Who Has Responsibility?

Justice is an important issue in Frankenstein and Shelly presents it plainly with the trial of Justine. Shelley asks people to consider responsibility as a way to approach justice. Justine was accused of murdering William because she had a picture that was last seen in William’s possession. Victor had the knowledge of her innocence because the guilt laid upon the Monster, but he keeps quiet even when “the fangs of remorse tore [his] bosom” because he fears no one will believe him or even blame him (106). Then the question of who is responsible for whom or for what arises. From the story, readers can understand that people are responsible for their own actions and for the duties they decide to accept.

Victor realizes his responsibility as he goes and chases the Monster. He is responsible for his actions and from his actions he created the Monster. Thus when he decided to bring life, he also accepted the duty of the monster. However, once he created the Monster and realized how hideous it was, he ran from his responsibilities. It was not until he realized his responsibility would not leave him and realized the Monster was killing members of his family that he began to take care of his responsibility. He “began to reflect on the best means of securing” the Monster and he “repaired to a criminal judge” (200). Though trying to convince the magistrate of the monster did not work, he was at least attempting to take care of his responsibility. He eventually devotes himself, “either in [his] life or death, to [the Monster’s] destruction” (202). The Monster is his responsibility and he determines the best way to deal with him is to catch him and destroy him.

Although Victor is responsible for his actions and the Monster, he does not bear the responsibility for the death of William. However he does bear some responsibility for the death of Justine. The Monster killed William and so William’s death was not caused by Victor. It is easy to blame Victor because he created the Monster but there was no way Victor could have known that the Monster was a murder. It was possible that the Monster could have been kind and gentle. However, with Justine, Victor had the opportunity to save her by presenting the information he knew about the Monster. Justice works well with the participation of everyone. He instead decides to be quiet. Ultimately, knowledge can be dangerous. Thus, people who have it must be responsible and use it wisely and to possibly help others.

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