I must admit that it has been years since I last read this tale, so it was good to get round to re-reading it once again with this edition. The writing of this, which is the extended version that de Sade wrote of his original novella, and Juliette, meant that de Sade was once again imprisoned. Personally I always classify de Sade's writing into three catergories, extreme, moderate and mainstream (which are usually short stories). This tale I would place in moderate.
Justine does have a subtitle, The Misfortunes of Virtue, and that is indeed what the whole story is about. Brought up as a devout Catholic Justine wishes to always do the good and right thing, and values her chastity. But in a pre-Revolutionary world, where the Church is corrupt and the rich and powerful can get away more or less with anything, she finds that her ideas of right living aren't others. Witnessing flagellation, incest, gay sex and other crimes, both sexual and of a more material type, Justine finds herself falsely accused of murders and theft. But when Justine takes refuge in a monastery can she still keep hold of her virginity, or will others prove stronger?
As with most of de Sade's writings he takes things to the extreme to get a point over, so as well as this being a black comedy it also contains some of his thoughts and ideas of politics and philosophy. This is also a biting satire on the Catholic Church.