Tag Archive: bourgeoisie


The New Perspective

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

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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

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

frank

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: Jocelyn Lemus

the creation

Each person that reads Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, tends to develop new key ideas and perspectives towards what there is to believe and what is there to know. As reading Warren Montag’s essay, “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, Montag gets into conclusion with the idea that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”(480). This idea made me realize how important it is to shape this concept as reading the novel. In my personal ideas, I disagree with Montag’s way of thinking because througout the book there was definitely a correlation between the creature and Victor with the concept of a proletariat.

As reading the novel, Mary Shelley gives Victor the power to label his creature as his slave. In the book, Victor labels the creature as, “Slave… Remember that I have power”(146). This demonstrates how the creature is depicted as someone that comes from a lower class. As we already know, the word ‘proletariat’ does identify someone as working class people. In which this case, Victor and the creature seem to fit in, in the image of that because they both don’t quite seem to know who controls who. They both are lost with the idea that one has power over the other. However, in this situation they both seem to consciously know what and who the power is being created by.

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By: Sandra Tzoc

Mary Shelley’s novel was published around the same time as the birth of the Industrial Revolution, meaning around the time machines started replacing humans. This is important because nowhere in the novel was this portrayed similarly to how the French Revolution was neglected. Throughout the novel there was plenty of mountainous imagery but none of machinery that would have been present at the time. Moreover, in his work “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, Warren Montag claims Victor as the “Bourgeoisie” and the creature as the “Proletariat”. The “producer” of the monster is the Proletariat because he unleashed something onto the world but somehow moved on with his life, whilst the creature was left to fend for himself, just like those who were thrown out due to the rise of machinery. Some might think that Shelley did not speak about the changes she was living herself but what if she did. What if she simply talked about these entities of marginalization, prejudice, and overall revolution but indirectly. Perhaps she used Frankenstein to stand for these vast issues present during her time and our own now. Warren describes the creature as “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480), because the creature doesn’t have to fall under one label. In addition, at the end of the French Revolution perhaps the creature could represent the public themselves. Where they now felt lost and alone just like the creature did when Victor denied him a companion. The industrial revolution ultimately was born to speed up the process of making merchandise and in many circumstances took the jobs from people. The people without jobs suffered and had to search for new ways to make a living and this is important because its analogous to the creature’s experience. Perhaps Warren was hinting at the complexity of the creatures symbolic meaning and how it could not possibly end at proletariat.

Frank

In reading Warren Montag’s “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, Montag claims that “the monster is the proletariat” (474), in that the proletariat during the times of the French Revolution, when united together, created a “monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled” (471). The bourgeoisie, being the one that was forced to rally the proletariat in order to be adequately represented, seemed to not have as much power as they may have believed, seeing as they were the elite, of higher social status, as Frankenstein was to the monster. The power then, fell onto the proletarian working class, which brings us back to Montag’s claim that the monster in the novel is the proletariat, unable to be controlled, possessing power over his creator, Victor Frankenstein (the bourgeoisie) as seen during the monster and Victor’s conversation after Victor had destroyed the companion he had begun to create when the monster states, “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom” (146). In addition, the monster, much like the proletariat, did not seem to have much a “voice” in the society in which he worked so hard to be accepted by and even “endured toil and misery” (145) as a result.

In conclusion, I somewhat agree with Montag’s conclusion that the creature is “not so much a sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480), because while he was not so much connected with the “working” class since he did not necessarily work as a proletariat did during the times of the French and English Revolutions, he was however, very much connected to the proletariat in the fact that they were unrepresented, looked down upon, and had struggled under the bourgeoisie, or in the monster’s case, as a result of the actions of the bourgeoisie (Frankenstein).

-Serena Ya

By Jade Graham

Image result for marxism

There are many lenses and perspectives that readers have discovered through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and with that comes many viewpoints and beliefs. Warren Montag (appears to be around the 1990’s) wrote an essay from a Marxist viewpoint. Titled, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” Montag uses quotes and sources to try and prove his idea of how the monster is put in the difficult position of not the proletariat, but not being represented at all. There is the point made of within a divided class society there is labor to be done. With that comes workers in a factory, where parts are assembled. That idea of the Victor creating something does make the creature a part of the classes, but a part of the creation itself. The creature is different body parts made into a walking dead being. Parts together to help improve somehow, like creations with parts at a factory to create a full piece. The monster did not improve anyone’s life, he did not come with directions and was taken for granted.

I agree with Montag’s point after reading. I did not view him to be on the other side because I believed he had experienced both sides at one point. From a baby-like learning state who doesn’t know much, poor, and low skills to intelligent, quick, and ethical the creature is hard to pin down. Because of how different the creature is, he is not a part of society and therefore not a part of any class.

This is shown when the monster encounters the cottagers, he is an outsider. Not of their world or anything like it. He is a supernatural creation, the living dead. He is able to feel though when reflecting on the cottager’s lifestyle and their nature towards each other. That want to belong as he, “felt a sensation of a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain and pleasure,” when coming with emotions that are not only shocking but rare to experience for him (100). There is ambiguity present due to how everyone can feel emotions, but for the creature to experience them is on another level. He is confused and decides to put those emotions at bay because he does not know how to handle them. The meaning of feeling emotions, what that means for the creature, and more. Acts of kindness, those of which the creature has not been given and is seeing for the first time. So to call the creature classless may be an incorrect term, but he is not upper, middle, or even lower class. He is an outsider because of his background. Created in a lab like a factory and not given any help led the creature to fend for himself and learn emotions. That is what happens when you don’t take care of your creations.

 

Human Ingratitude

The Marxist perspective….hm. I had never considered it, and even if I had, I would never have applied it the way Montag does. I agree with his reading of Victor being the middle class capitalist, that seems fairly self explanatory, but to make the Creature representative of the working class was something I had not considered at all. However, upon further reflection and rereading, it is almost boggling how well the Marxist reading applies to this novel.

Montag makes the point that the Creature, like the working class, was employed by the new elites for their own gain. In creating this force to overthrow the old state, the new elites unwittingly brought destruction down upon themselves when this same force turned upon them. Sound familiar? This initial parallel to the storyline of Frankenstein foreshadows the same outcomes that the revolutions ended with. The Creature, created in service to Victor is scorned and hated by all no matter the good he does for mankind. In one scene, where the Creature recounts his adventures, he mentions saving the life of a small girl and being shot as a result. “This then was the reward of my benevolence! I had saved a human from destruction, and, as recompense, I now writhed under the miserable pain of a wound…” (125). Discarded after his initial purpose of satisfying Victor’s morbid curiosity, one can understand the resentment and rage the Creature feels at the ingratitude the humans who abuse him for his services. Like the working class, who eventually rebels against the new elites, the Creature also plans his coup against Victor. “‘I, too, can create desolation; my enemy is not invulnerable; this death will carry despair to him, and a thousand other miseries shall torment and destroy him.'” (127). This realisation that he, the Creature, is stronger than his Creator is a heady consciousness. The fact that he is able rally for his own devices against someone more “powerful”, his creator, is again a direct reflection to the anarchical situation of the French Revolution, where the bourgeoisie realised they were actually the ones in control.

The Creature being portrayed in the novel as an outcast and a disjointed freak represents the attitudes of the proletariat towards the bourgeoisie. Victor’s changing emotions of initial distaste to hatred and fear when he realises the raw, brute power the Creature holds over him is essentially a mirror to the events of the Revolution.  The moment the Creature realises this and employs it against Victor is the moment Victor’s demise is triggered.

I didn’t expect to see extreme class struggle in this novel, but looking at it closely, it now seems hard to miss. According to Warren Montag in his essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creation,” the unrepresentability of the proletariat is what the creature really  represents, not the actual proletariat itself. I agree that the only reason the monster “would no longer be a monster” (395) if the proletariat was present in the novel outside of the creature, but I don’t agree that he does not represent the presence of the proletariat in a significant way. Both the bourgeois and the proletariate are boiled down to one main entity: Victor as the bourgeois, and the creature as the proletariat. While Victor’s and Clerval’s families can all be seen as representing the bourgeois as well, they do so in such a passive manner as to be fairly negligible in the comparison. Victor, on the other hand, aggressively embodies all that is bourgeoisie.

When the creature entreats Victor to create for him a mate, Victor feels first compassion, and “sometimes felt a wish to console him,” but soon his “feelings were altered to those of hatred” (130). These are the same feelings as those of Montag’s “new elites” who found it necessary to utilize the proletariat to overthrow old regimes. At first perhaps sympathetic, they quickly grew to be resentful of the lower class who would block the new elites’ rise to power. The creature, on the other hand, is asking for similar things to the proletariat: “I shall…become linked to the chain of existence and events, from which I am now excluded” (130). Both characters mirror their respective class well, and in this passage at the very least, the creature represents the entire proletariat infused into one being, arguing for equality, acting as almost a spokesperson.