Tag Archive: Marxist Interpretation


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.

By Jade Graham

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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.

 

While only a few of the details of this argument were actually in my previous posts, thinking about them and synthesizing other ideas from class led to a new interpretation. Frankenstein can be read as an explanation of how the French Revolution was a failure and not a true revolution. Namely, the bourgeoisie manipulated the proletariat as they would a commodity in order to create a bourgeoisie society in the name of the proletariat. This created a bloodbath much like the monster creates when he finds out he has been wronged. Frankenstein here is the bourgeoisie, while his monster is both the proletariat and a commodity formed by the bourgeoisie.

The monster as the proletariat is a popular view among Marxist critics, but many interpretations ignore the parallels between his creation and the creation of commodities. Like the rest of the novel, the sections before and after the creation are rife with details. The reader is bombarded with details of the creature’s appearance (such as his proportional limbs and “yellow skin scarcely [covering] the muscles and arteries beneath”) and Victor’s own feelings (“anxiety” mixed with “enthusiasm”), but there is no mention of the actual process of the monster’s creation (Shelley 60). The creature’s means of production are hidden, much like commodities are in capitalist societies (Parker 215). This makes him not just the proletariat, but a commodity as well.

The status of the creature as a commodity reflects the manipulation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie in the French Revolution, a manipulation in order to perform “the task of releasing and setting up modern bourgeois society” (Marx 24). The French Revolution was a bourgeois revolution, meant to increase their power, not one for the proletariat. The story reflects this, with Frankenstein creating life just because he could, to satisfy his own ego. It is when he shuns the creature that the horror of the story starts.

By creating life but not accepting his creature, Frankenstein suffers the same turmoil that France did when its bourgeoisie attempted its revolution without the bourgeoisie. Death and suffering took over. Many bourgeois former leaders of the revolution were killed in the Reign of Terror, and many of Victor’s bourgeois family and friends were killed by the creature. But we sympathize with the creature precisely because he has been manipulated. Just as the French Revolution did not truly represent the interests of the proletariat, the interests of the creature were not accounted for by his creator. He is left alone, and thus he becomes the sympathetic figure. His creation has failed him much like the French Revolution ultimately failed the proletariat.