Chapter 7

Synopsis of Volume 1 Chapter 7

Justine is tried, found guilty and condemned to death. At the insistence of a priest, she later admits to the crime, but confides in Victor and Elizabeth that she is innocent really. Justine is resigned to her fate, but Victor is full of guilt and anguish and regards himself as being responsible for William's death.

Commentary on Volume 1 Chapter 7

‘… I confessed, that I might obtain absolution … excommunication and hell fire': the situation in which Justine finds herself allows Mary Shelley to comment obliquely on the practices of the Roman Catholic church. Confession is vital for the absolution (forgiveness) of sins. Excommunication (expulsion from the Church) would mean that Justine would be denied the presence of a priest as she goes to her death, and would suffer the punishments of Hell. However, since her confession is a lie, she has committed a further sin for which she has not obtained forgiveness.

‘In an evil hour …': a reference to Paradise Lost by John Milton (see Literary context: The monster's reading).

‘So saying, her rash hand in evil hour
Forth reaching to the fruit, she pluck'd, she ate.' Book 9, lines 780-1

This refers to Genesis 3:6 when Eve, tempted by Satan, eats the fruit of the Forbidden Tree and loses her innocence, which leads to the Fall of humankind.

the never-dying worm: Mary Shelley here brings together three allusions:

  •  the first is to Mark 9:44 and refers to the sufferings of those sent to Hell
‘Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched'.
  • in Paradise Lost, Christ speaks of God condemning those who rebel against him
‘To chains of darkness, and th'undying Worm' (Book 6, line 739)
  • Byron, The Bride of Abydos 2, 645-6.

And, oh! That pang where more than madness lies!
The worm that will not sleep—and never dies.

The worm is also a reminder of the Fall, since Satan tempts Eve in the form of a serpent.

I bore a hell within me, which nothing could extinguish: a further reference to Frankenstein's sufferings, again referring to Satan in Paradise Lost (see also Literary context: The Monster's reading).

‘Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell'
Book 4, line 75
‘… the hot Hell that always in him burns,
Though in mid Heav'n, soon ended his delight'
Book 9, lines 467-8

Investigating Volume 1 Chapter 7
  • Think about Frankenstein's behaviour in this chapter
    • What might be the moral implications of his reluctance to tell anyone, including Elizabeth and Justine, about his suspicions about the real murderer?
  • Why do you think Mary Shelley uses the quotation ‘In an evil hour' from Paradise Lost in relation to Justine's false confession?
    • What does this suggest about Frankenstein's situation?
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