Tag Archive: bourgeois

A Voice for the Unheard

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

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.

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While reading Warren Montags “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, I struggled to understand where the issue was. I have come to the conclusion that there is not an issue, but issues are created. Social hierarchy has always been a constructed problem, and Montag continues to build with this essay. Montag finally says the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480). I feel like there are many ways to go about interpreting this, but ultimately I agree with him.

What Montag actually does is what we are supposed to do: a close reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He focuses on what is missing from the next, which for him is the fact that this whole story takes place during the French Revolution. At first I was speculative of this claim; I wanted to believe Frankenstein was happening in a slightly futuristic dystopian world created in Mary Shelley’s mind. However when he presented his evidence it seemed to make perfect sense to me. Never again does this happen.

Throughout the novel, the creature struggles greatly with himself and society, trying to fit in but ultimately being underrepresented and misunderstood. He is of a lower class, truly one of a kind, and can not associate his feelings with anyone else. He literally says, “I look around, and I have no relation or friend upon earth. These amiable people to whom I go have never seen me, and know little of me. I am full of fears; for if I fail there, I am an outcast in the world forever” (119). However Victor is quite similar. Victor has a passion for science and discovery that not many others have, and he is quite misunderstood himself. He is an overly emotional disturbed man who feels like no one else can understand him. The one difference is his social standing. He comes from a large wealthy family who wish the best for him and live a pleasant, comfortable life. So then Victor Frankenstein is a bourgeois, as Montag says.

What really confuses this idea of proletariat versus bourgeois is who has the power. The creature is obviously physically stronger than Victor, but Victor is the one who created the being. He calls the creature a slave. There is a push and pull, a back and forth tugging at power in the novel that ultimately goes unresolved. The creature has the power to take away the lives of those who Frankenstein cares for. It is almost like a trade. Victor cursed the creature with poverty and loneliness by giving him life, and the creature is now going to do the same by taking away the most valuable parts of Frankenstein’s life. There is this extreme paradox that either character could be the one who controls the other. So while the creature does fit into the proletariat mold, he also fits into one of power, strength, and understanding, leaving him ultimately unrepresented.

Written by Mahea LaRosa

the creation

Finding it difficult to wrap my head around Marxist theory, I tend to defer to the experts. So when Warren Montag, in “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation,’” argues that the creation is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (Montag 395), I’m inclined to believe him. And the more I think about it, this makes a lot of sense considering the confusing mishmash of emotions I’ve felt toward the creation.

The creation’s interaction with the portrait of Frankenstein’s mother illustrates what Warren Montag calls the “combination of pity and fear” (388) that the proletariat naturally elicits. The creation initially looks at the woman “with delight on her dark eyes, fringed by deep lashes, and her lovely lips” (Shelley 127). The beauty of the elite bourgeois that Caroline Frankenstein represents contrasts starkly with the poor creation’s “dull yellow eye,” “dun white sockets” and “straight black lips” (60). In fact, this is likely what the creation remembers, as his joy quickly disintegrates and turns to rage, recalling, “I was for ever deprived of the delights that such beautiful creatures could bestow” (127). The ugly, poor, neglected creation is unique in that only he cannot receive affection from human beings. Important, however, is that this monstrosity is still capable of feeling delight and is even “softened and attracted” (127).

But why does any of this matter? Well, the creation declares, “I only wonder that at that moment, instead of venting my sensations in exclamations and agony, I did not rush among mankind, and perish in the attempt to destroy them” (127). This is the constant tension that underlies the relationship between the bourgeois and the proletariat. On one hand, the poor and neglected, like the creation, are at once sympathetic and pitiable, but on the other they are also capable of immense destruction and harm. In what Montag calls “a rural world dominated by scenes of a sublime natural beauty” (394), the creation sticks out as the singular entity of contradictions, a being of tenderness that can turn to rage in an instant. So why didn’t the creation go absolutely manic in that moment? Maybe there’s no way of knowing for sure. And maybe that’s the lingering uneasiness and obscurity of the unrepresentable proletariat.