Discuss the justice and injustice in Frankenstein.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Frankenstein can be read in a certain way as a novel about miscarriage of justice and eventual guilt and punishment. Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, is wealthy, powerful, brilliant, and well-connected. His personal qualities and his social position give him great power. Rather than using this power well, he acts with impunity, seeking only to satisfy his own personal interests rather than considering the common good, unlike his friend Henry Clerval, Elizabeth, Justine, and the members of the De Lacey family. As the monster points out, Victor is unwilling to shoulder responsibility for his actions. 

The first issue we encounter in thinking about justice is the degree to which we should be held responsible for acts of omission and the acts of others for which we are indirectly responsible. Victor himself, after all, is not a murderer nor does he as an individual lay false witness against Justine. On the other hand, Victor's failure to nurture the monster and instill in the monster a sense of moral values and membership in a community does make him complicit in the monster's murders and his failure to admit to the truth makes him complicit Justine's death for a crime she did not commit. Victor gradually, over the course of the novel, comes to this awareness and feels increasingly guilty for his acts, but still takes the easy road, in a sense, of attempting to kill the monster rather than attempt the harder task of rehabilitation. 

The monster also, like Victor, attempts to deny individual responsibility, blaming his circumstances for his acts rather than accepting that he had the opportunity to make good or bad choices.

In terms of issues of justice and injustice, the novel makes us think about several problems about the nature of justice. The first is the degree to which parents are responsible for acts committed by their children. The second is whether it is just to punish only criminal acts but not the forms of inaction that let crimes take place. The third issue is the degree to which we should take into account background and environment in thinking about justice.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are very distinct, but controversial justices and injustices in Frankenstein. While some may think that a justice is being served, other may look at the action as an injustice. Be prepared to disagree with my own subjective interpretations of the justices from the novel.

In regard to the justices in the novel, I believe that they fall into one distinct category: that of "an eye for an eye". Therefore, many of the justices stem as reactions from others' actions.

First, the Victor decides to create life as part of a reaction to his thoughts that the scientific community was being unjust in regard to study.  He did not think that his school's theology focused enough on the right sciences.

After creating the Monster, Victor fled. He could not face the fact that his monster was so hideous. Because of feeling abandoned, the Monster felt the need to find justice in his treatment. Therefore, once Victor refused to help him, the Monster had no choice but to change his mind. The Monster believed that Victor did him an injustice by abandoning him; he felt the need to combat this injustice by murdering those close to Victor in retaliation.

The execution of Justine shows a true injustice. Here, she is charged with the murder of William (Victor's brother). In reality, she did not kill William; the Monster did. This is one true injustice seen in the novel.

Many will argue the fact that the greatest injustice in the novel is the creation of the Monster. Man should not have the ultimate power over the creation of life.  Therefore, some may consider Victor's creation of life as an injustice shown to women. Victor is taking away the one role assigned to women in the world- giving birth.


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