The Power of Guilt

‘Guilty’ has multiple definitions and uses in modern day society. It can be used to describe a feeling that pushes people towards apologies and good deeds. It can also signify the blame on a person. Guilt, and all the complications that are dragged with it, are inescapable in Frankenstein.

Justine was condemned for a murder she did not commit and lost her life because of her unproven innocence. She was not guilty for the murder of young William. Even though the monster’s hands were the ones who strangled away William’s life, is Frankenstein consequently guilty as well? He created the very monster that resulted in the death of his brother, Justine, and Clerval. Frankenstein, while rotting in jail for the murder of Clerval contemplates, “At one time I considered whether I should not declare myself guilty, and suffer the penalty of law, less innocent than poor Justine had been” (Shelley 184). Frankenstein compares himself to the pure Justine, considering him innocent. He says that “poor unhappy Justine, was as innocent as [him]” (Shelley 189). In my opinion, he has an equal amount of blood on his hands as the monster and unfairly equates his guilt with Justine’s.

However, Frankenstein did recognize that he indeed did play a part in the deaths of his loved ones. This guilt he felt after realizing what he had contributed to lead to his ceaseless search for the monster. He was determined to seek revenge for the monster’s crimes and to kill him, destroying the demon he designed.

When Frankenstein’s fight was terminated by death, his monster visited his coffin, asking for his forgiveness. He explained that “evil thenceforth became [his] good” and he, although he felt guilty, continued to kill to prove his point and get revenge on Frankenstein (Shelley 218). The creature realizes his guilt and contribution to the ultimate death of Frankenstein but also realizes that he is not the only ‘monster’ in the situation. He says, “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all human kind sinned against me?” (Shelley 219). The creature directly caused the deaths of the innocent people and Frankenstein played his part as well, but society is also guilty of driving them to this madness through pressures, judgments, and expectations. Though the peoples’ hands did not physically strangle the victims, guilt can be found in all.

  1. I think that this is a very good observation, and I agree that in many situations it is hard to blame only one person. Guilt can be intricate and complicated, and there isn’t always a clear answer of justice. This haziness of guilt can be viewed many times in society. For example, when a school shooting occurs people tend to blame the one who fired a gun. However, this is a messy situation because it is likely that the shooter was driven to do this through some sort of bullying or alienation. Shelley shows this same idea in her novel, when the wrongdoings of society can be attributed to the wrongdoings of individuals on both sides of the story.

  2. I think your blog posts hits on a lot of points of guilt in Frankenstein. Each action that occurs in this novel is not just the fault of one person, many people play into each action and the guilt can be blamed on various characters. I think you do a good job in showing how each of the characters had an effect on one another and all of them can be seen as guilty in one way.

  3. I agree that guilt is a dominate theme in the novel. Although both the monster and Frankenstein deserve to feel guilty, as they are as a pair responsible for the death of innocent people, I do not agree that humans as a race should be held responsible for the deaths. The humans that the monster encounters fear him and see him as a threat. Though they do not treat him rightly and let their prejudices dominate their decisions, this does not justify the monster’s killing innocent people. The monster deals with his anger through murder, and this is not the fault of the humans, even if they did treat him wrongly.

  4. I feel like you definitely hit all the right points with this post. I especially like the fact that you point out how Frankenstein compares himself to Justine, and as you said, feels he is as innocent as she is. I also agree that Frankenstein is every bit as responsible for all the deaths as the monster is, because not only did he create him, he also left him and forced him to become evil, as I said in my post last week. Guilt is definitely a huge theme in the novel and I think you did well bringing it to light.

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