing. She states, “If beautiful weakness be interwoven in a women’s frame, if the chief business of her life be (as you insinuate) to inspire love, and Nature has made an eternal distinction between the qualities that signify a rational being and this animal perfection, her duty and happiness in this life must clash with any preparation for a more exalted state” (48). Mary Wollstonecraft dedicates this part in her writing to state that a woman is equal to everyone; in this way, there can be a prosperous state. The idea of a woman standing up and not being afraid of anything is pretty clear. Finally, Mary Wollstonecraft dismisses the idea of the common nature of woman. She says words like, “little, smooth, delicate,” (47) aren’t the respectful words for a woman for she is powerful! Connecting this to times like today, it is as if there is no change in how we see a man, woman, and class. The Revolution for change hasn’t ended!

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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

Rilee Hoch

William Godwin has a unique perspective in his criticism of the French Revolution.  He believes that if humanity would use our knowledge to properly communicate our thoughts and emotions, that justice would come naturally and a peaceful revolution would ensue. Then, that peaceful revolution would dissolve the unjust class system and result in an equal distribution of property. Justine’s death from this perspective then represents the rash actions of the French people who, rather than causing positive change with no violence, murder justice with their revolution. Justine in the passage literally represents justice, and her death the destruction of it. The Creature in this case represents the foolish French who rushed into to their revolution with action rather than sentiment which resulted in death, destruction and overall anarchy. The passage overall can be seen as a critique of Godwin’s ideology, but not in a way to disprove its idea but rather that it cannot work because the emotions of people do not allow for it.

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If instead they had used reason and negotiations, the French and the Creature would have both received better results. Just like how the Creature places the blame for his crime on Justine without thinking it through and considering different approaches, the people take their anger out on the monarchy and throw all justice aside for death via guillotine. The Creature let his anger take over, just like the French, it  “stirred the fiend within me” (127), and yet for both parties there was no positive result. They both blame Justice or the lack thereof so they decide to make it pay recompense. Due to this many innocent lives are lost, including the life of Justine who is simply an innocent child. The Creature was never shown Justice so he decides make Justine pay saying “She shall suffer.. she shall atone” (127). It is ironic that he says he has learned this practice from Felix who had previously done an injustice to the Creature, so we see the pattern of abuse continue, which started when Felix also suffered injustice via Sofie’s father. If he had followed Godwin’s model however, he would have though more clearly and paid attention to the “the great instrument of justice, reason. We should communicate our sentiments… press them upon the attention of others” (Godwin 790). This idea of contemplating different approaches is clearly absent in the text. We can see that the cycle of pain will only stop when we choose to use truth over violence, and put our selfish emotions and desire to shed blood from anger aside. If they had not resorted to violent uproars and a bloody revolution, Justice would not have paid the price for other peoples mistakes and the outcome might have been a peaceful and happy ending. This however is not done, in the text or in history. Here we can see the commentary against Godwin’s ideology in actual practice, that we simply will not allow it to work, we cannot.

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In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke notes that, “…will save herself from the last disgrace, and that if she must fall, she will fall by no ignoble hand” (75).  Justine “…confessed a lie” in order to safe herself rather than having the town find her guilty (Shelley 83). In Shelley’s novel during the trial when Justine is describes as being, “Confident in innocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed” (79). Burke is being represented here with this description just as he described Marie Antoinette as having such beauty that, “Ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult” (76). Burke believe that the revolution destroys the beauty of nature. Through the logic of Burke and his essay, the creature being the “ugly monster” that he is, is truly what is at fault of the death of the beautiful Justine. The only person that is one-hundred percent certain of Justine’s innocence, besides herself, is Victor Frankenstein. Although he admits that Justine is one of the “victims to [his] unhallowed arts” he does nothing about it and allows the town to animalize Justine and kill her, which also helps to prove Burke’s point about the age of chivalry being dead (Shelley 85). Justine “killing herself” showed the faulty morals of Victor and his being unjust while allowing her to die in order to protect himself from doom.

– Alina Cantero

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

By: Mary Russell

In Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, he mourns the destruction of beauty. He bemoans the execution of Marie Antoinette claiming she was so beautiful and perfect that, “Ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult,” (76). She was the epitome of a perfect queen, and woman to him. Burke then moves on to argue that without the admiration of Marie Antoinette and others like her – kings and other such royalty – none will be moral. He claims that, “To make us love our country, our country must me lovely,” (78). If none admire or love their country then none will abide by the laws or engage in “natural” behaviors. That is also Burke’s argument. Revolutionaries are ugly because they seek to destroy the “natural” order of things. According to Burke, man desires to be subjugated and without a beauty in the subjugation, everyone will become unnatural and revolt.

Mary Shelley was raised by two radicals however the death of Justine in Frankenstein seems to mirror Burke’s sentiments. Justine is described as beautiful and kind. During her trial she is, “Confident in innocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed,” (79). This description of her trial matches Burke’s description of Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment which she faced gracefully as a queen should. Justine’s beauty is ignored because the mob is chaotic and not thinking straight, imagining they are justified and obliterating her innocence. They are a revolutionary hive mind set out to destroy Justine’s beauty. Looking even further, the creature is technically at fault for Justine’s death. Had he not planted the evidence on her, she would not have been accused. Following Burke’s logic this ugly, unnatural being is at fault for the death of beauty and order. Justine’s death marks the poignant beginning to the creature’s murderous rampage. Even though William’s death is technically the first, the readers do not see it. They see Justine’s death and following this, more and more people are killed in the creature’s reign of terror. The destruction of beauty is the destruction of order and the beginning of the end.

By Alex Luna

In William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, he asserts readers to not use force or violence, rather nonviolent protest in order to bring about change in justice so we can attain happiness. In relation to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we can see this message being preached through the death of Justine, Victors family’s servant. In this particular scene, Justine’s death signifies the death of justice itself, if people continue resorting to violence as the answer, through Victor and the creature.

From the beginning of the passage Elizabeth says “why do you kneel, if you are innocent?” (83). Here we can gain a sense of sympathy for Justine, and are reminded of her pureness, similar to how justice itself is viewed ideologically. Everyone wants justice, but here it is injustice that Justine is dealing with, by being framed for Williams death. Furthermore, we can see how justice can be torn down by violent acts such as Williams death.Justine says “I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was.”(83).  When relating this back to the french revolution, it’s interesting to see this parallel. When society revolted against the monarchy, depending on the perspective it could be seen as a good thing or bad. The fact that the lines become blurred for Justine is ironic because it reflects how justice itself can be skewed because of violence. While the people fighting for what they want, is a “good thing” the violence that resulted from it is probably not. Godwin himself did not advocate for violence, but a more peaceful revolution, where reason is used. In this story, all reason is lost. There is a creature on the loose, tormenting Victor and killing his family off, this is the result when reason is lost in revolution and the pursuit of happiness. Upon seeing the innocent dealing with injustice, Victor “I, the true murderer, felt the never dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation” (84). Due to the violence stemmed from the creature, Victor is left with sadness. Thus, his creation and abandonment of the creature creates a chain reaction, leading to the creature to resort to violence to get what he wants, a companion. The creature clearly resembles the people, and Victor the monarchy. The novel teaches how justice can be destroyed when resorting to violence, when a more peaceful and reasonable approach would have prevented the pain and suffering. Essentially, Godwins point is echoed through Justine’s death, providing evidence for nonviolent protest as a means to achieve happiness.

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