Vicki F. Enstein
March 8, 2005
The criminal justice system
is a system that is supposed to be fair in determining the punishment of
those who commit crimes. The criminal justice system in Mary Shelley's
novel Frankenstein is one that is not fair at all. Instead
of being judged on the evidence against the suspects, the suspects are
judged on their sex and social rank. If they are poor, they are believed
to have more of a reason to commit a heinous crime than someone of the
upper class. If they are wealthy and happen to be a suspect in a
crime, they are treated the total opposite of the suspect in the lower
class, also crimes are not investigated the same way. Convicting
a suspect in a crime commited against a wealthy man is more important than
convicting the same suspect in a crime against a wealthy woman.
In the novel Frankenstein
there are three murders that take place, along with three separate investigations.
In the case of the first murder, the murder of William Frankenstein, the
accused is Justine Moritz, a peasant girl that lives with the Frankenstein
family. The only evidence that the court has against her is that
she has the picture that William has been wearing around his neck in her
pocket. This circumstantial evidence alone is not enough to convict
Justine, but based on her sex and social rank she is believed to have had
all the reason to do it. Beth Newman explains, "What finally condemns
Justine is precisely her inability to counter that story with a coherent
narrative of her own" (149). In other words, because she is a poor
woman, she is not adequately prepared to articulate her version of events
in a way that the court environment requires. William Veeder says
"The cards seem stacked formidably against Justine from the start" (271).
Meaning that even before the trial begins Justine is already judged guilty.
Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, she is considered guilty
and must prove her innocence. Justine is convicted of murder and
sentenced to death. Even after being found guilty Justine is forced
to confess to the murder by a confessor. He tells her that she would
burn in hell if she did not confess to the murder (56). Not only
was she found guilty and then forced to confess to the murder she is also
thrown into a "gloomy prison chamber" with nothing but "straw to sit on"(55).
Since Justine is at the bottom of the social class, the possibilities of
the court looking for any other suspects is highly unlikely. They
believe that because she was poor and not to mention a woman, she had more
of a reason to commit the crime, and why would anyone kill a child over
something so valuable only to part with it again so soon (53). Further,
her alleged killing of William represents one of the worst crimes imaginable
for someone of her class. As William Sayres explains, "Although not stated
in the legal documents of the indictment, the crime for which Justine stands
condemned in jurors' hearts is her 'blackest ingratitude' "(48). These
are the things that are taken into account in the trial of Justine Moritz.
With the second murder, the murder of Victor's
friend Henry Clerval, Victor is the suspect, but his treatment is totally
different from that of Justine. He is given the best room in the
prison, a physician and a nurse, and is visited by the magistrate every
now and again (124). He receives better treatment than Justine
because of his sex and his social rank. Victor is an educated gentleman
who comes from a wealthy family, They are not going to let anything
happen to him while he is imprisoned. During Victor's trial he never
sets foot in court. The magistrate collects all of the witnesses
and also arranges his defense (126). There is no way that Victor
can be convicted of this crime if one of the main magistrates is in control
of his defense. He states that "I was spared the disgrace of appearing
publicly as a criminal ... the grand jury rejected the bill" (126).
The grand jury has no choice but to reject the bill if there is no evidence
The third murder, the murder of Elizabeth Frankenstein
(Victor's wife), is not even fully investigated. Victor is the only suspect,
because he is the only person in the room when she is murdered. Out
of all the people that surround Victor as he recovers from the shock of
seeing his dead wife, nobody suspects Victor of killing her himself.
Victor is in fact arrested for the murder only to be released several months
later because he is presumed insane.
In comparing these three trials we can come to
a clear understanding of how the justice system in Frankenstein
is based solely on gender and social status. In today's society we
do not release people that are deemed insane by the courts back into the
general population. As seen in the trials we discussed the treatment
received by the male suspect (Victor Frankenstein) compared to the treatment
received by the female suspect (Justine Moritz) are the total opposite
with the trials having two diferent outcomes, even though both suspects
are suspected of the same crime of "murder"(in Victor's case he is suspected
twice), only one person is found guilty: the poor female Justine Moritz.
Newman, Beth. "Narratives of Seduction and the Seductions of Narrative:
The Frame Structure of Frankenstein." English Literary History
(1986): 141-61. Repr. in Frankenstein/Mary Shelley. Ed. Fred
Botting. New York: St. Martin's, 1995. 166-90. University of Pennsylvania
On-line Database. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/knarf/Articles/newmanb.html>.
8 March 2005.
Sayres, William G. . "Compounding the Crime: Ingratitude and the
Murder Conviction of Justine Moritz in Frankenstein." English
Language Notes. 31.4 (June 1994): 48-54. University of Pennsylvania
On-line Database. <http://www.english.upenn.edu/knarf/Articles/sayres.html>.
8 March 2005.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein (Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism).
2nd Edition. Ed. Johanna Smith. NY: St. Martins, 2000.
Veeder, William. "The Women of Frankenstein." Mary Shelley/Frankenstein.
Ed. J. Paul Hunter. NY: Norton, 1996. 271-73.
Questions to Consider:
What is the main thesis of the paper? Does the author adequately
Does the person stay on the original topic? Present a passage
that does not seem to belong and could be eliminated.
Find two examples of quotation in the essay, one each from the primary
source and a secondary source. Does the writer properly cite the quotes?
Do the quotes adequately fit in to the discussion where they are found?
Do they support the writer's claims? Explain.
Are there parts of the paper that are difficult to understand?
Are sources presented in proper MLA format? Are there any that
need to be corrected? Make specific suggestions.