Frankenstein presents the theories of guilt and blame as interconnecting and interdependent theories. How one feels about guilt is deeply connected to how one feels about blame. From what we have read so far, the characters are quick to attribute guilt to themselves, but unwilling to place blame. The language used to blame one’s self, to take on guilt, is very direct.
When Elizabeth realizes that William has been murdered presumably for an expensive accessory that she allowed him to wear, she says, “O God! I have murdered my darling child!” (72). She directly brings blame upon herself, not blaming, instead, the person or thing which actually committed the murder. Her guilt is causal, not actual. She herself did not strangle William, but she blames an action she performed, or allowed, as it were, as the cause, or impetus of the murderous deed.
When Victor discusses the fate of Justine at the trial, Shelley writes “now all was to be obliterated in an ignominious fate; and I the cause!” (83). Victor presumes that his monster is the one who has committed the murder and thus framed Justine, but he calls himself guilty. He does not blame the monster, but himself, although he says that he had “endowed [the monster] with the will and power to effect purposes of horror, such as the deed which he had now done” (77). So, by this admission, should not the blame be on the monster himself, not the one who created him?
This, then, leads to the theory of misplaced guilt and blame. If guilt and blame are two sides of one coin, the misplacing of guilt or blame results in the misplacing of the other. When Justine is falsely blamed for murdering William, she falsely places blame on herself by confessing. Elizabeth and Victor visit the condemned in jail and while she proclaims that she is ready to die in her innocence, Victor thinks “I, the true murderer, felt the never-dying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation” (91-92). All of this, both guilt and blame, is misplaced, for it should all be upon the monster himself. Once Frankenstein bestowed life upon the creature, and left him to his own devices, he became guiltless of any crimes committed by the latter.
At the beginning of the monster’s tale, does he not give an account of his ignorance of life and speech and morals? Does this not, then, absolve Frankenstein of any responsibility for the monster’s presumed crimes?
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Dover Publication, Inc, 2009. Print.