Tag Archive: marxism


by Steven Gonzalez

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

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

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In his essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,” Montag brings forward many issues that people are able to interpret and express differently. Personally, I believe the biggest example of Montag’s ideas presented in this essay is his comparison between the working and middle classes as he states,”it bears witness to the birth of that monster, simultaneously the object of pity and fear, the industrial working class” (380). With this Marxist perspective, the monster has a similarity to the industrial class. This is significant because we see that both the monster and the people of the working class both constantly struggle with their lives. When the monster is born/made, it struggles to gain any form of relationships or companions solely due to its hideous physical appearance. The only option left for the monster is to be born into that hideous appearance and deal with the constant hurt, backlash, and burden that weighs on its shoulders. Comparably, during the Industrial and French Revolutions, those born into the working class also had to struggle with their economic status and life as they were always struggling to find work and make ends meet. This idea is important and significant because it is illustrating something that people went through and still do at times. This essay highlights the the social and economic restraints of both the monster and history. According to Montag, the monster is the proletariat as he states,“the monster is the proletariat. History disguised as the novel remains only to be unmasked by the reader.” (389). From that quote, we see that according to Montag, the monster is the proletariat. To add on, I think Montag is letting readers know that the text has many resemblances to history and the issues of production but it is solely up to the reader to find those resemblances and hints. There is barely any insight or reference to the way the monster was made. There is some, but it is barely stated which illustrates the alienation of labor that those of the working class face. I also feel as if he believes Victor represents those of the middle class. In a sense, I would like to agree with Montag about Victor being a member of the middle class. His character is rather selfish. A perfect example of that is the death of his wife, Elizabeth. Victor sends his wife away because suddenly his masculine games come into play again and decides, my wedding night is a perfect night to murder/fight this monster? Throughout the novel, we see that Elizabeth is in a sense owned by Victor. He was selfish in leaving her alone on their wedding night, especially if someone was after him, this highlights his self centered nature. However, I feel as though Victor could also represent the working class too because he created the monster in his workshop yet there was barely any information. It went from the description of his work room and quickly after it was the scene of the finished product. Where was the part in which he was making the creature? It was nonexistent.  on that. I agree and disagree with the author of this novel because I feel as if though the monster went through worse than the working class. I agree with the struggles and burdens, but the monster was less. He was made up of parts other people, he lacked normal everyday bodily functions and features. It is not fair to compare the creature to everyday people who yes, struggle, but their entire existence and life does not. I also feel like Victor could be both a member of middle and working classes. This was rather confusing so I would like to both agree and disagree with this text.

-Rahma Kohin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By Diana Lara

 

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

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.

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

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

A Marxist Perspective

Tania De Lira-Miranda 

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In Warren Montag’s essay “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,”  it is stated that Mary Shelley writing shows the “birth of [the] monster, simultaneously the object of pity and fear, the industrial working class” thus making the creature be classified as a proletariat. Montag further explains that this is due to the creature not being natural but instead artificial and how it made from a “multitude of different individuals.” But while Montag gives evidence to show that Mary Shelley intended the creature to be a representation of the working class, Montag own opinion is that the creature is not “the sign of the proletariat.”

I agree with Montag as the reasons why the creature could be considered a proletariat can be disproven. While it is true that the creature is not a natural being but artificial, Mary Shelley does not write on how the creature is created; only that Victor sewed up the body parts he took from the graveyard and then that the creature was alive. Thus the statement that the creature was created from a “multitude of different individuals” cannot be proven by the novel.  Another reason would be the difference on the reasons why to pity/fear the creature and the proletariats. The creature is to be pitied because of the loneliness he is subjected to as when Victor, his creator, ran out of the room because of the creature’s appearance (60) and when he was chased out of the cottage by Felix though he had done nothing to deserve it (121) and he should be feared due to the fact that he was the one who killed William (75) and Elizabeth (167). But the proletariats were pitied due to how poor they were and they were feared because of the revolution they could bring. So while the creature was a byproduct of a middle-class capitalist, Victor Frankenstein, the creature cannot be truly be seen as a proletariat thus making Montag’s view to be correct.

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.