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

Samantha Shapiro

Warren Montag, in his work, The “Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, notes that a literary text, is a “node within a network” (469), perhaps a part of a whole. However, a literary text doesn’t merely have a place within history, but also develops meaning through readership, and shines a light on a collective readership. From this view, I interpret that Montag determined that Frankenstein’s creation was established as “the modern…singularity” of the masses, and thus indescribable due to breadth from the absence of the proletariat within the novel (480).

Through a defined and educating viewpoint, he unveils the tension and conflict in Frankenstein and his creation, basing the relationship between the two on a comparison of the new elites in the French and English revolutions “…[conjuring] up a monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled” (471). He establishes tension created from the omissions in the text as a creation of a “world of effects without causes” (477).

Within his interpretation, the symbolism of the monster may hold true. However, the larger picture of history to me involves why and how a conflict was established, which can bring in human emotion. From Montag’s educating manner, the readers are neglected their ability to empathize with the creation/masses due distancing the reader from relating to the creation. While he notes there could be sympathy or pity, he fails to mention any other emotion, which is motif throughout the novel. Chapter Ten notes Victor’s change of emotions from seeing both nature, from grief to “rage and horror” from seeing the creation (92). The conflict between the two is characterized with rage and a lack of acceptance between one another, and Shelley does this through their dialogue. This expressive dialogue is seen with Victor exclaiming, “Begone, vile insect! or rather, stay, that I may trample you to dust!” or the creature responding, “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me…How dare you sport thus with life?” (92). These elements that develop the complex relationship between the two could add more depth to the conflict between the two, but remains untouched.

Whilst reading Warren Montag’s “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, I was completely confused as to what his argument was. It wasn’t until the end that I somewhat developed an understanding of what he meant. To my understanding, Montag argued that the way Mary Shelley has structured the book and its characters is like a direct reflection of society at the time when she wrote the novel. He starts off by stating that Shelley’s Frankenstein takes place in the French Revolution, a time where the relationship between the bourgeoise and the proletariats was extremely tense. He then goes on to say that Victor is a representation of the middle/upper class and the creature represents the working class.

However, what I don’t understand is how at the end Montag states, “Frankenstein’s monster is finally not identified with the working class of Mary Shelley’s time but with its absence,” (480). What does this mean? I can’t say I agree because to me, everything the creature stands for—who he is, the things he has gone through, everything—reflects the struggles of a proletariat of the time. Montag even says himself that people regard proletariats as an uncontrollable monster because of who they are, what they stand for, and what they can do (474). So how can he say Frankenstein’s creation isn’t a proletariat if he is literally an embodiment of this group of people. I mean, the way Montag has described the proletariat’s life and how it’s affected by new technologies and industrial systems makes me think that their lives were pretty bad, and in a way isolated them from the world. Which then reminds me of the way the monster was created as well as how he had to live his life (full of misery and isolation). Then, at the end where he says “’But soon,’ he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, ‘I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames,’” (189). He’s just basically done with life, he doesn’t want to live anymore, he’s depressed, he’s lonely, and that sounds a lot like what life was like for the working class during the industrial revolution. Their lives revolved around this never-ending cycle of work and more work that they didn’t get any kind of satisfaction in life. And so, when it’s time to die they embrace it and accept it and in way seem happy about being put out of their misery.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

After reading “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein by Warren Montag, I can see why some people would identify Frankenstein’s monster as a proletariat. The monster seems like the perfect personification of the industrial working class of Marxism. He was created by Frankenstein to serve him and to serve as an example of what could be created. Some argue that the monster was created by technology. he is the ultimate creation of technology. Because he was created by technology they argue he is a slave to technology just as the working class are a slave to their elite leaders. There is also the argument that Frankenstein’s monster that he evokes pity and fear just as the working class does. Everyone pities but do they do it out of fear or sympathy? One of the “stronger” arguments made is that Frankenstein’s monster is representative of multiple individuals just like the working class is representative of the working class. These are all interesting points but they are very loose and not really based off of any truth. No where in the novel is there a strong sense of Mary Shelley, consciously or unconsciously inserting the industrialization of Marxism into the monster. The arguments brought up are weak because the pity felt for the monster is caused by his loneliness unlike the working class.  The pity felt for the working class is because of their situation and poverty. The fear of the creature is caused by prejudices, because he looks funny. The fear of the working class comes out of being afraid of their actions and possible revolt. Frankenstein’s monster is a slave, a slave to his own desire of revenge and desire to be accepted. None of the connections really are connections just loose based assumptions. If we focus on things that are omitted, industrialization is omitted, there are no factories no work, just nature. Frankenstein is a misunderstood individual not a proletariat as some people try to project onto him.

  • Andres Quezada

In his essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” Warren Montag introduces several arguments as to what the creature in the novel can represent but he ultimately concludes that he is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480) and pushes for the idea that in reality Shelley is saying that science/knowledge is to blame for the result of a lower class. Although the idea is incredibly interesting and introduced me to a different perspective, I have perceived the creature in a completely different light and would have to argue that he definitely represents the proletariat. Montag also mentions in his essay that Shelley “lends her voice to the voiceless, those who, bowed and numbed by oppression and poverty, cannot speak for themselves” (473) and personally, I agree more with this statement than the prior.

In the first chapter of the novel, Victor’s place and class-standing in society is made clear when Victor recalls his childhood and says, “… I was so guided by a silken cord, that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me” (41). The imagery we get of a luxury such as a “silken” garment leads us to assume that he must be of upper or middle-class standing and knowing that his childhood was “a train of enjoyment” also helps us assume that he did not struggle much growing up. This is important when we think about Victor as a character and what he is meant to represent – the bourgeois. We get further assurance of his representation in society when 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). In this instance, Victor is already placing himself above whatever creature results from his experiment and Shelley assures him as a superior. Thus, using the creature as a symbol for the proletariat and being beneath Victor.

When Victor creates a monster that eventually reciprocates the torment onto him, which he cannot escape, we can interpret this as a representation of the real fear that the proletariat class could one day revolt against the bourgeois class. By Victor’s choice to ignore and outcast what he created, he worsens the problem and that only causes the creature to revolt and protest his mistreatment. However, as a denounced member of society, he never held the privilege to speak up about his conditions or his feelings – just like the lower class at the time. Therefore, I believe that it is true that Shelley was lending her voice for the outcast members’ of society through the character of the creature. A passage that demonstrates Shelley lending her voice to millions of voiceless members of society is when the creature tells Victor “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). With this quote, Shelley is bringing pity to the lower-class and stating the reality of their struggles using her platform as a writer to reflect their conditions and sentiments and to get them into the public. By saying, “… how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!” Mary Shelley is sharing a common cry amongst the working class that is intended for the upper classes considering that the superior classes always made their lives more difficult than they already were and yet, they were hated for things out of their control.

I also think Shelley did something interesting with the last line, “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” because I believe the statement she is trying to make is that without the lower-class, the bourgeois would not have had everything they did and that the working class were indebted to them and in case of the annihilation of either, the system they live in would collapse. With this, I also believe there is an underlying irony because we are lead to believe that the upper/middle class would hold all of the power. However, through these statements Shelley is placing more power than expected in the hands of the lower-class because she insinuates that if the proletariat chose to they could be a threat to those above them in class. Overall, I do not agree with Montag’s interpretation of the novel and its message because I think there are a great deal of instances where Shelley sets up and encrypts passages that indicate to a different message. I believe that what Mary Shelley was trying to do was give a voice to those who did not have one through her writing and her story, although it is a very deep, embedded message of pity and warning and I agree with that part of Montag’s essay.

-Beverly Miranda

Sabrina Vazquez

Warren Montag in his essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein”, states that Mary Shelly, in her novel; utilizes Frankenstein’s monster to represent the working class’s revolt amid the French Revolution.  He claims that the “creature”, or proletariat, are the ‘unpredictable’ consequences of society’s reckless need to advance in science and technology; which on both accounts (Creature and Proletariat), did not end well, for others. This ideology validates the anger and frustration felt by both the “creature” and working class at the time. The “creature”, demonstrates that in an especially dark passage,

I continued for the remainder of the day in my hovel in a state of utter and stupid despair. My protectors had departed and had broken the only link that held me to the world. For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream, I bent my mind towards injury and death. (123) (block quote, which I couldn’t indent on WordPress)

Initially the first noticeable aspect of this passage is the vehement frustration the creature feels. This is a somebody who I educated and has been driven to violence by his environment as well as the people in it. In saying that his “protectors” had broken “the only link”, it seems like he is saying they have at last broken him. In that fracture made by his “protectors”, which is ironic because they did anything but protect him, he found his only solution to be death and destruction.

The proletariat were the very real equivalent of Shelley’s tale. They much like the “creature”, were created out of a desperate want for advancement, and once created, they were ignored, and pushed aside. In their growing desperation for employment, which in the “creatures” case would be accompaniment, they both came across destructive and violent paths. They both let anger and hate get in their hearts, more so than that, they allowed pride to get the better of them. The “creature” stated he spent the rest of the day “in a state of utter and stupid despair.” (123), which could have been ignored, but in the haze of hate, anger, and pride, he, much like the proletariat took retribution into their own hands. Societies rush to progress quickly without care of the repercussions, led to the frustration and corruption of otherwise nice and intelligent people; which is presented in Victors creation, and corruption of his creation.

Capitalism creates oppressive conditions for working-class proletariat that belittle their value as individuals and their existence. Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” examines how the the plight of the proletariat by the wealthy bourgeoisie is reflected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Montang concludes that Frankenstein’s monster is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). I agree with Montag that the monster is a sign of the proletariat’s unrepresentability, considering the monster’s devaluation and grievances.

Under capitalism, the proletariats, are alienated not only from the products of their labor but also themselves. The poor workers labor and produce but, because of meager wages, they will likely never have the means to afford these products no matter how much they exhaust themselves. The proletariat are also alienated from their sense of self as labor consumes their identity and their individuality is lost. This is reflected in Shelley’s novel when Frankenstein’s monster says, “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labors. I found that the young [Felix] spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire; and, during the night, I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days” (102). One could argue that this decision to help the De Lacey family was the creature’s choice and not mandated onto him by the bourgeoisie. However, these actions were taken on as a means of survival the same way the excruciating work of the proletariat is the only way under capitalism, other than a revolution, that they can continue living. The monster’s labor is done in an effort to be recognized by the family as a benevolent being and be accepted into human society instead of being an outcast as he was made by Frankenstein and other humans. The family, who possess social capital, decides what fate the monster receives just as the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, determine how much impoverished workers are compensated. The parties who actually benefit from the labor, however, is the family who does not have to collect their own wood and the capitalists who profit from selling the products produced by the poor, while the creature and the poor continue their exploited lives.

The capitalist, bourgeois society in which Frankenstein’s monster and poor laborers alienate themselves also alienates them from other ranks in society and deprives them of their humanity. Since the proletariat produces all the products and are seen as just means to an end, little importance is placed on their lives or concerns. Montag states that, “Utterly absent from the narrative is any description or explanation of the process by which the monster was created” (477). By having this absence that Montag mentions, there is distance created between the monster and the rest of society and indicates that his origins and existence is not a matter of importance because in the end he is just the lower class who will never reach anything beyond that ranking. Also, just as the bourgeoisie “reduc[ed] the numbers of workers necessary to the production process” in order to make way for technological “industrial developments” (472), the monster is immediately abandoned by Victor Frankenstein as soon as he is dissatisfied with the final result of his creation, alluding to the characterization of worthlessness placed on the working-class that could be disposed and replaced at any moment the bourgeoisie chose. This loss of humanity and commodification, is the “unrepresentability” Montag refers to. Because the proletariat are reduced to machines working for the benefit of the upper and middle classes, they are not supposed to have a voice or have themselves or their concerns represented. The monster’s failed efforts at social mobility and his lack of power and authority not only mirror the proletariat but also marginalize him within the frame of the novel, eliminating his power to represent and voice himself within the novel as well. It is through this unrepresentability that Frankenstein’s monster represents that of the proletariat class under the oppressive conditions and unjust conditions of capitalism.  

The proletariat are monsters because of the monstrous, classist economic system developed by the rich, ruling, capitalists. The bourgeoisie did produce a product…economic servitude and the existence of the impoverished, disenfranchised proletariat. However, unlike the products forced onto the proletariat class, they receive capital that they will continue to use to exploit them, help themselves, and maintain the cycle of capitalism.

– Wendy Gutierrez

After reading “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,” I concluded that the creature was not so much a proletariat, rather more of “a factitious totality assembled from (the parts of) of a multitude of different individuals (Goldner), in particular, the “poor,” the urban mass….” (473) This creature does not belong in any class thus he’s and outsider and was created in a lab where he was later abandoned and was left to fend for himself. As Montag described the “monster is a product rather than a creation, assembled and joined together…” (473) Hence, the monster is not remotely human although he tries to be he fails immensely and is instead consider a product where he doesn’t fit in any of the classes. Warden Montag argues that Frankenstein’s creation was “not so much the sign of the proletariat at its unrepresentablilty,” and I agree with his interpretation because the creature was not a working-class individual, however he represented the ideal of the proletariat throughout the novel.

The creature was created by Mary Shelley to up rise toward the (bourgeoisie) which was Victor Frankenstein in this case and demand the power the monster should have received. Along the same lines, Montag included “But in going so they found that they had conjured up a monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled.” (471) This quote shows how once the proletariats join in multitude they can unleash their power then lead to anarchy. Going back to the creature he is portrayed as a proletariat and ready to claim back what he should have received when he was created by his creator. The monster illustrates this when he reverses the characters and when “his creation, far more powerful than he, calls him “slave.” This indicates how with enough power and dignity one could lead demands that go way beyond rational. In a way this quote also symbolizes irony because the creator usually has the upper hand and in this case the creature revolutionized and ended up switching positions.


Guadalupe Andrade


In ” The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading Of Frankenstein by Warren Montag it concludes by saying the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). I disagree with what Warren said because the creature does represent the proletariat because he did not have anything to his name. Most proletariats had a hard time owning stuff because of the bourgeoisie. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature realizes that “A man might be respected with one of these advantages” (109) the advantages the creature is referring to are possessions and wealth. He even knows that if someone does not have this they are considered a slave and will have to work for the people who are in power (109).

The creature is part of the proletariats because he “possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property” (109). He knows it is important to have these things to be considered valuable because the more belongings one has the more powerful they are. The bourgeoisie have all these qualities, but never do any of the hard labor that the working class has to do. They exploit the working class and never give them enough money. Nobody would want to give the creature a job because of the way he looks. Being unemployed was a struggle that a lot of proletariats had to go through. The creature was also homeless and had to look for his food to survive because nobody is going to give him anything. The creature did not have anything from the moment he was created, just like many proletariats they have little to nothing. Victor constructed the creature for his own convenience, which symbolizes how the creature is only property 

-Marycarmen Nieto

By: Katherine Hernandez

When reading a work of literature as iconic as Frankenstein, readers tend to develop very different and sometimes controversial interpretations. In the essay, The “Work of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein by Warren Montag, the reader is left with the interpretation that Frankenstein’s creation is the bourgeoisie in the book and that Victor is the proletariat who is terrorized by the demands of this creation. However, from my point of view, Frankenstein’s creation is, in fact, the embodiment of the working class, the proletariat side of society. Montag constantly compares the creation to the intricate work of new technology that was being introduced during the era Mary Shelley wrote and published her book, at times even calling that Victor is rightfully so to be afraid of his creation because it symbolizes the fear of the proletariat in this time of changes in society and the technological advances that came with it. He gathers historical context from Mary Shelley’s time such as the rise of the Industrial Revolution in order to convince the reader that the rise of technology was monstrous much like the creation and thus Victor had every right to be afraid of it, however, the question arises. Should we blame technology for simply doing what it is meant to do? Or is the thing at fault the creator itself? Montag created a hole in his argument, one cannot simply blame things for taking their natural course, we must hold those who created these things, such as technology, responsible. Victor’s creation is the most effortless symbolism of the working class not only during Mary Shelley’s time but also in a time that transcends her era.

The passage in chapter 20 of the novel, pages 145-146, clearly depicts how the creature is the living, breathing embodiment of the proletariat struggle. Throughout the whole novel we are able to see how The Creation struggles with fitting into to social norms and his constant struggle with dehumanization of isolation. Most of his life is spent in longing, spent in a headspace of having hopes and dreams and wanting more out of life. This is especially evident when Frankenstein retracts his promise to his creation and The Creation mourns for his struggles in life recalling his “toil and misery….[his] impeccable fatigue, [the] cold and hunger, [and Victor still] dares to destroy his hopes and dreams.” (145) The Creation is the poster child for the working class struggle. Victor is, in fact, the bourgeoisie who continually makes false promises to the working class in order to continue exploiting them. This passage greatly contradicts with Warren Montag’s ideas of Victor’s creation. The Creation fits in every shape and form to the working class’ constantly mistreated, the underdog, the ones with hopes and dreams that are much to often destroyed by the bourgeois in order to keep the gears of the capitalistic operation running.

The Server

After reading Workshop of a Filthy Creation by Warren Montag I have to say that I agree with Montag’s statement “Frankenstein’s creation, which is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability.”  When I first read this quote I was confused, but then it all started to make sense as I looked for evidence. From the beginning of Frankenstein it has been made clear that the reason for Victor to create this monster was to benefit him, someone to in other words work for him. “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” (57). It is clearly demonstrated here that the reason for the monsters creation was to serve, no other option. In this quote Victor holds the title of bourgeoisie and the monster as proletariat. As the story continues however the monster grows along with it. As the monster is left to explore the world alone he starts to figure out how it works, that is when he realized that no other destiny awaited him aside from the proletariat . The monsters encounter with the Delaney family solidified the idea to him that he will never get to live in this world normally or as blessed as they do. Of course from the perspective of Frankenstein the family is living a blessed life because they have each other and a home. “This hovel however, joined a cottage of a neat and pleasant appearance; but, after my late dearly bought experience, I dared not enter.” (98). This is where the different lifestyle realizations hit the monster. He realized that he will never be able to higher his status, no matter how much he teaches himself, and learns to become accustom with society. Nothing will ever be enough because he is different. “I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity.” (104).  The monster knows that because of his physical appearance he will never be accepted into society, he sees the difference between him and those surrounding him. The physical difference, and the different lifestyles. He is trapped in the lower class life, and sadly for him he has no hope in ever moving up.

-Dariana Lara