In Mary Shelley's 1818 version of Frankenstein, Justine Moritz, Ernest Frankenstein, and William
Frankenstein play relatively small, but important, roles. Justine Moritz became a servant for the Frankenstein family at a young age, and became quite close to the family, particularly Elizabeth. Justine, described as a “girl of merit” (Shelley, 57), embodies goodness of character and serves as a companion for Elizabeth despite their class differences. However, Justine, though innocent, is accused and condemned to death for the murder of William. Ernest Frankenstein, Victor's sickly younger brother by six years, has been “afflicted with ill health from his infancy” (Shelley, 25). Gradually, he regains his strength and health. Ernest's ultimate fate in the novel is ambiguous, but he quite possibly becomes the only surviving member of the unfortunate Frankenstein family. William, Victor and Ernest's brother, is the youngest son of Alphonse and Caroline Frankenstein. He is describe as being the “most beautiful little fellow in the world,” with “lively blue eyes, dimpled cheeks, and endearing manners. . .” (Shelley, 25) He is, in many ways, the very image of childhood innocence, but he meets his tragic end at the hands of the creature. William, who shares a name with Mary Shelley's own ill fated son, becomes the first victim in the creature's quest for revenge against his maker, Victor Frankenstein.
Major Themes/ Scenes Edit
Justine Moritz Edit
Class Differences Edit
While Mary Shelley's novel contains issues of class difference, they are not always explicitly depicted. Justine is one representation of these issues. Justine acts a representative of the servant class. Without this character, readers would have a more limited view of the differing classes present in this narrative. However, as Elizabeth tells Victor in a letter, “a servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England.” (Shelley, 43) This shows that striations exist even within a specific class. Justine is seen as above a typical servant, without the “ignorance” and indignity that is usually associated with this position in society. This distinction is, perhaps, a means of justifying Justine's close relationship to the Frankenstein family.
The friendship between Justine and Elizabeth is important to notice because it is one of the only, and by far the most explicit, examples of female friendship in the heavily male-dominated novel. In the majority of the novel, the female characters are overwhelmingly passive, but female bonds are clearly important. Elizabeth vehemently believes in Justine's innocence after she is accused and convicted of the murder of William Frankenstein. Elizabeth's refusal to believe that Justine could be guilty shows the strength of their friendship, as well as Elizabeth's enduring belief in the goodness of Justine. This friendship endures even after Justine falsely confesses to the murder of the youngest Frankenstein. While it is ultimately Justine's fear of Hell that motivates her to confess, it could also be blamed on a lack of education or understanding. Her dependence on her Catholic religion lead her to this final, fatal act of falsely confessing.
The Creature's Scheme Edit
Despite the Frankenstein family's clear adoration of Justine, it appears to be relatively easy for the blame to be believably cast upon her. For example, Alphonse laments, “I had rather have been for ever ignorant than have discovered so much depravity and ingratitude in one I valued so highly.” (Shelley, 56) This sudden change in heart towards Justine is due almost entirely to the evidence that she was discovered with. After murdering William Frankenstein, the creature encountered Justine. Upon seeing her, he realized, “Here, I thought, is one of those whose smiles are bestowed on all but me; she shall not escape: thanks to the lessons of Felix, and the sanguinary laws of man, I have learned how to work mischief.” (Shelley, 110) In this act of “mischief”, the creature took a portrait of Caroline from William and discreetly planted it on an unaware Justine. This is considered enough proof to accuse and convict Justine, and she is unfortunately condemned to death.
Justine's death plays an important role in the narrative, however. The creature's scheme, and Justine's resulting demise, chillingly show that he has learned how to manipulate humans and their “sanguinary” laws to achieve his revenge. The unfortunate Justine becomes yet another casualty in the creature's fatal war against Victor, his creator. In many ways, his use of manipulation suggests that the creature has become irreversibly corrupted by his exposure to humankind. Justine remains an interesting character because she serves, almost entirely, as a mechanism of forwarding the creature's narrative. Through his encounter with Justine, readers are offered a wider glimpse of the creature's personal experience as he rejects the human race and vows revenge against his negligent creator. Clearly, the creature becomes determined to wreak as much havoc in Victor's life by causing tragic death, both directly, as in William's case, and indirectly, as demonstrated by his actions towards the unsuspecting Justine.
Ernest Frankenstein Edit
. Of all the members of the prestigious Frankenstein clan, Ernest Frankenstein plays the smallest role. He is barely mentioned. He is Victor's younger brother by six years and struggled with his health in his youth. In the third volume of Mary Shelley's novel, Victor briefly states that Ernest and his father “yet lived” (156), but that is the last clue to Ernest's fate that readers learn. It can be assumed, then, that Ernest becomes the last surviving member of the Frankenstein family. In a letter sent to Victor, Elizabeth reveals her desire for Ernest to become a farmer because, as she explains, it is the “least hurtful, or rather the most beneficial profession of any.” (Shelley, 43) The idea of Ernest pursuing such a helpful and wholesome profession is in sharp contrast to the destructive and fatal work that Victor devotes his life to. Because of this, in addition to being the sole survivor, Ernest arguably serves as a redeeming character for the doomed Frankenstein family.
William Frankenstein Edit
William's Murder Edit
The grisly murder of the young William Frankenstein is a turning point in the creature's unfortunate existence. William becomes his first intentional victim towards his mission of revenge against the clueless Victor. William is killed by the creature when he reveals his true identity. This becomes apparent when William exclaims, “Hideous monster! Let me go; My papa is a Syndic- he is M. Frankenstein- he would punish you.” (Shelley, 109) Upon hearing the name Frankenstein, the creature replies, “Frankenstein! You belong then to my enemy- to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim.”(Shelley, 109) The creature knows that he can manipulate Victor's emotions by destroying everyone in his life, and William becomes his first opportunity to inflict this torture on his creator.
The murder of young William also shows Victor's increasing culpability in the deaths of those around him. Justine is accused of the murder due to the evidence that was found in her possession. However, upon hearing the tragic news of his youngest brother's death, Victor knows immediately who is truly responsible for the horrendous crime. He tells his brother, Ernest, “You are all mistaken; I know the murderer. Justine, poor, good Justine, is innocent.” (Shelley, 56) Yet, unfortunately for Justine, Victor does not reveal the truth before she is condemned to death. By creating the monster, Victor is indirectly responsible for William's death. By not coming forward with the truth about William's murder, he is likewise indirectly responsible for Justine's death, as is the creature.
When relating his personal experience to Victor in the second volume of the novel, the creature reveals that he initially approached William because he believed that, due to William's young age and perceived innocence, he would be accepted by him. He explains, “. . .an idea seized me, that this little creature was unprejudiced, and had lived too short a time to have imbibed a horror of deformity.” (Shelley, 109) Sadly, however, that is not the case. William experiences the same feelings of rejection and disgust when confronted by the creature as everyone had before him. This suggests that prejudice is something that humans are either born with, or taught at a startlingly young age.
Readers do not know how the creature would have interacted with the young boy if William's reaction had been one of acceptance, as the creature had hoped and expected. Yet, it is evident that William Frankenstein's abhorrence, the virulent rejection by an innocent child, is the final straw in the creature's struggle with humanity.
Impact in/for Frankenstein Edit
Justine Moritz, Ernest Frankenstein, and William Frankenstein may not play major roles in Mary Shelley's novel, but they are significant for the themes that they represent. Through the inclusion of Justine, Shelley highlights class differences that were extremely relevant to the period. It is partly due to this class difference that Justine is found guilty of William's murder. As demonstrated by the murder of William, the danger of prejudice is another issue central to Frankenstein. Throughout the entire novel, the creature is plagued by humankind's prejudice against him. He is abhorred and rejected by everyone because of his appearance, which causes readers to question whether people are born or taught to hate. Furthermore, William and Ernest demonstrate the importance of family in the novel. This is seen most clearly in the creature's determination to destroy that which Victor holds most dear, his family. Family is Victor's greatest weakness, and unfortunately, the creature knows this.
References/Suggestions for Further Reading Edit
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus. Ed. Susan J. Wolfson. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print. Longman Cultural.