Justine's Mother Character Analysis
Justine Moritz is a minor character who is of major importance in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Justine only appears briefly, but makes a strong impression, not only on the reader, but on the two main characters who are either directly or indirectly responsible for her death. She becomes the victim of the inaction of Victor Frankenstein, the actions of the Creature, and of the inadequacies of the justice system. Justine isn’t a fully realized character; she is the object and the subject of guilt, blame and injustice.
A detailed physical description of Justine is never provided, but her personality is captured when Elizabeth writes how she can change Victor’s ill humor into joy from a simple glance. Justine was rejected by her mother and taken into the Frankenstein household by the loving Caroline. Justine is rescued from a bad family environment and brought into the home of people who love her. After five years of happiness living with the Frankensteins, Justine returns to her now repentant mother, which is the first occurrence of her role as the object of undeserved blame. Madame Moritz alternately asks forgiveness and dispenses blame upon Justine, accusing her of being responsible for the deaths of her brothers and sister. We never learn how Justine feels about this accusation, but there is a lingering sense of guilt that makes her vulnerable when William is murdered. She blames herself for not protecting him.
When Justine is arrested for the murder, Victor wallows in guilt because he knows it is the Creature who has killed William and that he is responsible for Justine’s fate. Though overcome with feelings of guilt, Victor recognizes the futility of revealing the truth, and allows Justine to take the blame. Although Elizabeth is unaware of the actual circumstances of William’s murder, she astutely blames the justice system for its misguided reasons for the execution of the innocent Justine. The main source for blame is the guilty Creature who frames Justine, symbolically punishing her as a representative of all of the “guilty” women who will never love him. The Creature explains how and why he framed Justine for the murder:
She was… blooming in the loveliness of youth and health. 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. (110)
Even if the Creature had known that Justine was similarly unloved and rejected by her own mother, it is unlikely that he would have granted her mercy.
A merciless priest causes Justine to recognize the potential of being manipulated psychologically:
"I did confess; but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain
absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my
other sins…ever since I was condemned, my confessor has beseiged
me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that
I was the monster that he said I was…” (62)
and the Creature is driven to become the homicidal monster people judged him to be because of his physical ugliness. Both the Creature and Justine are victims of an injustice, but Justine remains innocent until death.
Justine’s role in Frankenstein is to examine the injustice of the execution of the innocent, and to consider the importance of love and acceptance in the form of nurturing. The Creature is ostracized by society, but Justine is loved by the Frankenstein family. The unloved Creature becomes a monster. Love from the Frankenstein family prevented Justine from becoming the monster her accusers and her mother believed her to be.