Course Hero. "Frankenstein Study Guide." Course Hero. 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 July 2020. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Frankenstein/>.
Course Hero. (2016, August 10). Frankenstein Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 8, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Frankenstein/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Frankenstein Study Guide." August 10, 2016. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Frankenstein/.
Course Hero, "Frankenstein Study Guide," August 10, 2016, accessed July 8, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Frankenstein/.
Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Volume 1: Chapter 7 of Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein (1818).
As Victor's story continues, Justine's trial took place later that morning, and the entire family attended. Victor, terribly agitated, rationalized that he does not confess to the truth because he wasn't in Geneva when the crime took place and he thought no one would believe his wild tale. Justine, in contrast, was calm. The testimony presented in court made it appear that Justine was indeed guilty. Justine told the court that she was innocent and relayed her accounting of the events of the evening that William was killed. However, since she had no proof to persuade the court of her assertion, she hoped that her good reputation would suffice.
Elizabeth tried to convince the court that Justine could not have committed the crime, and her words were heard with approval from the spectators, but only because they admired Elizabeth. Nothing she said can shake the belief in Justine's guilt. Victor "rushed out of the court in agony" before the verdict, saying Justine's "tortures did not equal mine"; he can't sleep that night. The following day, he learned the court had found Justine guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging. Victor then learned Justine confessed, which he told Elizabeth. This news upset Elizabeth deeply.
Before the sentence was carried out, Justine told Elizabeth and Victor that she had confessed to the crime even though she was innocent, because her priest threatened her with excommunication if she did not. She believed that a confession, even a false one, would help her obtain salvation. She faced her death calmly, comforting Victor and Elizabeth. Victor felt "despair" and "agony" and calls himself the "true murderer." She was to be hanged the following morning. Victor was devastated, as two members of his family will have now died because of the monster he created.
Justine's fate is an example of the passive role of women in the early 19th century. She is docile and submissive, quietly marching to an unjust death and unready to challenge the court's decision or her priest's advice to submit a false confession. Elizabeth's words on Justine's behalf at the trial are ignored, another example of how women were disregarded and treated as inferior to men. Only Victor, a man, has the power to prevent Justine's death, and he chooses not to exercise that power. He is also self-absorbed enough to consider his suffering worse than Justine's, and Shelley does present him as far more agitated than her.
Justine's death will move Victor's situation one step deeper on his downward path. Perhaps he could have ignored the death of one family member, but the deaths of two clearly indicate that the Monster is determined to enact his revenge on his creator. Victor is torn by grief and guilt, horrified at what he has wrought. Adding to that sense of horror is the fact that Justine has been linked by Elizabeth to Victor's mother. Her death is as though he has killed his mother again.
Justine's false confession serves as a counterpoint to Victor's secret truth. She humbly and willingly confesses her guilt to a crime she did not commit in hopes of gaining salvation. He shamefully harbors the truth of his own real crime, punishing himself with shame and guilt and removing any hope of relieving himself of their burden. Justine's calm, stoic acceptance of her fate contrasts with Victor's fevered agitation—an agitation that will only grow worse in future chapters as more tragedy strikes.