This is my first read through of Frankenstein and I think not knowing the plot gives allows me to consider ideas that may be discarded by knowing the storyline beforehand. This was the case when I was reading through the end of Volume I and the reader finds out that William was killed and Justine Moritz was framed for his murder, yet Frankenstein is convinced that his monster was culpable. I’ve been listening to Serial recently and approaching this section of the novel, I became increasingly aware of the motives and perceptions of the characters. I questioned Frankenstein’s reliability as a narrator as well as his position in the situation; being the brother of the diseased, as well as engulfed with fear/rage, it’s not out of the question that his perspective is biased. I also questioned Justine’s motives; the evidence points to her as the culprit, so does that mean she was hiding her intentions this whole time?
We find out in Volume II that it was actually the monster that killed William and planted the miniature on Justine to evade the blame. But still, let’s entertain the idea of Justine as the murderer and consider the implications. If Justine was guilty, that would indicate that for some time, she had been lying about her intentions; her actions, personality, and conversations masked her true emotions. The cause of her malicious motives, I do not know; perhaps it came from spending a period of time with her cruel mother. Regardless, Justine’s hypothetical detachment from her adopted family reminds me of Harraway’s cyborg identity, in which the individual has a fluid idea of family. Even though the Frankenstein’s have treated Justine with nothing but kindness, that doesn’t necessarily entitle them of receiving Justine’s acceptance, just as how being related to someone by blood doesn’t result in a bond. While we do envision Frankenstein’s household as cordial, I think there’s more going on below the surface; in fact, we see a slight treachery in the family, where one of the other servants finds the miniature in Justine’s clothes and rats her out. In this way, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that there could have been some friction within the family that’s not mentioned. However, this is all hypothetical and Justine didn’t do it, but the fact that Shelley would allow the reader to at least consider it is indicative of her criticism of the family unit.
That hypothetical is just one comment on family dynamics and Shelley continues to explore more ideas of family throughout the novel, some of which may be the topic of my subsequent posts.