In Frankenstein, what does Elizabeth say in Justine's defense?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Elizabeth describes Justine as her "poor guiltless" friend. She asks,

Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as I do upon my own . . . If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more.

She is sure that...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Elizabeth describes Justine as her "poor guiltless" friend. She asks,

Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime? I rely on her innocence as certainly as I do upon my own . . . If she is condemned, I never shall know joy more.

She is sure that Justine cannot be guilty of William's murder due to her very character and nature. Elizabeth feels that she knows Justine as well as she knows herself, and she is certain that Justine is innocent of this terrible crime. Elizabeth, thus, defends Justine by assuring everyone of the girl's trustworthiness.

During Justine's actual trial, Elizabeth is forced to admit that the bauble found in Justine's pocket is indeed the very one that Elizabeth had placed around William's own neck, and the people in the court seem to take this as a sure sign of her guilt. However, prior to the trial's finale, Elizabeth is compelled to speak more. She says,

I am well acquainted with the accused. I have lived in the same house with her [for seven] years. During all that period she appeared to me the most amiable and benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein, my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care and afterwards attended her own mother during a tedious illness . . . She was warmly attached to the child who is now dead and acted towards him like a most affectionate mother. For my own part, I do not hesitate to say that . . . I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She had no temptation for such an action; as to the bauble on which the chief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I should have willingly given it to her, so much do I esteem and value her.

In other words, Elizabeth again defends Justine by claiming an intimate knowledge of Justine's character, substantiated by their long-time friendship. She explains that Justine has routinely cared for others in her life, proving her compassionate and loving nature. It is not the nature of a person who could murder a child for a piece of jewelry—a piece that Elizabeth would have, in fact, given to her as a gift had she wanted it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Elizabeth had the very tough task of having to identify the locket that William had before his death, and then somehow ended up in Justine’s possession. This could have proved that Justine committed the murder, since there would not be any other reasonable way to explain how she ended up with the locket that the child was wearing prior to his death.

However, Elizabeth was clear in her position. She defended Justine and was very keen in expressing the reasons why she completely trusted and believed in her. Not only did she explain how Justine had a natural tendency to take care of people, but that she had nursed Madame Frankenstein during her ill days, and she was the epitome of love and joy for the entire family, especially to William.

In Elizabeth’s words:

For my own part, I do not hesitate to say, that, notwithstanding all the evidence produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She had no temptation for such an action: as to the bauble on which the chief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I should have willingly given it to her; so much do I esteem and value her. (Frankenstein, chapter 8)

Therefore, Elizabeth pointed out Justine’s lack of motif, her impeccable behavior, and her natural tendencies for caring and loving people in order to try to convince the jury that there was no way nor reason for Justine to be found guilty of murdering William.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team