Frankenstein Study Guide

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein is presented as a frame tale, told by Captain Walton while on an expedition to the North Pole, where he finds Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a scientist who created a monstrous human-like Creature. The Creature tried to explain his murders to Frankenstein, claiming that people rejected and feared him, begging Frankenstein to make him a mate. Frankenstein first agrees then destroys the mate. The enraged Creature kills Frankenstein's wife, fleeing to the North Pole. After Frankenstein dies, Walton sees the Creature mourning as he floats away on a raft.

Brief Summary

For Victor, the thought of Justine paying with her life for something she didn't do was devastating. Justine appeared in the courtroom looking solemn but courageous.

On the night of William's murder Justine had been out all night and a market woman had spotted her not far from the scene of the murder in the early morning. When questioned, Justine was confused. She became ill and was bedridden for days. The miniature picture that had been in a locket around William's neck was found in Justine's pocket.

According to Justine, she had spent the evening visiting with an aunt in a nearby town. Upon returning, she heard that William was missing and started to search for him. She barely slept, and thus was confused in the morning. As for the miniature picture, she simply had no explanation. She maintained that she was innocent. It occurred to Victor that the monster had planted the picture on Justine in order to frame her, and Victor was tortured by his guilt.

In the morning Victor learned that Justine had confessed to the crime. He hurried home and found Elizabeth, who felt betrayed. Elizabeth and Victor visited Justine in prison and she explained she had confessed to the crime with the hope of being pardoned by the courts. Yet still she was sentenced to death. Justine said she was not afraid to die. The next morning, despite both Elizabeth and Victor's desperate pleas to the judges, Justine died.

Detailed Summary

In the few hours before the trial, Victor agonized over the events about to take place. The thought of Justine paying with her bright and promising life for something she didn't do devastated Victor. Because he hadn't been at the house when the crime had been committed, he couldn't easily claim to know anything about it. Justine appeared in the courtroom dressed in mourning clothes, looking solemn but courageous and, according to Victor, very beautiful. She cast a sadly affectionate look toward Victor's family when she entered the courtroom.

The details about Justine's activity on the night of William's murder were strange. She had been out all night and a market woman had spotted her not far from the scene of the murder in the early morning hours. When questioned, Justine was confused and gave an indecipherable answer. She became hysterical when she saw William's body at the house later and was bedridden for days afterward. During that time, the miniature picture that had been in a locket around William's neck was found in Justine's pocket.

According to Justine, who responded to the witness testimonies with shock and despair, she had spent the evening visiting with an aunt in a nearby town. Upon returning to Geneva, she heard that William was missing and started to search for him. It grew late and the gates of Geneva closed, so she sought shelter for the night in a barn. She barely slept, and attributes that fact to her confusion when she was questioned in the morning. As for the miniature picture, she had nothing to say. She understood that that piece of evidence was overwhelmingly suspicious, but she simply had no explanation. She maintained that she was innocent and asked that witnesses testify for her character. A few witnesses did so, but were timid in their testimonies, hesitant to support a possible murderer. Elizabeth then asked if she could address the court. She delivered a speech about how highly she regarded Justine, how devoted Justine had always been to the family in particular to Victor's mother Caroline and to William. Elizabeth stated firmly that she believed Justine was innocent.

Elizabeth's testimony served only to agitate the court more, seeing Justine's crime as a terrible action of ungratefulness to the Frankenstein family. It occurred to Victor that perhaps the monster had planted the picture on Justine in order to frame her, and Victor was overcome with feelings of shame and sadness. He assumed the court would find Justine guilty and Victor fled the courtroom in wild distress. Referring to Justine as a victim he noted that at least she had her innocence, while he was tortured by his guilt.

After a night of misery, he returned to the courthouse in the morning and his fears were confirmed: Justine had been found guilty. Victor was horror-stricken. He soon learned, however, that Justine had confessed to the crime. He hurried home and found Elizabeth, who was bewildered and felt betrayed. She had believed so resolutely in Justine's innocence, and wondered how a girl so gentle could commit a murder.

Justine requested to see Elizabeth, and Elizabeth asked Victor to accompany her. When they were alone with Justine in the prison chamber, Justine threw herself at Elizabeth's feet and sobbed. Elizabeth wept as well and asked how Justine could have committed such a crime. Justine explained she had confessed to the crime with the hope of being pardoned by the courts. She hadn't wanted to confess to the crime she hadn't committed for fear that Elizabeth would believe her, but she also felt that nobody supported her. Now she was still sentenced to death, and she claimed to be consoled by the thought of joining William in heaven.

Elizabeth again believed in Justine's innocence and vowed to have her sentence changed. Resignedly, Justine said she was not afraid to die, and indeed now knew how sad the world was that she was leaving. She warned Elizabeth to never fight heaven's will. These words furthered Victor's agony, as he saw Justine's calm acceptance of her own unjust death. He himself could never escape his guilt, and he let out an anguished groan. Hearing him, Justine thanked Victor for visiting her and said that she hoped he didn't believe she was guilty. Elizabeth assured Justine that nobody was more convinced of her innocence than Victor. Knowing that Elizabeth and Victor believed her to be innocent, Justine said she was ready to die peacefully.

Victor and Elizabeth stayed with Justine until they were forced to leave her. Victor envied the women in their faultless grief, as his was burdened by remorse. As they were leaving, Elizabeth cried out that she wished to die and leave such a miserable world as well. Justine called Elizabeth her only friend and prayed that Elizabeth live happily. The next morning, despite both Elizabeth and Victor's desperate pleas to the judges, Justine died.

Victor observed Elizabeth's grief at losing both Justine and William, and he witnessed his father's misery as well, and felt that his heart was being tortured with agonizing guilt at all the pain he had caused. With trepidation he foresaw more misery for his loving family, and he called William and Justine his first unfortunate victims.

Analysis

This chapter shows a critical depiction of the justice system through the story of Justine Moritz. She is accused of a crime she did not commit and she insists upon her innocence. There is some evidence against her, though none of it is concrete. Elizabeth gives a stirring testimony in favor of Justine's good and true character, yet nothing moves the judges. Others who are called upon to defend Justine do so very timidly, cowardly afraid of the possibility that this young girl could be a killer, and the idea that they would then look guilty themselves.

After the trial that didn't include the necessary decisive proof against Justine, she was questioned so sternly that she finally said she committed the crime, even though she had not. In doing this, she hoped for some sort of redemption, and she found none. She was still sentenced to die the following day by hanging. In this portrayal of justice, the trial proceedings are a game of chance. Even when Justine attempted to play their game, when she falsely admitted to the crime, she received no reward. The moral of Justine's story as told by Shelley is that for the poor, there is no justice available to them.

Like William, Justine is an innocent victim of Victor's horrible mistake. Both Justine and William die because of the monster that Victor created out of hubris. This could symbolize the danger of technology, and the loss of innocence or even the loss of innocent life that occurs when technology goes too far. And when it does go too far, the supports that people depended upon previously--such as the justice system--will not be able to help.

When Victor and Elizabeth visit Justine in prison, they find her resigned to dying, in fact she seems to welcome the relief from anguish that death will provide. The living world appears cruel, unfair and unfeeling to Justine, and death looks less like a punishment and more like a release into calmness. Mary Shelley was preoccupied with the intricate connection between life and death, as her own life was touched by many deaths--including a few suicides--and births, as well as miscarriages and the death of young children soon after they were born. Perhaps life and death (or birth and death) were so wrapped up together that for Shelley, life was sometimes far more painful and frightening than death.

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