Bursting forth from the industrial revolution like Athena out of the head of Zeus (and both producing headaches for their progenitors), the proletariat is an undefinable group, and was even more so two hundred years ago when the concept of “factory workers” was new and Marxian theory had yet to be invented. People were once sharecroppers, growing their own food and buying their items from local craftsmen; now, they were assembly line workers, sewing together pieces of garments as their previous self-definitions unraveled, while the flourishing bourgeoisie lorded over them with what I always imagined to be accents like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOt62cT2teY

And while the fat cats toasted “to industry!” the proletariat suffered.

People like Mary Shelley, while not a factory worker herself, were acutely aware of the societal changes and class stratification that was occurring. While Shelley may not have written Frankenstein as an overtly Marxist text, the historical and socioeconomic milieu of the time still finds it’s way into the text. No one writes in a vacuum; surrounded by revolution, class turmoil, and the industrial revolution, her work was informed by this, and Warren Montag’s Marxist interpretation of Shelley’s work brings these influences to light.

Montag concludes his essay by stating that the Creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”, a sentiment that I agree with. The Creature is the inexplicable product of science, not Victor, just as the proletariat is the inexplicable product of industrialization. On page 391 of our text, Montag states that technological innovation will lead to “a new kind of servitude”. What he implies but doesn’t state is that a society governed by unbound scientific progress will stratify into an elite class of technocrats and a lower class of their workers. In the end, it is science that creates and enslaves the Creature, not Victor. Victor was merely a vessel for what would inevitably happen. My mind immediately jumped to the burgeoning technology industry of today — programmers, marketers, and math whizzes making billions of dollars in Silicon Valley through their scientific expertise. They seem to be enlightened, but they too subject workers in Chinese manufacturing plants to horrid conditions just as British textile mill overseers subjected their workers to long hours with little pay. For all their knowledge, it has not given them reason. Workers are still enslaved, obscured by geographic and cultural barriers in the same sense that the Creature is obscured by Frankenstein’s telling of the story. This is reflected at the end of Frankenstein, as even after Victor’s death, the Creature is still his slave, being condemned to a life of solitude and death among the polar ice. In this way, a Marxist reading of Frankenstein gives the text new life, and makes it incredibly relevant to our time.

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