Tag Archive: Marxist


         -An imitation of the passage in Chapter 13 on page 108-109

     “The books from which Felix instructed Safie were George Orwell’s 1984 and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. I should not have understood the significance of these books had not Felix, in reading them, described the magnitude of the ideas implicated by the novels. Through these works, I obtained a rudimentary understanding of the history and ideology behind the most infamous socialist nations of the past and present. I heard from Orwell of the social rigidity and homogeneity of Oceania and from Solzhenitsyn’s writings I heard of the avaricious and recreant Soviets and Felix even told of the cruelty of Chairman Mao in the People’s Republic of China. I heard of the collectivization of farms under Joseph Stalin and I wept with Safie over the hapless fate of the destitute kulaks.”

“ These wonderful narrations inspired me with strange feelings. Was man, indeed, at once so innovative, so virtuous, and conscientious, yet so brutal, envious, and insatiable? He appeared at one time a mere mouthpiece of an evil ideology, and at another as all that can be conceived as fair and compassionate. To be a merciful and just man appeared the highest honour that can befall man; to be envious and brutal, as many on record have been, appeared the lowest degradation, a condition more pitiful than that of the blind bat or harmless dove. For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or why there were laws and governments put in place to assist such actions; but when I heard of how envy of the wealthy was being masked as compassion for the poor, my wonder ceased, and I turned away with abhorrence and a feeling of injustice.”

“Every conversation of the cottagers now exposed new forms of malevolence to me. While I listened to the instructions which Felix bestowed upon the Arabian, the strange system of socialist society was explained to me. I heard of the government’s ownership of property, of equal wealth for all regardless of occupation; of rigidity, groupthink, and malevolence.

The words induced me to turn towards myself. I learned that the purpose for such socialist systems was for the equivalence of power and wealth. A man should only be respected if he expressed compassion for those who found themselves at the bottom of any hierarchy and contempt for those who have succeeded much of their own accord. Thus, man was doomed to waste his powers to bestow uniform riches for all people. And so what was my place in this society? Of my creation and creator, I was absolutely ignorant, but I knew that I possessed no capital, no companions, no kind of property. Was I then to receive the pity and compassion of man or would I merely bear witness to the eradication of any man, who in any of his various identities, was considered a tyrant; I was not even of the same nature as man. I was more agile than they and could subsist upon coarser diet; I bore the extremes of heat and cold with less injury to my frame; my stature far exceeded theirs. In these attributes, I knew that I was superior to man, yet with regards to my capital I was an inferior being. What was I then? Was I, then, a victim, a child to be cared for, from which all people empathized with and whom all men pitied? Or was I then an oppressor, a taskmaster to be exterminated from the face of the Earth, from whom all men despised and envied.

I cannot describe to you the agony that these reflections inflicted upon me: I tried to rationalize the reasons for which such system would function without such pathology, but the more I tried to rationalize such ideas, the more I realized the incoherence of such ideas. Should I then separate myself from the society of man, ensuring my survival and evading my inevitable dishonest obliteration from the face of this Earth?

 

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            Regarding my short parody, I choose to imitate the structure and formal aspects of the passage on page 108-109 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This passage depicted the creature learning all about human history and the nature of human society in the present; He does this by listening in to Felix’s conversations with Safie as he attempts to teach her how to speak the same language as him. In reading this passage I realized that it often discussed aspects of capitalist based societies as being evil and in some senses unfair. This insinuation of the evils of capitalism is mentioned through constant mentions of a “division of property, of immense wealth” and of higher “rank” being attributed to those who had more money. In attempting to recreate this passage for a modern audience, I reflected on the constant recurrence of the espousals of socialist ideals and of the degradation of capitalism that I hear on a constant basis. Thus, I decided to use this parody as an admonition of the adoption of socialist ideals. Far too often I see the espousal of socialist ideals often grounded in the name of compassion without the recognition of the dangers that socialism has presented throughout history. While socialism is often masked by compassion, it often is motivated by the envy of those who succeed in a free market capitalist system and because of this socialism in many different variations and in different times throughout history has resulted in the mass genocide of those often seen as successful. Furthermore, those people who more recently have embraced the ideas of socialism are those ideologues – usually on the extremes of the political spectrum- who adopt a small number of incoherent irrational axioms to live their life by and center their belief systems around. Because of this adherence to ideologies and social systems based on faulty axioms, I found it incredibly important to broadcast the dangers of socialism. In keeping true to the original passage, I kept the original structure, form, and used similar language to that in the original passage. The original passage began with the creature learning about history from the teachings of Safie by Felix and in my parody, this remains true except he learns of the socialist dictators of the past and portrayed in novels. In this teaching, I chose to use George Orwell’s 1984 and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago to be the novels from which the creature and Safie learn from. This is because Orwell’s novel emphasizes the dangers of groupthink and of the danger of centralizing power in the government while Solzhenitsyn’s novel focuses on the horrors and tragedies that people- usually those with even a modicum of wealth- experienced during the Russian Revolution.  Next, the creature reflects on how man can value such high moral principles yet simultaneously act against them and in my parody I kept similar dialogue but made the dialogue apply in the context of a degeneration of socialism. Finally, the creature speaks of fundamental aspects of human society with an insinuation of an aversion to capitalism and thus in my parody, I used the same structure in my criticism of socialism. Overall, my goal in this project was to convey a caution against the adoption of socialist ideals often adopted in our modern society through a comparably similar imitation of the original passage.

-Steven Gonzalez

December 5, 2018

By Maya Carranza

While reading Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein”, I came to the conclusion that he was correct for calling Frankenstein a middle class, but was wrong for calling the monster a proletariat. Perhaps, because of Victor’s selfish and ambitious ways the monster was created with the intention to be a proletariat or a worker, which can be illustrated when Victors states, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” (57). On the other hand,  the monster was abandoned by his creator, was on his own and never ended up working for anybody. However, I did agree with Montag when he says the creature is “not so much a sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”. This made sense to me because even though the monster never worked for anyone or anything he was in a way connected to the working class. As the story continues, the monster encounters a family living in a cottage. “…I longed to join them, but dared not. I remembered too well the treatment I had suffered the night before from the barbarous villagers, and resolved… that for the present, I would remain quietly in my hovel, watching…” (101) This is where pity is struck upon the monster, just like the working class he is poor, struggling for survival and rights due to the mistreatment he faced, and trying to find a place in society.

In conclusion, I agree with Montag when he categorizes Victor as the middle class but agree to disagree with him when says the monster is is part of the proletariat due to the fact that although the creature did not work for anyone, he was connected to the working class by the way he was stuck in the lower class and struggled to find a place in society.

Laugh out Loud

Throughout the years, the avoidance of confrontation will result in the inevitable return of the conflict. When confronted with conflicts, our primal instinct is to be able to repress the trouble for it is both easy and seemingly sensible. Warren Montag’s perception of confrontation of the novel is that The Monster within Frankenstein is the visual representation of the industrial working class. Coincidentally, Victor represents the upper class of society. We can argue that the dispute within The Monster and his creator combines both the pity and fear that The Monster had towards Victor ever since he was created right to the very last transitions of the novel. Frankenstein is portrayed as a slave of technology.

Before initiating his argument, Montag provides analytical information for why the time that novel was published plays a major role towards his theory. Despite that the French Revolution came to a close just prior to the novel’s publication, it’s never mentioned once throughout the novel. Montag argues these discrepancies “are precise that will allow us to proceed from the work to the history on which it depends and what made it possible” [385]. His theory strengthed throughout many segments throughout the novel as in which The Monster is being compromised by a “multitude of different individuals…” [387]. Ultimately, The Monster is not a simply a creation that has gone array for Dr. Frankenstein, but rather a product of science and technological innovation and to further understand this, it’s an “artificial being as destructive as it is powerful” [388].

What differentiates Victor from The Monster is the manner of coping with loss. “Alas! Life is obstinate and clings closest to where it is most hated” [167]. Victor’s tone drastically shifts from defeat to mere determination in order to destroy what he created from the start. And as the last sentences come to a close, The Monster’s objective to destroy his creator through feelings only feeds Victor’s desire to rise once again and replenish his life from sorrow and depression. “For a moment only did I lose recollection; I fell senseless on the ground” [167]. Only then was when Victor was in the same position as The Monster, only to finally realize for what he’s truly created. A Monster, not, what he had thought for from the start, but through the neglect, he inflicted towards him, and the feelings that he eventually developed truly exemplifies the actions of The Monster whose main objective is to bring along down with him as his creator.

Although it’s undeniable to foresee The Monster’s relation to the proletariat, Mary Shelley’s novel is too complex to be reduced to “…a mere allegory” [389]. Due to this, Montag decides to examine the novel from a Marxist perspective in order to be able to analyze the history present outside of the contents of the novel. Subliminally, the setting of the novel is set in a pre-modern world, establishing that there is no place for such being as The Monster, and is alienated for most of the portion of Shelley’s novel. Montag concludes with, “if a certain historical reality is inscribed within the work as a monster to be expelled into ‘darkness and distance’… the act of repression can only postpone its inevitable return” [395]. The Monster is a living being whos’ main objective in life was never understood until his desire for love was flourished as he learned to become more human furthermore than a mere scientific product. I must deny with Montag’s claims as portraying The Monster as a proletariat, to a certain extent. No, he doesn’t work to obtain a living for himself, but in contrast, he is a being that’s sole purpose to live for is to love and give love. Because that ultimately makes him be at peace, and to further stray away from the one who created him in the first place.

– Stephen Muñoz

The execution of Justine is a symbolically dense passage. The exact message of what Shelley is trying to convey by the death of Justine (justice) is confusing at best — and how could it not be? Her dad was a political philosopher, her mom was a feminist, and yet she still believed in Edmund Burke’s semi-sexist theories. These conflicting views are reflected in this passage, although I believe that Shelley mostly uses the work of Burke as a scaffold for the execution scene.

Burke, in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, is deeply concerned with the death of traditional European values with the rise of the Proletariat revolution in France. He writes extensively on how the class system has worked to promote civility and limit the powers of tyrants. He even remarks that Europe’s upper-class civility “kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom.” Justine is this very indentured freedom. She is a servant for an upper-class family, the Frankensteins, and represents the “old money”, if you will, of Europe. Her ultimate death is not caused by the townsfolk that executed her, but rather by the Creature — he is the one who killed William and planted evidence on Justine, condemning her. A Marxist reading of Frankenstein leads one to believe that the Creature is, at a very basic level, a symbol of the proletariat. He is created by the technological prowess of Frankenstein in the same way that the new working class was created by the new technology of factory owners.

It is this working class that is creating terror in France in the same way that the Creature is creating terror in the lives of the characters that inhabit the world of Frankenstein. When the Creature kills William — an innocent, virtuous child — he also kills Justine, signalling both the end of her life and the end of the traditional European values that Burke longs for.

Historical Context and Marxist Literary Criticism

Marxism, simply put, is the perpetual struggle between antagonistic social forces. But, as Montag points out, the struggle “is not the same throughout history, it takes many forms… follows no rules and obeys no logic” (389). Literary works express a specific form of the struggle, and in the case of Frankenstein the struggle is, ostensibly, between the upper class, personified by Frankenstein, and the lower working class, personified by the monster. When considering the historical context on a basic level, this notion is well supported and reinforced.

In my opinion the two major historical events that are intrinsic to this novel are the French Revolution and Industrial Revolution, with each constructing and molding the character of Frankenstein and the character of the monster. The French Revolution was supposed to be the emergence of the elite land-owning/monied class over the monarchy, an emergence made possible by the working class masses. However, this turned out to be an idyllic, since in reality the masses became uncontrollable, and in fact in many ways blocked the emergence of the land-owning/monied class. This strongly parallels the novel: Frankenstein in an attempt to create a race of humanoids that would allow him to surpass his own societal and scientific constraints, he creates Frankenstein, a creature that Montag notes, ironically reverses “Frankenstein’s position…clearest when his creation, far more powerful than he, calls him slave” (390). The monster not only stymies Frankenstein’s progress, but in fact reverses it in many aspects, as Frankenstein witnesses his creation kill intermittently, and wield his strength to control and extort Frankenstein himself.

The context of the Industrial Revolution reveals much about the working lower class construct of the monster. The Industrial Revolution led the extinction of the rural working class, which enjoyed a relatively peaceful and unperturbed existence. But science and rapid industrialization led to the existence of a new working class: the industrial working class. This new class did not enjoy the few privileges afforded by the rural class, and instead became locked in a terrible cycle of unemployment and higher cost of living that coincided with the technological progress and the prosperity of the upper classes. The creature, much like the industrial working class was borne from the labors of science, and that very science has trapped it in a cycle of misery and alienation. Its very existence is an affront, and the propagation of its race (the creature’s desire for a female counterpart) is something the creature feels is necessary. The propagation can only be carried out by the one element, Frankenstein that refuses to further destroy infringe on nature, or to put it in the context of the upper class construct, preserve the status quo.

Montag claims that “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”. Montag however claims that this antagonism takes a different form. Rather than the active representation of working class by Frankenstein, Montag claims that Frankenstein really represents the absence of the working class. This is an attempt by Montag to reconcile the fact that the monster has no voice and the very depiction of him as a monster reduces his ability to represent the proletariat. This might be true if the above historical context is not taken into consideration, and the character of Frankenstein is examined as a stand-alone. However, when taking historical context and the monster’s relation to Frankenstein into consideration, the novel presents a clear cut and active antagonism between the upper class and the working lower class, as presented by the struggle between Frankenstein and his monster.