Tag Archive: Ideology


– Mark Acuña

In the story of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, we see a glimpse of how exactly the effects of the monster has on the overall subplot revolving around victor and the societal actions and issues that are brought up to light. A girl named Safie has a Christian Arab mother, who is enslaved by the Turks for her different views. On page 317 in “Postcolonial and Race Studies”, it demonstrates the importance’s of what Critical Race Theory is. It is interpreted as a theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. The text states that “Derrick Bell, a founding figure of critical race theory, argues that in the united states, white jurists and leaders began to support civil rights not so much from a commitment to people of color as from a desire to protect entrenched white interest. The very impression that societal norms have taken throughout the years of modern and post America. In response to Victor Frankenstein and his encounter with the letters given by the monster, it shows that Safie demonstrates that cultural differences are a parallel to the monster’s willingness to learn and educate itself in order to fit in. The monsters understanding of education and his culture shows that he doesn’t know his own creator, and that he has been outcasted and labeled as unnatural and not part of the social norms for the monster itself did not chose its own path for being put behind boarders and restrictions. The monster only wishes to be accepted into a society that accepts itself for who it is, not for who it is portrayed by.

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As I have read through the novel, I cannot help but agree with his statement, “not so much the sign of the proletariat as it is of its unrepresentability.” For the proletariats are the underrepresented population. From the beginning, it is described the origins of the creature whom Victor Frankenstein created. A creature that was to serve him and meet his expectations. The words, “a new species would bless me with as its creator, and source…” (57). Similar, we can see how mankind or society places such expectations to the world.  Once Frankenstein realized the fruits of his labor he fled. He left the creature without knowing the literal fruits of his labor. Thus, the creature is left to find his own way of figuring out his existence.

 

As the novel expresses, the creature like a child begins to look at his surroundings and learns through it. Which frankly is the process by how a human and animal learned. Visual input which then progressively turns into conceptualizing and forming a “self”. As readers, we are told by a lens of narrative how he formed a “self”. We can infer this by reading the passage from the DeLacey family, “I looked upon them as superior beings who would be the arbiters of my future destiny…. these thoughts exhilarated me and led me to apply fresh ardour the acquiring the art of language … (pg. 104-105). In other words, the creature began to apply himself to the world and adapt to its teaching and language. Only to realize that all his efforts will never be accepted whether by his conformity or his “monstrosity.” Because either way, he will never be that of a human despite his intelligence, his love, or capacity.

 

The proletariats or the laboring class conformed with society. The laws were laws, and nothing could be changed. In fact, most bourgeoisie’s thought that teaching the poor was the most uneducated thing to do. As the saying goes, “you give a man a hand, he will then grab your toes.” That is precisely what the all-justified Victor thought of by denying his own creature’s proposal.  As such, when the laboring class was denied basic rights just like those in the upper classes, revolted. Similarly, a right even given by God and thus mankind was denied to the creature and revolted against his creator.

Karla Garcia Barrera

By Mary Russell

In his essay “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,” Warren Montag compares the creature to the proletariat at a very surface level interpretation. The creature, created by a middle class wealthy man, is abandoned and recognizes that he, “Possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property…” (p. 109). The creature openly identifies with the working class in this passage. The creature is formed of many men, representing the mob of the proletariat, and when he is finally brought to the edge of his temper he lashes out at his creator: the bourgeoisie. Victor’s large family manor is contrasted with the woods the creature is forced to live in further driving home the poor state of the creature. This interpretation is obvious hence why Montag goes on to say that, “Such a reading is too simple; to stop here would be to reduce the literary work to a mere allegory structured by a set of symbolic equivalences…” (p. 474). Certainly the creature is a symbol of the proletariat but I would not go so far as to say that the novel is as simple as that. Frankenstein is a member of the bourgeoisie but also a victim of the system.

Montag writes about Frankenstein’s perspective stating that, “He is able to see that he has always lived according to laws of whose existence he had been unaware,” (p. 475). Frankenstein relays his story of creating the creature by stating, “These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement,” (p. 57). Frankenstein is pushed forward to produce, the create. He is obsessed, and does not observe self care. This belief that he must continue with his work harms himself, and even he isn’t sure where this motivation comes from. This unknown force is driving him forward. this unknown force is the Industrial Revolution.

Montag claims that Shelley never mentions the technology present, and only its effects to, “Render Frankenstein’s labor as well as the product of that labor, the monster, all the more incongruous. He is the sole embodiment of the industrial in an otherwise rural world…” (p. 479). I disagree with this point and believe the vagueness of the technology is to convey imaginary relationship we have to the reality of our situations. The industrial revolution is never mentioned because to Victor, this is not why he works so hard. He believes he works and studies for his own curiosity or to satisfy his obsession. He believes he acts out of his own individuality. Frankenstein states that his discovery, “Was the most gratifying consummation of my toils,” (p. 56) however he never states why he wants to bring life back. He works, ignoring his family and health, for what reason? Assumptions could be made of course, for example one could ask why he shouldn’t be curious. However, this is not representative of Frankenstein’s individual wants and desires. He is pumped through college told he needs to make discoveries, to progress society. A school for sciences during the industrial revolution would be focused on the creation of factories or chemical reactions to power machinery. Despite Franenstein’s self proclaimed obsession with the sciences, he would undoubtedly be fed the idea that he must produce something of value to society.

Image result for industrial revolution poster
Ideological state apparatuses of propaganda such as this poster here would be common in industrialized cities. Work, work, work everyone must work. Despite how exhausting and unhealthy it may be, it is good for society! Your work means victory! Build more, produce more. It is insidious, feeding society the belief that they must work, and that they choose to work. Frankenstein had the option of working in a factory or going to school, making him believe he had any choice in the matter. In the end he is a slave of the system, toiling away for years to create his product. The industrial revolution is not mentioned because Frankenstein is out of touch with this reality. The story is told from his perspective, and in his perspective the revolution is not why he works. He is an individual in his mind, not a slave to the machine.
This is why Montag concludes that the creature is a representation of the unrepresentability of the proletariat. Frankenstein is wealthy but he toils away and falls for the same ideologies as the working class. The creature is the proletariat and yet so is Frankenstein. The enemy of the proletariat are the bourgeoisie, the people in power. Frankenstein has no power over society. He has power over the creature but Frankenstein himself is more representative of mid level management. So many people fall victim to the lies of capitalism that it is impossible to create one stereotype of the working class. Everyone is fed the ideologies of society and thus everyone become cogs in the machine, even the middle class.

 

By Alex Luna

After reading Montags essay, there is a lot to consider. Montags essay takes an interesting approach, in which the monster reflects the working class that get lost and forgotten in the makings of the capitalist system. While I agree with this comparison, I feel as if there is a larger discussion in relation to Victor himself. To further elaborate, one must look at the scene in which the monster was given life. Here, we can see how not only does the monster represents the working class, but Victor himself represents the alienation of labor as well as the ideological ambitions held by innovators.

From the beginning of chapter 5, we can see Victor’s ambition. He says “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health”. For this creation, this scientific ambition, Victor has poured everything into. What’s interesting here is that I can envision a factory worker saying this exact line, which is a complete role reversal of what Montag argues in his essay. It could also refer to how powerful people want to be innovated and change the world, like a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, just a tad bit more crazy and unethical. He believes his creation will cause a breakthrough in scientific development, when in actuality it fails completely. This is ironic, because humans hold this ideology of innovation and “changing the world” so dearly. Just as Victor sees his creation “the beauty of the dream had vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”. Many innovators have strong ambitions, but if they were to be confronted with the true horrors of how their products are created, how there is often child labor or intense working conditions that drive people to suicide, then perhaps they would reconsider. Here in this moment, Victor is experiencing an alienation of labor. From the moment he sees the creature, he immediately resents it and wishes to disassociate himself from it. Victor himself also resembles the working class here, along with the creature. The middle class capitalist experiences the working class issue. All the work Victor put in has now gone to waste, for the creature did not reflect his ideology.

Furthermore, Victor’s creation reflects aspects of the harsh machine, or system of capitalism that continues to divide social classes. Victor thinks “I beheld the wretch – the miserable monster whom I had created.” This confrontation just makes me think of what the most famous innovators of our time would say if they witnessed just how much of a commodity fetish products they created have become. Everywhere there are people glued to their smartphones, slowly losing social communications and further isolating the workers from those who can afford these products. This continuing divide, this machine, has essentially become a monster of its own, and the working class continues to be ignored, much like the way Victor abandoned the monster. If history has taught us anything, the working class, or the monster, will eventually revolutionize due to constantly being shelved and hidden from public view, being forced to watch from the sidelines the lifestyles of the middle to upper classes.

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Through the use of Spivak’s methods of critical analysis, the Frankenstein passage on pages 108-109 may be more fully understood. Within the textual sample, Safie and the creature are constructed as parallel iterations of the feminine subaltern, which expose the instability of cultural and colonial discourse.

The passage begins immediately with the creation of a hierarchal relationship, describing a “book from which Felix instructed Safie.” There is a distinct sense of separateness and value, in which an ignorant eastern woman eagerly accepts the teachings of the learned western man. This concept of social striation is also translated to intellectual incongruity, as Safie and the creature “should not have understood the purport of this book, had not Felix, in reading it, given very minute explanations.” Not only is one social position dominant over the other, but also one symbolic or linguistic discourse is championed. This is expressed by the fact that important knowledge is disseminated mostly through a style that appears foreign to those who receive it.

However, within the post-colonial world, the abjection of a colonized people is not always explicit or obvious. Felix “had chosen this work, he said, because the declamatory style was framed in imitation of the eastern authors.” This statement re-emphasizes the idea of linguistic slavery. Not only are the colonized forced to adhere to the physical or economic forces of their captors; their very language is subjugated and co-opted. This expresses how lost a people may become, as colonial discourse may be masked within their native symbolism.

The exact contents of the book also have a unique character. “Through this work [the creature] obtained a cursory knowledge of history, “ a statement marked with a feeling of amorphous wholeness or generality, largely centered on the word “cursory.” What is described is not a listing of hard historical events, facts or figures; rather, its is a sort of summed narrative. This concept is maintained through a lesson including “a view of the several empires at present existing in the world; it gave [the creature] an insight into the manners, governments, and religions of the different nations of the earth.” This sentence solidifies the thread previously presented. The lessons of the colonial discourse seek to marry each culture with a sense of essence, inherent meaning or soul, a feat accomplished through the use of highly variable, general, and emotional terms like “manners, governments, and religions.”

The passage proceeds to offer specific examples, from a notably western European perspective. Obvious appreciation for the “stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians,” the “wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans,” and the era of  “chivalry, Christianity and kings,” is contrasted with a banal disgust towards the “slothful asiatics.” Cultures are again granted an overall feeling of inherent essence.

Finally, the passage ends with the “discovery of the American hemisphere,” as the creature “wept with Safie over the hapless fate of the original inhabitants.” The concept of wholeness is expanded, and the true scope of the colonial discourse can be understood. It needs to have all elements of the colonial world, meaning that both the colonizer and the colonized are crucial components of the cultural discourse. The feminine subaltern here has accepted the colonial forms of linguistic subjugation and cultural essence. This means that the manifestations of the subaltern do not weep for the crime of the brutal slaughter of a culture. They weep because they identify with a subjugated people and unfortunate events, but they also maintain an idea of destiny in “hapless fate.” Even the colonized peoples willfully join in with the colonial discourse, gladly accepting their role within the whole of a macroscopic society.

The parallelism between the creature and Safie is used to expose the conflicting wholeness and incongruity of the colonial discourse. The subaltern is superficially identified as whole, within a specific debased native culture. This is idea is manifested in the bodily and personal wholeness of Safie. However, beneath the surface, the subaltern is swirling maelstrom of ideology, with native and foreign entities mixed. This concept is shown in the bodily and personal incongruity of the creature.

Although Shelley could have been just being modest in her omission of her home country in the description of the great empires of the world, I seriously doubt it. The British were some of the most famous and powerful colonizers the world has ever seen.In the 19th and 20th centuries especially it could be said that indeed “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”

However in this excerpt that chronicles the world’s greatest civilizations there is no mention of the mighty British Empire. Though the novel was written before the British reached their pinnacle of world power, the nation was still an extremely powerful one.  Through omission, Shelley has rendered the most powerful nation on earth voiceless. This is the same voicelessness that categorizes Spivak’s idea of the subaltern. Here Shelley has turned the binaries of weak/strong, feminine/masculine, colonized/colonizer, and turned it on its head. She has made the strong voiceless and therefore subaltern through her failure to mention the British Empire. This omission ultimately contributes an argument that runs throughout the novel and that is that ideology, no matter what is is is not a solution to any problems the world faces.

Another textual clue that points toward Shelley’s argument about ideology is the word “cursory.” This use of “cursory” to describe the creature’s knowledge of the world suggests a hasty and superficial learning experience. However the culpable party goes unspecified  Was it Felix’s teaching or the creatures attentiveness that failed in the situation? This ambiguity in the blameworthiness suggests that no matter where this spoon-fed knowledge comes from, whether the powerful instruct or the powerless observe, ultimately the whole ideological construction fails.

Blog Summary 1: False Justice

As I perused my previous blog posts, I reread one in particular that caught my eye: my post titled “The Bond of Creator and Creation.” In it, I cite a quote from Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful: “”And as our Creator has designed we should be united by the bond of sympathy…”, and then I elaborate on the bond of sympathy between Frankenstein and the Creature when he listens to his progeny’s story. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that moment is the only display of sympathetic connection between this God and his Adam found in the whole novel. Everywhere else, most particularly the execution of Justine, it is absent—but why? There should be a strong bond of love between them like that of a father and son, but no connection or true communication can be found. Understanding this disparity between expectations and reality can be further explored using Marxist analysis.

A preliminary structural analysis reveals that the turning point in the novel is the death of William and the execution of Justine. Before that point, Victor is at peace and the Creature’s location is, for all intents and purposes, held at bay. After the death of Justine, however, everything changes; Victor now lives a life of fear, and the Creature is a broken human with an insatiable desire for vengeance trying to exert control over his creator. The focal point of Marxist analysis also centers on the death of Justine—the symbolic death of justice. Frankenstein, a scientifically and technologically inclined member of the bourgeoisie, created Frankenstein much in the same way that the techno-centric industrial bourgeoisie created the new working class. There is no sympathy between the two emerging classes because their stratification was not created through humanistic demands, but rather socioeconomic demands. The bourgeoisie, despite begetting a whole new “race” of people, could never view them as anything but a means to an end—and the end is money. In the French revolution, they promised the proletariat egalitarianism, but their words were hollow—the proletariat, being naïve and possessing no prior context, were able to be repressed by the bourgeoisie’s bastardization of the ancient ideology of justice. They believed that it was killed during the revolution, but it was killed long before then, when the first factory manager looked down on his newly-minted workers and saw them as a stack of dollar bills. The proletariat never stood a chance, and their mislead sense of justice prevented them from seeing the creator as the true enemy.

The dynamic between Frankenstein and his creation acts in very much the same way. Frankenstein, a disgusting but powerful mass of muscle and sinew, is the large, dirty proletariat; suppressed by their master, they only blame themselves. In the Justine episode, the Creature fails to fully realize it is Frankenstein’s fault for the death of justice, not his—the very act of creating “a new species [that] would bless me as its creator” (Frankenstein 58) killed justice before the starting gun had even fired, for to create a species for the sake of deification is the most unholy of all injustices. The ideology that the Creature follows is a false one, perpetuated by Frankenstein (who knowingly refused to intervene to save justice before her execution at bourgeoisie hands) in order to exert control over his creation. Frankenstein does all of this because his creature was not created for humanistic reasons; it was a means to an end, an attempt to gain power to stay the cold hand of death from those he selfishly wanted to keep forever in this world. In the end, the Creature is unable to see Frankenstein as an enemy. Even after he kills everyone Frankenstein loves, he still cries when his creator is finally subdued by Death and sacrifices himself to the sea. His false ideology will always blind him to his creator’s evil. Unless the proletariat can see what the bourgeoisie’s sense of justice actually is—frail, twisted, and coughing up the blood of innocents—they will never throw off the yoke of oppression.

Through critical Marxist techniques and theories of the sublime, the modern cultural duality of the Frankenstein myth may be explicated. This process is initiated by analysis of the main characters in Marxist terms. The creature in Frankenstein serves as the culmination of the bourgeoisie dream, long ago planted in the roots of society. Behind the façade of maintained societal sentiments such as “justice,” the elite have secretly plotted the overthrow of these same ideals. All of their silent manipulations have led up to this moment, in which they have planned to ascend to the helm of civilization as godlike beings, served by the created proletariat. As the manifestation of the bourgeoisie, Victor completes this process as planned, giving life to the monster.

However, something is deeply wrong with this entity. The proletariat and the monster were not naturally conceived in the womb, but in the mind; they have no ancestry, cobbled together from various decaying components, and forced into life by mysterious mechanistic means. Even Victor and the elite recognize the horror in such a filthy fabrication. They flee from their progeny, failing to use it as they intended. The ultimate result of this action is the suffering of all of society, expressed in the violence committed towards and by the creature. The true unnatural bourgeoisie construct is not just the proletariat class, but the hegemony of societal violence. Although they intended to rule their brave new world, all are enslaved instead by a different power, violence, expressed in the unending conflict of the creature and Victor as they hurtle towards their deaths.

The narrative inspires a great sympathetic response in the reader, as they conceive of the existential terror of the creature, and the horror of Victor in the consequences of his work. This sympathy leads to a more superficial level of the sublime, and also a realization of Montag’s “unrepresentability,” in the creature. By sympathizing with the Marxist metaphor presented, the reader perceives the invalidity of the proletariat construct, and the falseness of the capitalist symptom’s hegemony of violence, as it is unnatural and a source of terror and disgust. By understanding this invalidity, the reader also comprehends that the capitalist construct does not represent the societal ideal or even a natural creation process, and therefore leads to “unrepresentability.”

This significant realization of untruth leads to the formation of a fissure in the capitalist symptom. Behind the tattered edge, the deepest source of the sublime can almost be seen: the sublime object of ideology.  The reader begins to perceive that capitalist ideology does not reflect the “object,” which is the nature of reality. There is great awe and fear in realizing an incorrect way of viewing the real, and is therefore a great source of the sublime.

However, the capitalist symptom is not without power, even in the modern world. Like an oyster’s pearl, the ideological irritant is morphed by a smooth outer sheen. It cannot be completely removed because its sublime aspect is inherently attractive. This is the reason for the duality of the myth; it is too powerful to ignore, so it is sterilized into the common form as folk tale, which offers no threat to collapse capitalist ideology.

To a significant segment of modern society, the concept of Marxism is perceived as nothing more than a political buzzword, a failed governmental system and a relic of vicious totalitarian regimes. However, with deeper analysis, one can see that the true roots of Marxist thought are embedded in the intellectual and theoretical, rather than the practical or the mundane. This quality is exposed through Montag’s adroit Marxist analysis of Frankenstein. The text serves both to represent the structure of capitalistic society in the interactions between Frankenstein and the creature, and also to expose the deeper composition of ideology itself.

The parallels between the Marxist understanding of modern society and the events of the story are numerous and glaring. Victor Frankenstein acts as a manifestation of the newly formed bourgeoisie. He is descended from neither the serfs nor the lords, instead inhabiting the middle class. As the events of the text progress, he ideologically overturns and destroys the ancient social system by transcending the traditional means of control, such as religion or violence, instead embracing science. This knowledge is powerful enough to allow the ascension of the middle class as the new social elite, who champion industrial capitalism and doom the feudal agrarianism of the past. Victor’s study of biology and anatomy can be equated with the subjects of mechanical engineering or factory construction.

The subsequent product of the rise of enlightenment and scientific discourse is the creation of another social class. This is the proletariat, fabricated by the demand of the new elite rather than rising out of the natural structure of the world, and manifested in the creature. It and Victor, and also the workers and the owners, are inexorably linked. The principles of the bourgeoisie demand the formation of the proletariat, and the proletariat arises solely from the capitalist context. In order for the bourgeoisie to implement their new vision of the world, they had to manipulate the strength of the working classes. Frankenstein’s creation of the monster functions in the same way. Victor never questions the reasoning or implications of his work, uses the creature’s birth to validate the respect for his scientific field, and accepts a sense of natural providence or fate.

Once the proletariat has been created, a very strong sense of tension appears. A great amount of material wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the elite, only through capitalistic societal mechanism. If the matrix of the bourgeoisie were to collapse, nothing would prevent their destruction by the masses. This results in a latent fear. In the same way, Frankenstein recognizes the significant bodily and mental power wielded by his creature, giving it life and attempting to control it although he knows of the risks. There is also a sense of pity, in that even the elites recognize the suffering at the bottom of society, and a sense of disgust, through the rejection and debasement of those given less worth. Both of these ideas can be seen in the interaction of Frankenstein and the monster, as Victor pities the creatures ignorance and loneliness, yet is revolted by its natural form.

The creature also bears some meaning towards the nature of ideology itself. Transcending superficial allegory for the proletariat, “the mass is reduced to the absolute singularity of Frankenstein’s creation, which is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (Montag 395). The monster not only expresses the superficial characteristics of the proletariat and the capitalistic social structure, it signifies the deepest and most important aspect: its falsehood. This sense is derived through Montag’s emphasis of the unnatural and unexplained origin of the monster, and its singular uniqueness in the world. Without these themes, the reader would not recognize anything unusual, and embrace the capitalist ideology present as allegory in the text. With these themes, however, this cultural bias is avoided. By concentrating the metaphor into a single entity, it seems grotesque and strange, rather than acceptable. The creature appears as a fissure in the symptom of capitalism, which exposes the inconsistency of the ideology with reality. The monster acts as a portal to what some might call “the sublime object of ideology,” which is by nature impossible and incomprehensible. This is the origin of unrepresentability; just like the creature, the very concepts of proletariat and the capitalist social structure are mysteriously constructed by man instead of being discovered, and posses no inherent truth or natural validity. Because of this lack of inherent or natural truth, the monster does not invoke a defined meaning in “proletariat,” but a lack of meaning in “unrepresentability.”

I find that I thoroughly agree with Montag’s analysis of the text. The allegory that he denotes is logically discovered and processed. However, what I truly agree with and find interesting is his idea of “unrepresentability.” This explains greater questions such as the horror present in the novel or the creature’s sublime aspect, which Montag would derive from the terror in the collapse of ideological symptoms and exposure to the incomprehensible kernel of reality.