Many punishments for crimes are often given to innocent people. In the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, there are several instances in which the punishment is given to an innocent person. Justine, a maid at the Frankenstein residence, was killed for a crime she did not commit.
Felix, a character the Monster encounter, was exiled from his country, for helping an innocent man escape from jail. Lastly Victor himself was jailed for a murder, which he did not commit. Justine was killed because Victor Frankenstein’s younger brother, William, was murdered. An item that William was wearing during the night of the murder was found on Justine leading everyone to believe that Justine is the murderer. When Victor arrives back to Geneva and hears that Justine has been accused of the murder his reaction was, “Justine Mortiz! Poor, poor girl, is she accused? But it is wrongfully; everyone knows that; no one believes it, surely…”. Victor knew the Monster killed William and probably framed Justine.
He knew Justine was innocent, but no one believed him. Justine was also forced to give a false confession, and was hanged. People dislike being insecure, like having a murderer loose among them, so they punish a scapegoat, like Justine, to ease their minds. When Felix and his family were living in Paris, a Turk was arrested and sentenced to death. Felix and many others believed that his religion and wealth were the cause of his condemnation, not the alleged crime. Felix however takes matters into his own hands, and frees the Turk from jail, but the government captures his family.
Felix surrenders in hope that his family will be spared. However the government exiles all of them. Any body in power punishes any threat to its control with extreme measure to ensure that its power is intact. The Monster also supports this view since, as he conveyed the story to Victor he says, “The government of France was greatly enraged at the escape of their victim and spared no pains to detect and punish his deliver,” (110) showing how quick the government was to destroy any threat to it’s power. For this reason, Felix, who saves an innocent man, which is not a crime, was punished.
Victor is jailed because he is suspected of murdering his friend Henry Clerval. The murder occurs the previous night and there are witnesses that say they saw Victor acting suspiciously during the night. Victor was then arrested and jailed. Although Victor was released when Mr. Kirwin helps collect witnesses, arranges his defense and “…proved that I Victor was on the Orkney Islands at the hour the body of my friend was found…” (166), Victor was still punished, by being forcibly jailed, for a crime he did not commit.
This is another example of how people’s insecurity, in this case, again, due to the fact a murderer was loose, finds someone easy to blame, so that their minds will be at ease. In conclusion, all three examples given, from the novel Frankenstein, consist of people being punished for crimes not committed by them. Justine was punished for the murder of William, Felix for assisting an innocent man escape, and Victor for the murder of his friend Henry Clerval. Although all three of these characters are punished falsely, they are punished for different reasons. One reason is that people do not like being insecure and quickly find someone to blame so that they can be more secure knowing the culprit, in their minds, is behind bars.
The second reason is that anything in power does not like to give up that power, so when its power is challenged, it quickly destroys the challenger so that its power is not threatened. Both Justine and Victor were punished because of the first reason, and Felix was punished because of the second reason.Bibliography: