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Frankenstein – Guilt And Confession

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Guilt and confession have played a significant role in condemning different characters in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to death. As the story progresses, several murders take place. These murders were never solved with substantial evidence. Justine’s conviction, Frankenstein’s conviction, and the monster’s final confession all originate from guilt and end in a condemning to death. This essay will attempt to prove how guilt leads to a confession which leads to a condemning to death in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

Justine was said to have confessed falsely to the murder of William. She tells Elizabeth this: “I did confess, but I confessed to a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution. Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me… until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was.” [Pg. 66] Justine was forced to believe she was guilty in some way. This sense of guiltiness coupled with Justine’s fear of eternity in hell, forced her into a position where she had to decide whether to confess falsely to god or to risk eternity in hell for something she might have been guilty for. Two things she may have been guilty for: Seeing who murdered William, but not saying who (possibly Frakenstein himself), or a cause and effect, where she did something that lead William to his death. As seen in the next quotation, Frakenstein believes he was the cause of death to two people (William and Justine).

“Have my murderous machinations deprived you also… of life? Two I have already destroyed; other victims await their destiny….” [Pg. 148] In this quote, Frankenstein confesses to be the cause of the deaths of William, Justine, and Henry. Frankenstein’s guilt of creating a murderous monstrosity drove him to confess to murdering his family and friends because he believed that his creation, which was created by his hand, was what murdered his family and friends. We do not know whether or not the monster did kill his family and friends however. Shortly after Frankenstein’s confession to the judge and jury (and later, his father) for these murders, he was also condemned to death. This is an underlying parallel in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Both Justine and Frankenstein were made to believe their selves guilty of a crime that no one could substantially prove to the judge and jury, yet they both confessed guilty to the judge and jury after only ircumstantial evidence was presented to the judge and jury.

The key question to this confession is: Did Frankenstein’s creation kill his family and friends? Or was it that he killed his family and friends, but deluded his own guilt of murdering his family and friends, to a false guilt of creating a being which destroyed his family and friends? The monster’s last confession may or may not have been a false confession. Frankenstein has told to Walton that it was his creation that murdered his family and friends; however, although the monster states: “I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing.” [Pg. 190] The monster confesses to several murders. If it were Frankenstein who killed his own family and friends, then the monster confesses because of the guilt he feels for causing Frankenstein’s previous lunacy. If, however, that the monster did commit the murders, then the monster was still under the influence of guilt when he confessed. The monster condemns himself to death shortly after.

Guilt is a very, very powerful force in deciding the fates of those characters in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. In each confession, the character who confesses is in such despair by the guilt, whether true guilt or imagined guilt, they confess reluctantly and thereby condemn themselves to death. This is especially true in the monster’s case. Shortly after his last confession, the monster tells Walton that he will “seek the most northern extremity of the globe… and consume to ashes this miserable frame.” The monster condemns himself to death because he believes he is ultimately responsible for Frankenstein’s death and the death of his family and friends as well. In each case, guilt does indeed lead to a confession, which does indeed lead to a condemnation to death.

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