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Free Study Guide-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley-Free Chapter Summary Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 8

Summary

Victor and the family attend Justine's trial as witnesses. The collected evidence is quite incriminating. It is pointed out that Justine was not in the house on the night of the murder. Furthermore, the next morning she had been spotted by a woman near the place where William's corpse was found. The woman had asked Justine what she was doing there but had received a confused reply.

Justine's behavior also indicates her involvement in the case. She had returned home late in the evening. She had inquired about William. On being shown his dead body, she had become hysterical and confined herself to her bed. It was then that the servant found the miniature in her dress. Elizabeth later confirms that it is the same one she had given to William.

Justine defends herself quite simply. She says that she had spent the night of the murder at her aunt's place at Chêne, a village near the town of Geneva. She had returned around nine o'clock when a man had asked her about the lost child. Alarmed, she had looked for him for a long time until the gates of the town were locked. She therefore had to spend the night in a barn outside the town. She had been half-asleep when somebody came and disturbed her. Then she left to look for William again. Naturally, she was bewildered on encountering the village woman because she had spent a sleepless night worrying about William. As for the miniature, she has no idea how it came to be in her pocket.

Other witnesses testify to Justine's good character. At the same time, they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the crime and the evidence against her. Elizabeth then goes on to defend Justine, but it is of no use. Justine is condemned to death. She finally confesses to the crime, and Elizabeth is horrified at this.


Elizabeth and Victor go to visit Justine in prison. Justine pleads her innocence before Elizabeth, who had believed her guilt after her confession. But again, Elizabeth changes her opinion. Justine explains that if she had not confessed, she would have had to face excommunication. Repeated attempts by Elizabeth and Victor to convince the court of Justine's innocence again prove to be pointless, and Justine dies a condemned murderer.

Notes

Justine's plight is horrible: she is left helpless by her so-called protectors, the Frankensteins. Victor is caught up in his thoughts, his guilt and his horror. Therefore, he cannot rectify the situation. The author focuses on Victor's fear of being labeled a "madman" if he were to proclaim his story publicly. This aspect of his feelings is prominent in the earlier chapters, as well. He tries his best not to succumb to his feelings of horror and guilt that keep growing stronger by the minute. These feelings are especially strong at the time of Justine's trial.

The chapter also talks about Justine's character. Her tranquillity under pressure is strongly reminiscent of Caroline's character. Her simple beauty shows itself under trying circumstances.

The author also criticizes the society in general. People who have known Justine to be an extremely kind and gentle person would have spoken in her favor, but the "fear and hatred of the crime . . . rendered them timorous and unwilling to come forward." Such cowardice leads to Justine's unjust condemnation. Only Elizabeth stands up for what she believes is right and does not hesitate to speak in defense of her playmate, "her sister," Justine. But Elizabeth, too, is taken in by Justin's confession of the crime. This shows that she is only human. Yet it is Justine's own confession that makes Elizabeth suspect her guilt, and not the accusations of others.

Elizabeth and Victor see Justine in prison, where the latter is not able to confront her. There is a touching episode between Elizabeth and Justine, as they prepare to part from each other forever.

Justine's good heart lets her die condemned, but fearless. She is reassured by the fact that the people she holds most dear are sure of her innocence. In other words, her death does not matter to her as much as her innocence. The fact that Elizabeth and Victor are convinced that she is innocent makes it easier for her to die. This concentration on the plight of the innocent within a system of injustice is another common theme in Romanticism.

Victor is thrown into a state of despair at Justine's death because of his "thrice accused hands." Thus far, there have been two victims of his ambition: William and Justine.

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