Category: Labor, Alienation, and (re)production (9/19)


The bourgeois character of Frankenstein’s monster is identifiable in his being subjected as a refuge of industrial, working class. The entirety of Warren Montag’s essay emphasizes the environmental issues with which Mary Shelley is analyzing in her embodiment of the melodramatic hero known as the beast-like, Frankenstein’s monster. Science itself becomes subject to the enlightenment-era novel which Shelley attributes and personifies via the pathos of an anti-hero in her portrayal of an oppressed, lower class. Montag rightly disagrees with Gothic tradition. “The very logic of capitalism has produced the means of its own destruction: the industrial working class,” (473). Destruction and chaos throughout the novel subject the monster’s rationalizations and rebelling against bourgeoisie (Walton). Walton, and not Frankenstein himself, achieves symbolism of the upper-elite, as it is Walton, and other secondary characters- for example Clerval, whom assumes narratorial authority over Frankenstein’s fable. Walton ultimately appropriates forms of both Frankenstein and his monster’s mourning if we accept the premise of public instances of mourning, a stressor on the human body, as a form of contesting labor conditions. The problem of a Marxist Literary criticism in Frankenstein further develops in the understanding of alienated (groups of) individuals.

According to Montag, the bourgeoisie are unable to identify with an irrational class. Montag continues to quote Goldner, claiming that “the monster is a factitious totality assembled from (the parts of) a multitude of different individuals (Goldner),” (473). Montag’s Marxist criticism suggests an ironic return to images of a fragmented (human) nature, and rather than ascribe to living individuals the responsibility that comes with recognizing interiority- the monster’s cries for justice- are ignored until a member of the excluded bourgeoisie is allowed expressivity. “I did not satisfy my own desires,” (Shelley 197) is an echo of a monster damned from conception to exist in an environment that would destroy it. Gothic tradition contests the expressions of public protest which appeal to faculties of reason for the sake of legitimacy. Frankenstein’s monster roams through ice caps in the North Pole, the mountains of Geneva, and across oceans seeking refuge from the industrial class. The only watchers of the story, Walton and Frankenstein, are thus incorporated into the production of Frankenstein’s monster for cultivating the critique which primarily identifies with the desires of the bourgeoisie, which Montag observes in the overlooking of proletariat struggle. Montag perhaps relies on logic too much- not even Frankenstein’s monster was so deluded by Cartesian means of worldly being.
-Bradley Dexter Christian

by Steven Gonzalez

In “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein by Warren Montag, Montag draws parallels from the French and English Revolution to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  One of the most compelling comparisons I found in Montag’s essay is the comparison of the “new elites” having to mobilize the “plebian” masses in the attempt to overthrow absolutist monarchies and Victor Frankenstein’s creation of the creature in the novel. Eventually, Montag comes to the conclusion that “Frankenstein’s creation, is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability.” Ultimately, I agree with Montag’s Marxist reading of the novel as throughout the novel that there are undeniable similarities between Frankenstein’s monster and the proletariat.

Frankenstein’s monsters’ similarity to the proletariat and their “unrepresentability” is best depicted in the passage on page 109 beginning with ” I learned that…” and ending with “… all men fled and whom all men disowned?” Initially, the monster describes the possessions that humans find “most esteemed” and in the following sentence discusses how without either of the two possessions he describes (high unsullied descent and riches) men are seen as a “vagabond or slave, doomed to waste his powers for the profits of the chosen few!”(Shelley 109). This statement clearly carries an allusion to the proletariat through the lack of socio-economic status and the arduous and forever-lasting journey to obtain it; The exclamation point following the last statement as well as the choice of words of like vagabond and slave carry some sort of resentful tone further showing the monster’s self-identification with the proletariat. In the following sentence, the monster depicts himself as being innocent and ignorant creating a sort of  sympathetic mood much like one would expect the proletariat would do stating, “Of my creation and creator I was absolutely ignorant, I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property.”(Shelley 109). Then, the monster uses loaded words associated self-hatred and pity mirroring the mindset of people with nothing to lose like the proletariat often experience; the phrases the monster used to describe himself being ” hideously deformed”, “loathsome”, and ” I was not even the same nature of man.”Next, is perhaps the most significant line relating to Warren Montag’s argument of the creature representing the proletariat’s unrepresentability in the novel; After describing himself as this poor, ignorant, disfigured creature and being less than man, he notices, “When I looked around I saw and heard of none like me.”(Shelley 109). Why would Shelley intentionally exclude peasants and people who would be classified as proletariats from the novel? Is it perhaps to exemplify the incongruence of proletariats in a society ruled by the new elites? Warren Montag seems to think so, So I ask, why would Mary Shelley have the creature acknowledge that omission of the proletariat class in this paragraph? Finally, the paragraph ends with the creature’s use of a rhetorical question to emphasize his low self-worth, questioning, ” Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth, from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”(Shelley 109). This question is peculiar because it not only feels like it is a questioning of the creature’s self-worth but it almost seems as if this portrays the struggle between the upper and lower classes by mirroring  the upper class’ perspective of the proletariats thinking of them as simply “a blot upon the earth.”

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The proletariat was originally meant to rise up and create a new world order that took the power away from the bourgeoisie. This theory never proved true however because the proletarians would buy into the same traps of capitalism that the burgeoisie did. In this way the proletariat did not quite represent itself the way it was meant to. Montag’s conclusion that Frankenstein’s Creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480) is a conclusion that I agree with.

The reason I agree with this conclusion is because throughout the novel there is a constant sense that the Creature is not meant to be viewed as an equal. It is monstrous, unnatural, and wrong for the entirety of its existence in the eyes of its creator. A creator who cannot handle what he has created and who prefers to live oblivious to his “monster.” Within the text there is one example that stood out to me of this inability to exist together equally. On page 93 there is an exchange between Victor and the Creature that exemplifies exactly what I mean:

“Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall.”

“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favorable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinder to me than your fellow-beings. If the multitude of mankind knew of my existence, they would do as you do, and arm themselves for my destruction. Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great, that not only you and your family, but thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me; and then, if you can, and it you will, destroy the work of your hands.”

There is a lot to unpack from this quote but let us focus on some of the things the Creature tells Victor about being a creation. Much like the proletariat is a creation that got out of hand for the new emerging elite so did the Creature get too out of hand for Victor. The Creature is aware of this and goes further to say that Victor is the one who can do something about him being so out of hand, that “it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great” because as the creator of the monster Victor is the one with the ultimate power to stop him. Much in the same way that the newly emerging elite should have been able to stop their creation: the working class. Yet both creators were unable to take control back from what they had created.

Here the tension is obvious between Victor and the Creature, it is quite clear that they are “enemies” and yet the Creature is imploring to be heard before he is judged even further. It again comes back to the disconnect between the working class and the new elite of the time. The desire to be represented and heard being ignored and pushed aside must certainly caused those oppressed people to rise up to be at least acknowledged. The Creature is quite a good symbol of this aspect of the working class. Throughout this passage the motif of justice is recurring and in conjunction with words like “goodness,” “benevolent,” and “compassion” almost makes it seem like there is a possibility for a positive outcome. However, Victor never interjects with any semblance of possibly changing his mind when the Creature speaks. Which suggests that Victor will not acknowledge his creation and will not forgive or pass fair judgement on his creation. There is no real justice in this despite there being an attempt of it within the passage.

The last thing I will focus on is the narrative voice and the style of the passage. This is a dialogue between Victor and the Creature told from Victor’s perspective. Victor’s feelings no doubt affect how the Creature comes across to the reader. The bitterness on Victor’s part and the almost pitiful pleading on the Creature’s part are conveyed in the style of the passage and in the words themselves. As this is a retelling of the conversation from Victor, it could be entirely possible that the Creature was not as pitiful as Victor likes to see him as. Perhaps the Creature was more angry and intent on getting what he wanted from this moment but Victor retells it so it does not seem that way.

Ultimately the Creature is symbolic of the “unrepresentability” of the proletariat because he is a prime example of a creation that went wrong and could never be viewed as more than a huge mistake. A mistake that should be forgotten and not put at the forefront for being so monstrous and unlikable in the eyes of its creator.

 

By Diana Lara

 

Following the completion of my reading of Montag’s essay, I realized there are various interesting ideas to be illustrated or expressed differently. The main example of this would be the thought of the monster being compared to the working class and Victor to the middle-class capitalists. A reason why it might be suggested that the monster could possibly be compared to the working class is that he is outcasted and forgotten. It can also be suggested that the monster is lost in the midst of a capitalist society, which again would allow the idea of the monster representing the working class to flourish.

While I am in agreement with the comparison that Montag has made, I feel as if there is more to understand about Victor when comparing him to middle-class capitalism. For example, in the novel, he gives off a sense of being majorly ambitious about his ideas and what he desires to accomplish. Essentially he suggests that his creation could potentially be a scientific breakthrough or a scientific development that would enhance the common life exponentially. However, this is not the case his creation ends up being the complete opposite of what he had envisioned. It can be inferred that the creature being rejected by Victor after the occurrences, is a way of describing the alienation of labor because there is a sense of a divide or severance between him and the creature. Despite this, it can also be suggested that Victor at some points resembles the working class because he eventually does face the same challenges and disparities that the creature, who symbolized the working class, was facing.

In addition to this, utilizing Montag’s perspective we can assume that Victor’s creation embodies the characteristics of what a capitalist system or society would cause, which is the process of social classes inevitably becoming divided. Similar to how the creature had harmful outburst after being outcasted and ignored by society if the growing problem of the working class being mistreated and shut down continues, similar if not worse outburst could come from the working class. In other words, a revolution could commence similar to the way the creature in this novel revolted against the oppression of social norms created by those around the creature or as Montag would prefer, the capitalistic middle class.

– Daniel Olmos

Bianca Lopez Munoz

As we were introduced to Victor at the beginning of Frankenstein, we learn that he is Genevese and that his family is, “one of the most distinguished in that republic” and that his ancestors, “had been for many years counsellors and syndics” (39). Not only that but Victor also states that, “No human being could have passed a happier childhod than myself” (44). In other words, Victor grew up in a very well off home, was raised by kind parents, and members of his family have a history of being government officials. This character lived a pretty comfortable, undemanding, and privilaged life up until he created the creature. Victor’s background allows us to interpret his character as the representation of the bourgoisie, the well off middle class in society. In Montag’s essay, he reminds us that it was this bourgoisie middle class that “conjured up a monster that once unleased, could not be controlled” (471), the monster being the French and English Revolutions led by the bourgoisie but comprised mostly of the proletariat class. Similarly, Victor conjured up an uncontrollable ‘monster’ as well. But I don’t believe this interpretation stays consistent throughout the novel. Victor starts out as a sort of representation of the bourgoisie but after the his creation and towards the end of the novel he seems to become more part of the proletariat, the working class. As the burgoisie did, Victor becomes fearful of the monster he created. When the creature demands that Victor create a partner for him, Victor obliges out of fear. The creature’s demands are similar to that of the proletariat class, in that during the revolution, the people sought justice and fairness that according to Montag their “innumerable demands went far beyond what was rational or even ‘just’ (according to the norms of middle -class revolutionaries)” (471). In Victor’s eyes, creating yet another monster that could possible add on to his torment was not rational or just to him, but to the creature, having experienced such isolation, saw these requests as ‘just’. The creature also overthrows his ‘master’. After Victor destroys the second creation, the creature calls Victor a slave and tells him, “you are my creator, but I am your master;––obey!”(146). The creature becomes like the anarchists of the revolutions! 

For the most part, I agree with Warren Montag’s concluding statements in his essay, “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A marxist Reading of Frankenstein”. Montag concludes that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability. Though in my eyes, the creature does represent the proletariat, not in that it is a ‘working class’ but that it’s an unatural mass created by some higher authority, made up of different individuals (literally) and that it itches for change and the overall betterment of its life. The creature tells Victor, “Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me, and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands” (94). This is the creature’s attempt to have his creator listen to him. The creation craves the attention and demands that his perspective and struggles be heard much like the proletariat to the bourgoisie. But according to Montag, the creature represents the unrepresentability of the proletariat. This mass of people, the working class, the peasants and the slaves all want their lives to be generally improved and they attempt this through the authority of a bourgoisie leader/figurehead. But that bourgoisie individual and the individuals of that same class have their own agenda to push that would still of course benefit them in some way, I personally doubt they would support a revolution that didn’t in some way give them more power or authority. Because of the different agendas and degree of change these two different classes demand, the unrepresentability of the politariat is that their voice/opinions may have to be approved and supported by bourgoisie authority which is the opposite of what they demand because I get the vibe that they know what they want and they want it now! For their demands to have to agree with anothers agenda seems counterproductive to the movement they are part of and the change they wanted to see.

By Maya Carranza

While reading Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein”, I came to the conclusion that he was correct for calling Frankenstein a middle class, but was wrong for calling the monster a proletariat. Perhaps, because of Victor’s selfish and ambitious ways the monster was created with the intention to be a proletariat or a worker, which can be illustrated when Victors states, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” (57). On the other hand,  the monster was abandoned by his creator, was on his own and never ended up working for anybody. However, I did agree with Montag when he says the creature is “not so much a sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”. This made sense to me because even though the monster never worked for anyone or anything he was in a way connected to the working class. As the story continues, the monster encounters a family living in a cottage. “…I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from the barbarous villagers, and resolved… that for the present, I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching…” (101) This is where pity is struck upon the monster, just like the working class he is poor, struggling for survival and rights due to the mistreatment he faced, and trying to find a place in society.

In conclusion, I agree with Montag when he categorizes Victor as the middle class but agree to disagree with him when says the monster is is part of the proletariat due to the fact that although the creature did not work for anyone, he was connected to the working class by the way he was stuck in the lower class and struggled to find a place in society.

Warren Montag’s essay, “The Workshop pf Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein”, Montage establishes multiple arguments as to what the creature symbolizes, however, he ultimately writes that he is  “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). This statement can be inferred, meaning that the creature represents not the proletariat, but he represents the fact that proletariat cannot be understood, especially when you consider the extreme social economic differences that elevated the likes of Mary Shelley, and oppressed the working class. This further draws emphasis to the inhumane differences of socioeconomic classes, as well as a further disdain for capitalism.

The position of unrepresented proletariat is first inferred when the writer established the hierarchy between Victor Frankenstein and his creation. Victor says, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (57). As Frankenstein solely created the creature for his sole benefit, so did the industrial revolution with the creation of the working class. And the tone of innocence that is present within the quote, with words such as ‘bless’, ‘happy’, and ‘excellent’ could perpetuate the naivety that people hold to the idea of “progress”.

As the story continues, the conflict between Victor and the creature intensifies. The creature says, “I expected this reception, … All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us”(92). The monster, through his sharp and dramatic word choice helps project an image of injustice: his creator subjects him to terrible punishments. And in context of Marxism, this analysis of creator/creation can be neatly applied to the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. And through careful analysis, there is some sort of foreshadowing in the quote, with “… to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us”. Equality can only be achievable through the destruction of the will of the proletariat, or the destruction of the bourgeoisie.

-Isaac Gallegos Rharry potter frankenstein

In Warren Montag’s The “Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, he describes both of the different struggles went through by Victor (a middle-class capitalist) and his creation (the oppressed working class). Montag concludes his view point on the subject by voicing that the Creature was not so much a proletariat, rather unrepresented. After reading, I came to the conclusion that the Creature is in fact not the mere image of the working class because Victor, its creator, seems to fit this image much more; although his social status is undoubtedly higher than that of a proletariat.

It is true that Victor’s creation is viewed as being part of the oppressed working class because of the life it lead on. Abandoned and rejected everywhere it went, the Creature mirrored several struggles that proletariat’s face due to their poor social standing. However, the monster is much more absent to the working class than a part of it. Montag explains how, “the narrative (Frankenstein) suppresses all that is modern in order to render this being inexplicable and unprecedent, a being for whom there is no place in the ordered world of nature” (480). In other words, because the Creature was ultimately written with the intention of being isolated from the world, it was unable to take on any social roll.

Now, despite Victors obvious social status, I believe that he relates more to the image of a proletariat than his creation. The reason behind it being, his dedication to learning and ultimately “creating a race that would worship him as a master” (475-476). This dedication was what lead him to become a slave to his work, killing himself day in and day out to one day finally succeed. This can be seen when Victor says, “Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labors; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves-sights which before always yielded me supreme delight-so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation” (59). In the same way, a proletariat is also a slave to the upper class, endlessly working in hopes to someday acquire a stable salary; this causing them to miss out on living and enjoying their life. Similarly, Victor “[was] always a prisoner, and perhaps most when he believed himself to be free forced to labor on a project whose ultimate meaning he remained ignorant [to]” (478). Although a working class individual perhaps never sees themselves as “free” like Frankenstein did in working, Victor can be seen as a proletariat because of the constant oppression and pressure he put on himself to create something great.

– Juanita Espinoza

Image result for french revolution

 

There exist a connection between the French Revolution and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, yet I do not agree with Montag’s conclusion in “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” that the creature does not represent the proletariat-laboring class. The creatures connections to the proletariat are made clear throughout the novel. During the French Revolution, the people of France were ruled by a monarchy, which lead the class division by the lower class comprised of “(peasants, workers, and the urban poor) and middle class comprised of “( the rural or urban bourgeoisie: landowners, merchants, and financiers” (471). Montag states this in the French Revolution when the capitalist middle class mobilized the masses, “they found that they conjured up a monster that, once unleashed could not be controlled.” and in the novel after the creature is created, Victor states “ I took refuge in the courtyard” (60) and goes onto describe the physical creature’s appearance. In the process of doing so, he is able to show an example of what the lower classes do when they can not handle advocacy and run headfirst into a riot. A key moment in the novel is the instances were the monsters wants to communicate with the family but is faced by his own belittlement, stating that humans are  “superior,”, “arbiters” and “reception.” The creatures establish himself as inferior to humans, which creates irony because the family is composed of peasants which are referred to as subordinates by higher-ranking individuals. Here we begin to the connection between the creature and the proletariat as they both are unstoppable once released. At the beginning of the novel, it is shown Victor Frankenstein’s ambition to create this creature and awaken him. Once he makes the creature come to life Victor states, “Oh! Mortal could support the horror of that countenance”(60). Victor at this moment express his emotion of discontent and disgust of his creation. Victor creates this creature which he loses control of. This reflects The French Revolution which is comprised of three phases, the Moderate phase 1789-1791, Radical Phase 1791-1794 and Napoleonic Phase 1794-1799. In the novel we see the creature lose of control leads the killings of Henry Clerval, William Frankenstein and Elizabeth Lavenza. Victor first began with this high hope that he would someday contribute something to the world with the creation of the creature, but ultimately gets nowhere and is left in a state of disorder, by the end of the novel he has no friends, no brother and is wireless. In the last phase of the French Revolution the “Napoleonic Phase”, France is left with an authoritarian government. The French did not make progress in the form of government nor did it advance as a civilization, they are left basically in the same position in which they started.

 

-Levit Martinez

Warren Montag, author of the essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creatures”, uses this article of writing to pinpoint the social classes, and social injustices, found in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To start off, Montag first divides the fact that Victor is part of the Bourgeoisie class, and the creation represents the Proletariat class. While reading Montag’s paper, he brings up multiple points based around his thesis. His final words, however, can be left for interpretation by his readers; “… not so much the sign of the Proletariat as of its unrepresentability.” (480)

In my personal opinion, I believe that Montag is correct. In order to help Montag with direct evidence from the novel, might I direct you to chapter 12 of Frankenstein. At this point in the journey, the creature has been studying the cottagers and their ways of survival. The cottagers work everyday, especially Felix, and the creature takes note of this continuously in his part of the story. However, the creature then states to himself, “… but how terrified when I viewed myself in a transparent pool!” While the quote is fleeting, it still holds many points of evidence that are useful for my argument. One, for example, being the plain fact that the creature understands that he is not like the cottagers as far as beauty. This is not the first time that we, the readers, see the creature separate himself from human society, or even the Proletariat class. Just this quote is enough to sustain the theory that the creature merely is not a suitable husk of the Proletariat class in Shelley’s novel, no matter how hard Shelley tries. The creature cannot identify himself with the Proletariat because he does not understand their pains and labors, despite him lending a secretive helping hand.

-Jody Omlin