Chapter VIII

WE PASSED A FEW sad hours, until eleven o’clock, when the trial was to commence. My father and the rest of the family being obliged to attend as witnesses, I accompanied them to the court. During the whole of this wretched mockery of justice I suffered living torture. It was to be decided, whether the result of my curiosity and lawless devices would cause the death of two of my fellow-beings: one a smiling babe, full of innocence and joy; the other far more dreadfully murdered, with every aggravation of infamy that could make the murder memorable in horror. Justine also was a girl of merit, and possessed qualities which promised to render her life happy: now all was to be obliterated in an ignominious grave; and I the cause! A thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine; but I was absent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman, and would not have exculpated her who suffered through me.

The appearance of Justine was calm. She was dressed in mourning; and her countenance, always engaging, was rendered, by the solemnity of her feelings, exquisitely beautiful. Yet she appeared confident in innocence, and did not tremble, although gazed on and execrated by thousands; for all the kindness which her beauty might otherwise have excited, was obliterated in the minds of the spectators by the imagination of the enormity she was supposed to have committed. She was tranquil, yet her tranquillity was evidently constrained; and as her confusion had before been adduced as a proof of her guilt, she worked up her mind to an appearance of courage. When she entered the court, she threw her eyes round it, and quickly discovered where we were seated. A tear seemed to dim her eye when she saw us; but she quickly recovered herself, and a look of sorrowful affection seemed to attest her utter guiltlessness.

The trial began; and, after the advocate against her had stated the charge, several witnesses were called. Several strange facts combined against her, which might have staggered any one who had not such proof of her innocence as I had. She had been out the whole of the night on which the murder had been committed, and towards morning had been perceived by a market-woman not far from the spot where the body of the murdered child had been afterwards found. The woman asked her what she did there; but she looked very strangely, and only returned a confused and unintelligible answer. She returned to the house about eight o’clock; and when one inquired where she had passed the night, she replied that she had been looking for the child and demanded earnestly if anything had been heard concerning him. When shown the body, she fell into violent hysterics, and kept her bed for several days. The picture was then produced, which the servant had found in her pocket; and when Elizabeth, in a faltering voice, proved that it was the same which, an hour before the child had been missed, she had placed round his neck, a murmur of horror and indignation filled the court.

Justine was called on for her defence. As the trial had proceeded, her countenance had altered. Surprise, horror, and misery were strongly expressed. Sometimes she struggled with her tears; but, when she was desired to plead, she collected her powers, and spoke, in an audible, although variable voice.

“God knows,” she said, “how entirely I am innocent. But I do not pretend that my protestations should acquit me: I rest my innocence on a plain and simple explanation of the facts which have been adduced against me; and I hope the character I have always borne will incline my judges to a favourable interpretation, where any circumstance appears doubtful or suspicious.”

She then related that, by the permission of Elizabeth, she had passed the evening of the night on which the murder had been committed at the house of an aunt at Chêne, a village situated at about a league from Geneva. On her return, at about nine o’clock, she met a man, who asked her if she had seen anything of the child who was lost. She was alarmed by this account, and passed several hours in looking for him, when the gates of Geneva were shut, and she was forced to remain several hours of the night in a barn belonging to a cottage, being unwilling to call up the inhabitants, to whom she was well known. Most of the night she spent here watching; towards morning she believed that she slept for a few minutes; some steps disturbed her, and she awoke. It was dawn, and she quitted her asylum, that she might again endeavour to find my brother. If she had gone near the spot where his body lay, it was without her knowledge. That she had been bewildered when questioned by the market-woman was not surprising, since she had passed a sleepless night, and the fate of poor William was yet uncertain. Concerning the picture she could give no account.

“I know,” continued the unhappy victim, “how heavily and fatally this one circumstance weighs against me, but I have no power of explaining it; and when I have expressed my utter ignorance, I am only left to conjecture concerning the probabilities by which it might have been placed in my pocket. But here also I am checked. I believe that I have no enemy on earth, and none surely would have been so wicked as to destroy me wantonly. Did the murderer place it there? I know of no opportunity afforded him for so doing; or, if I had, why should he have stolen the jewel, to part with it again so soon?

“I commit my cause to the justice of my judges, yet I see no room for hope. I beg permission to have a few witnesses examined concerning my character; and if their testimony shall not overweigh my supposed guilt, I must be condemned, although I would pledge my salvation on my innocence.”

Several witnesses were called, who had known her for many years, and they spoke well of her; but fear and hatred of the crime of which they supposed her guilty rendered them timorous, and unwilling to come forward. Elizabeth saw even this last resource, her excellent dispositions and irreproachable conduct, about to fail the accused, when, although violently agitated, she desired permission to address the court.

“I am,” said she, “the cousin of the unhappy child who was murdered, or rather his sister, for I was educated by, and have lived with his parents ever since and even long before, his birth. It may, therefore, be judged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion; but when I see a fellow-creature about to perish through the cowardice of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I know of her character. I am well acquainted with the accused. I have lived in the same house with her, at one time for five and at another for nearly two years. During all that period she appeared to me the most amiable and benevolent of human creatures. She nursed Madame Frankenstein, my aunt, in her last illness, with the greatest affection and care; and afterwards attended her own mother during a tedious illness, in a manner that excited the admiration of all who knew her; after which she again lived in my uncle's house, where she was beloved by all the family. She was warmly attached to the child who is now dead, and acted towards him like a most affectionate mother. For my own part, I do not hesitate to say, that, notwithstanding all the evidence produced against her, I believe and rely on her perfect innocence. She had no temptation for such an action: as to the bauble on which the chief proof rests, if she had earnestly desired it, I should have willingly given it to her; so much do I esteem and value her.”

A murmur of approbation followed Elizabeth's simple and powerful appeal; but it was excited by her generous interference, and not in favour of poor Justine, on whom the public indignation was turned with renewed violence, charging her with the blackest ingratitude. She herself wept as Elizabeth spoke, but she did not answer. My own agitation and anguish was extreme during the whole trial. I believed in her innocence; I knew it. Could the dæmon, who had (I did not for a minute doubt) murdered my brother, also in his hellish sport have betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy? I could not sustain the horror of my situation; and when I perceived that the popular voice, and the countenances of the judges, had already condemned my unhappy victim, I rushed out of the court in agony. The tortures of the accused did not equal mine; she was sustained by innocence, but the fangs of remorse tore my bosom, and would not forgo their hold.

I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness. In the morning I went to the court; my lips and throat were parched. I dared not ask the fatal question; but I was known, and the officer guessed the cause of my visit. The ballots had been thrown; they were all black, and Justine was condemned.

I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt. I had before experienced sensations of horror; and I have endeavoured to bestow upon them adequate expressions, but words cannot convey an idea of the heart-sickening despair that I then endured. The person to whom I addressed myself added, that Justine had already confessed her guilt. “That evidence,” he observed, “was hardly required in so glaring a case, but I am glad of it; and, indeed, none of our judges like to condemn a criminal upon circumstantial evidence, be it ever so decisive.”

This was strange and unexpected intelligence; what could it mean? Had my eyes deceived me? and was I really as mad as the whole world would believe me to be, if I disclosed the object of my suspicions? I hastened to return home, and Elizabeth eagerly demanded the result.

“My cousin,” replied I, “it is decided as you may have expected; all judges had rather that ten innocent should suffer, than that one guilty should escape. But she has confessed.”

This was a dire blow to poor Elizabeth, who had relied with firmness upon Justine's innocence. “Alas!” said she, “how shall I ever again believe in human goodness? Justine, whom I loved and esteemed as my sister, how could she put on those smiles of innocence only to betray? her mild eyes seemed incapable of any severity or guile, and yet she has committed a murder.”

Soon after we heard that the poor victim had expressed a desire to see my cousin. My father wished her not to go; but said, that he left it to her own judgment and feelings to decide. “Yes,” said Elizabeth, “I will go, although she is guilty; and you, Victor, shall accompany me: I cannot go alone.” The idea of this visit was torture to me, yet I could not refuse.

We entered the gloomy prison-chamber and beheld Justine sitting on some straw at the farther end; her hands were manacled, and her head rested on her knees. She rose on seeing us enter; and when we were left alone with her, she threw herself at the feet of Elizabeth, weeping bitterly. My cousin wept also.

“Oh, Justine!” said she. “why did you rob me of my last consolation? I relied on your innocence; and although I was then very wretched, I was not so miserable as I am now.”

“And do you also believe that I am so very, very wicked? Do you also join with my enemies to crush me, to condemn me as a murderer?” Her voice was suffocated with sobs.

“Rise, my poor girl,” said Elizabeth, “why do you kneel, if you are innocent? I am not one of your enemies; I believed you guiltless, notwithstanding every evidence, until I heard that you had yourself declared your guilt. That report, you say, is false; and be assured, dear Justine, that nothing can shake my confidence in you for a moment, but your own confession.”

“I did confess; but I confessed a lie. I confessed, that I might obtain absolution; but now that falsehood lies heavier at my heart than all my other sins. The God of heaven forgive me! Ever since I was condemned, my confessor has besieged me; he threatened and menaced, until I almost began to think that I was the monster that he said I was. He threatened excommunication and hell fire in my last moments, if I continued obdurate. Dear lady, I had none to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evil hour I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable.”

She paused, weeping, and then continued—“I thought with horror, my sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed aunt had so highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable of a crime which none but the devil himself could have perpetrated. Dear William! dearest blessed child! I soon shall see you again in heaven, where we shall all be happy; and that consoles me, going as I am to suffer ignominy and death.”

“Oh, Justine! forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you. Why did you confess? But do not mourn, dear girl. Do not fear. I will proclaim, I will prove your innocence. I will melt the stony hearts of your enemies by my tears and prayers. You shall not die!—You, my playfellow, my companion, my sister, perish on the scaffold! No! no! I never could survive so horrible a misfortune.”

Justine shook her head mournfully. “I do not fear to die,” she said; “that pang is past. God raises my weakness, and gives me courage to endure the worst. I leave a sad and bitter world; and if you remember me, and think of me as of one unjustly condemned, I am resigned to the fate awaiting me. Learn from me, dear lady, to submit in patience to the will of Heaven!”

During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison-room, where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair! Who dared talk of that? The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not, as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth, and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. When she saw who it was, she approached me, and said, “Dear sir, you are very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am guilty?”

I could not answer. “No, Justine,” said Elizabeth; “he is more convinced of your innocence than I was; for even when he heard that you had confessed, he did not credit it.”

“I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitude towards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affection of others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half my misfortune; and I feel as if I could die in peace, now that my innocence is acknowledged by you, dear lady, and your cousin.”

Thus the poor sufferer tried to comfort others and herself. She indeed gained the resignation she desired. But I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation. Elizabeth also wept, and was unhappy; but her's also was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides but cannot tarnish its brightness. Anguish and despair had penetrated into the core of my heart; I bore a hell within me, which nothing could extinguish. We stayed several hours with Justine; and it was with great difficulty that Elizabeth could tear herself away. “I wish,” cried she, “that I were to die with you; I cannot live in this world of misery.”

Justine assumed an air of cheerfulness, while she with difficulty repressed her bitter tears. She embraced Elizabeth, and said in a voice of half-suppressed emotion, “Farewell, sweet lady, dearest Elizabeth, my beloved and only friend; may heaven, in its bounty, bless and preserve you; may this be the last misfortune that you will ever suffer! Live, and be happy, and make others so.”

And on the morrow Justine died. Elizabeth's heart-rending eloquence failed to move the judges from their settled conviction in the criminality of the saintly sufferer. My passionate and indignant appeals were lost upon them. And when I received their cold answers, and heard the harsh, unfeeling reasoning of these men, my purposed avowal died away on my lips. Thus I might proclaim myself a madman, but not revoke the sentence passed upon my wretched victim. She perished on the scaffold as a murderess!

From the tortures of my own heart, I turned to contemplate the deep and voiceless grief of my Elizabeth. This also was my doing! And my father's woe, and the desolation of that late so smiling home—all was the work of my thrice-accursed hands! Ye weep, unhappy ones; but these are not your last tears! Again shall you raise the funeral wail, and the sound of your lamentations shall again and again be heard! Frankenstein, your son, your kinsman, your early, much-loved friend; he who would spend each vital drop of blood for your sakes—who has no thought nor sense of joy, except as it is mirrored also in your dear countenances—who would fill the air with blessings, and spend his life in serving you—he bids you weep—to shed countless tears; happy beyond his hopes, if thus inexorable fate be satisfied, and if the destruction pause before the peace of the grave have succeeded to your sad torments!

Thus spoke my prophetic soul, as, torn by remorse, horror, and despair, I beheld those I loved spend vain sorrow upon the graves of William and Justine, the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts.


  1. These words foreshadow the coming tragedies throughout the rest of the novel. Though Justine and William are the first innocents dead at the hands of both Frankenstein and his creature, they will not be the last. Notice also how Frankenstein subtly shifts blame from himself to his creature—his “unhallowed art”—who he brought to life through dark processes. The word choice of “unhallowed,” meaning “unholy” or “profane,” shows that Frankenstein thinks of his creature in hellish terms.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Notice how Frankenstein draws a parallel between his anguish and Justine’s “misery.” According to him, both he and Justine suffer, but because Justine is innocent of any wrongdoing, her suffering is less than his. He describes Justine’s innocence as the moon, covered by a passing cloud, which represents the trial’s guilty verdict. Though Justine’s innocence is momentarily unseen, it is still present.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. This phrasing is likely an allusion to the biblical gospels, in which sinners react to their final judgments by painfully grinding their teeth. Though Victor has not yet been fully punished for his arrogance, one part of his sentence has already been handed down: the death of the innocent Justine.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Ignominy means “public shame or disgrace.” Justine faces not only the judgment of God, but also the condemnation of society as a whole. Frankenstein, too, is wary of telling the public how William really died, due to his fear of being labeled “mad.”

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Close to the end of her life, Justine finds herself alone, without allies, and isolated from society and family, which is the case for many of the novel’s characters before their deaths. All she has left is her faith in God, so the threat of damnation is what leads her to confess. She’d rather confess to a crime she didn’t commit than face divine judgment for that crime.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Though Justine is the one accused of murder and facing capital punishment, Frankenstein’s self-centeredness constantly leads him to consider just how terrible he feels for witnessing—and indirectly causing—the whole set of circumstances. Notice how he says “my” situation, not “her” nor “our” situation.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The adjective “timorous,” from the same root as the word “timid,” means “lacking in confidence due to fear.” Because of the gravity of Justine’s supposed crime, friends who have known her for years are unwilling to testify on her behalf—one of the many factors that leads to her demise.

    — Kim, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The term “evil hour,” or witching hour, refers to the hour in which creatures like witches, ghosts, and demons appear and are at their most powerful. Based on stories and superstitions, this hour usually occurs around midnight, or sometimes, 2:00 AM.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. While this description can be read as showing how self absorbed Victor is, it also serves to emphasize how Victor is overwhelmed by guilt since he claims Justine does not feel the great misery that he does.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Once again, we witness Justine’s strong spiritual faith, which defeats her fear of death. Her acknowledgment of the world being a sad and bitter place runs parallel with the Christian belief that we live in a broken world.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. Victor describes his guilt as a set of fangs that are tearing up his heart, which emphasizes just how ashamed and terrible he feels. However, his belief that Justine’s emotional tortures do not measure up to his pain reveals how self-centered and unsympathetic he is.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Victor’s thought reveals his self-centered disposition, which is addressed multiple times within this chapter. While Justine is being condemned for a crime that he is indirectly responsible for, Victor is selfishly thinking about how horrible his own situation is.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. Elizabeth’s words reflect her bold and just character. She is unafraid to not only call out the problem in the situation but also to state the problems of others, claiming the other supporters of Justine to be fake and cowardly friends.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. We begin to see how Justine is one of the most spiritually faithful characters portrayed in the story. Her statement reflects her trust in God and how she is ready to accept the false accusation in the eyes of humanity if she ends up having to do so.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. It is ridiculous how Victor is more afraid of sounding like a madman for declaring the truth than letting the innocent and lovable Justine, who is considered a family member, die for his mistake. Victor’s fear reflects his narcissism, which fuels his inner cowardice.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Note that in addition to blaming himself for both murders, Victor also blames himself for something the equates with that kind of crime:  causing his dear Elizabeth to fall into despair and sadness.  Yet another indirect crime for Victor.

    — Noelle Thompson
  17. Note the internal torture Victor is experiencing here while watching the conversation between the two women and, in fact, the two confidants.

    — Noelle Thompson
  18. Here lies the truth of the matter: Justine has given a false confession under duress.  She thought she could remain in the Church and atone for her "sin." But no, she is instead condemned to death under the "justice" system.

    — Noelle Thompson
  19. Note that Elizabeth herself testifies to Justine's innocence with no result.  It is Elizabeth who is determined to go to the jail and Victor accompanies her.

    — Noelle Thompson
  20. The "several strange facts" mentioned here are her "confused and unintelligible answer" to the fact that she was seen near where William's body lay and her sudden and unexplainable procurement of the picture (and perhaps the whole locket?) that was taken from William's neck either before or after he died by the culprit.

    — Noelle Thompson
  21. It in interesting to note two things (even in these very few words here).  First, notice that the true victim here is Justine and that Victor is calling this a "wretched mockery of justice."  The similarity of name is probably not an accident.  Second, notice that Victor is finally succumbing to the fact that he is going through "living torture."  Why?  Because Victor himself has created the creature and now (or perhaps I should say by the end of the chapter) two people will have died as a direct result of Victor's actions:  William and Justine.

    — Noelle Thompson
  22. Readers wonder (and some scholars suggest) if the name “Justine” is significant in light of the fact that the character of Justine is not given proper justice through the system that is in place. And, of course, Victor is mentally tortured by all of the proceedings. It is especially important to note that Justine is very truthful about her sadness in regards to little William’s death. It is through this sadness and mourning that Justine became a part of the investigation in the first place. It is also interesting to note that Justine is so very sure of the outcome of the justice system that she is led directly into a false confession, saying that the expected atonement and forgiveness. Probably the most important thing to note in this chapter is Victor’s use of wording to speak of his tortured soul. Victor now describes the creature as a “demon” who murdered his little brother through “hellish sport” and describes his own thoughts as “horrid anguish” that is “possessing” him. He connects both himself and the creature for one of the first times saying that they both have “betrayed the innocent to death and ignominy.” And after Justine dies, Victor visits the graves: one for his little brother William and one for his trusted servant Justine. Both people have been murdered due to Victor’s own indirect doing and directly through the creature that Victor himself has created.

    — Noelle Thompson
  23. The plot of this chapter includes the complete trial of Justine Moritz, the servant girl of the Frankenstein household who was always held in such high esteem, but who was eventually unjustly accused in little William’s death by strangulation. Despite being wronged so gravely, Justine is incredibly calm during the entire trial, answering all of the questions both thoroughly and truthfully. At one point, Elizabeth takes the stand and gives a spectacular defense of Justine. Regardless of all these things, Justine is found guilty and is sentenced to die by hanging on the very next day. Why? Well, the most aggravating factor in the investigation is that the locket belonging to Victor’s (and Elizabeth’s) mother was found in Justine’s pocket after she had spent her previous night in a random barn waiting for the city gates to open (much like Victor had to wait before arriving home). Victor is watching the trial and stands in shock about all that is going on; however, he does nothing to stop the proceedings even though he knows they are unjust and untrue. In fact, Victor knows that it was most likely his own creature creation that murdered his little brother William. After the trial where Justine is found guilty, Victor visits Justine in jail. There he find out that Justine had been questioned too harshly apart from the trial and had, by mistake, implicated herself due to the interrogation. Justine mistakenly thought that if she confessed, she wouldn’t be thrown out of the church or be killed by the death penalty. She thought that there may be such thing as atonement and forgiveness. This false confession (and the locket) led directly to her condemnation. Still, Justine moves closer and closer to her own death without any fear, inspiring Victor to move to the closeness of his own truth in the matter. After the visit from Victor, Justine is, in fact, led to her death.

    — Noelle Thompson