Tag Archive: oppression


Acceptance

Marginalization is radically expressed in Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein”. The creature and Safie both share a major thing in common, which is feeling or being outcasted from society. The connection between the monster and Safie is hard to miss because on one end we have the monster who feels utterly alone. His physical appearance is what alienates him from the rest of society. He realizes that he will never be fully accepted within society because he does not fit in with the social norms. For a while the creature feels alone, and completely exiled from a world that he was artificially brought into. When the creature discovers Safie’s letters he realizes that he is not the only one going through this situation. Safie’s story revealed to the creature that social injustices exist everywhere amongst many people. Safie, the creature, and Safie’s father are all victims of oppression. Safie being a Turkish refugee was trying to escape the injustices in her homeland only to enter a land with similar controversies. Both Safie and the creature find themselves in the same predicament, trying to fit in but no matter they will never be fully socially accepted. “I soon perceived, that although the stranger uttered articulate sounds, and appeared to have a language of her own, she was neither understood by, nor herself understood, the cottagers.” (Shelley 106).The letters was a way for the creature to show Victor the struggles that he now faces, because of him. He is now a victim of colonization, just like Safie, however they come from two completely different backgrounds. The discrimination presented in Shelley’s novel is very apparent in todays world, it exposes the struggles of being “different”.

~Dariana Lara

 

In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the creature wished to prove to Victor “the truth of my tale” through Safie’s letters written to Felix. Although Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey seeking refuge, the creature very much identifies with Safie because she is a foreigner, who is different from those who she is surrounded by and he too, seeks refuge from society after being outcasted. The creature even goes as far as calling De Lacey, Felix, and Agatha his “protectors.” The creature also connects with Safie in that “she was neither understood by, nor herself understood, the cottagers” (106). On a larger scale, the creature is not only misunderstood and unable to fully understand the cottagers, but also Victor, his creator, and the people that he encounters. As Felix teaches Safie their language, the creature makes use of it and learns from it as well. In addition to learning the system of human society, he also obtains a “cursory knowledge of history, and a view of the several empires at present existing in the world” (108). Upon learning of the discovery of America, he further empathizes with Safie and weeps with her “over the hapless fate of its original inhabitants” (108) and the oppression that they face.

The idea of borderlands, by Anzaldua represents a “crossing of borders of multiple identities” (Parker, 312). In other words, the term is used to describe both physical and invisible barriers. For Safie, she deals with crossings of physical barriers between countries to escape with her father and Felix from the prison, “through France to Lyons, and across Mount Cenis to Leghorn” (112). In contrast, the creature faces more emotional, internal barriers as he struggles to express his true identity and emotions to others and therefore does so through Safie’s letters, claiming that they are the truth of his tale. Both the creature and Safie in these ways are considered inhabitants of the borderland, struggling with their cultural identities, which ultimately proves how the creature identifies with Safie.

-Serena Ya

A Retributive Rage

By: Mary Russell

Jessica Rae Fisher and Susan Stryker both seek to reclaim the title “monster” from their oppressors. As transgender women, their existence is viewed as unnatural as, “The product of medical science. It is a technological construction. It is flesh torn apart and sewn together again in a shape other than that in which it was born” (Stryker 2). The creation of Frankenstein’s monster is often likened to this view of transitioning, because the creature is an unnatural amalgamation of parts. In viewing the creature purely as a monster, this comparison is cruel. Fisher and Stryker however seek to take this description for themselves, and use it as armor against the cruelness of the world. The creature is often seen as sympathetic in it’s rage against it’s creator, and so to is the transgender rage sympathetic.

The creature is best understood when explaining it’s plight to Frankenstein himself. The creature tells it’s creator, “I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone?… 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?” (Shelley 93). The creature loved, and wanted to be loved. Unfortunately, he was alone and an outcast. He could not seek refuge in human society, nor in the home of his creator. Filisa Vistima was rejected from her community, a blow felt by all transgender individuals at one point or another. Like Vistima, like the creature, they feel rejected by society for no other reason than their existence. They want to love and be loved. Eventually, the creature learned of the hatred he would experience in society as transgender people learn. As a defense against this disappointment and isolation, the creature chooses to hate mankind first. The creature is, “Miserable, and they [mankind] shall share my wretchedness,” (Shelley 93). To defend against the pain of rejection, the creature chooses to reflect this pain back on the aggressors. They will feel their hatred, and feel how miserable it is. Transgender rage is a manifestation of the creature’s defense mechanism. Instead of internalizing their wounds, they throw them back.

The creature is not only relatable in it’s rage however. When living with the cottagers, the creature states that he learned,

Of the difference of sexes; and the birth and growth of children; how the father doted on the smiles of the infant, and the lively sallies of the older child; how all the life and cares of the mother were wrapped up in the precious charge; how the mind of youth expanded and gained knowledge; of brother, sister, and all the various relationships which bind one human being to another in mutual bonds.

But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days, no mother had blessed me with smiles and caresses; or if they had, all my past life was now a blot, a blind vacancy in which I distinguished nothing… What was I? The question again recurred, to be answered only with groans. (Shelley 109-110)

The creature questions it’s own gender and how it fits into the norms he witnesses. The DeLacey family showed the creature what it was to be a father, what it was to be a brother or a sister, and what it was to be a man or a woman. The creature associated these roles as inherent with gender. Without experiencing any of these things, the creature is left wondering what it is. It had no mother or father, and no siblings therefore it does not know what role it fills. Fisher states that she feels, “Uncertainty about where I [Fisher] stand in relation to my community,” (Fisher). Not only does Fisher feel out of place in her community, she questions her role in it. Stryker too experiences an “abnormal” family life, with her lover and children. The nuclear family feels out of touch for transgender individuals, and often they feel uncertain of their roles as children. A woman will feel uncomfortable raised with masculine expectations, and will be uncomfortable with their discomfort. She would become alienated from her gender expression, and wonder where she belonged. She would wonder, “What was I?” with seemingly no answers.

The creature is a reflection of the transgender rage, loneliness, and alienation felt by the community. The creature feels the acute isolation and hatred symptomatic of societal hatred relatable to transgender individuals. It’s rage is their rage. It’s sadness is their sadness. The creature’s unnatural nature was used as an insult to the trans community, but upon reevaluation it can be reclaimed as a medal of honor. Those who spew hatred at transgender individuals should fear the rage they are creating.

Victor against Anne Mellor’s beliefs

In Anne Mellor’s essay, A Feminist Critique of Science, it is demonstrated how dealing with the use of science in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein unraveled an important perspective into the manner that nature is viewed with a feminine perspective. Mellor makes it clear that nature should not be manipulated or controlled in science. She believes respecting it and constantly accounting for it when conducting certain experiments. As for in the novel, Mellor’s argument and rules can be seen being completely put aside and forgotten about. Victors arrogance and egotistic mindset ultimately revealed his repression towards the opposite sex by his aspiration to manipulate and control all nature and create life.

In Frankenstein, Victor repeatedly references nature and when he does this he depicts nature as a woman. This can be seen on page 46 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when Victor says “…but her immoral lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery.” This demonstrates that Victor does call nature a woman, however, he does not do it with the intention to harm or hinder her rather allowing him to interpret nature better. On page 46 as well, Victor states “…here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more.” When Victor speaks about science he is stating that these scientists “penetrated” deeper into the understanding of manipulating nature thus allowing them to control and continue to learn from it. Victors enthusiasm to apply feminity to nature and to so discover secrets about it shows this strong sense of oppression towards it.

To conclude, we can see Mellor’s arguments continue to get certified when Victor views a lightning strike, and he describes it as something “…[curious] and [delightful]”. Victor describes this sequence as a sort of mystery, however, it can be interpreted as if it is a warning from mother nature or foreshadowing what is to come for Victor if he continues to question and attempt to unravel the depths of mother nature. Ultimately, despite this “warning”, Victor is left with sorrow and nothing due to his fascination with wanting to distort and manage “mother nature” for his own self-centered objectives.

By: Daniel Olmos

Victor The Proletariat

In Warren Montag’s The “Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, he describes both of the different struggles went through by Victor (a middle-class capitalist) and his creation (the oppressed working class). Montag concludes his view point on the subject by voicing that the Creature was not so much a proletariat, rather unrepresented. After reading, I came to the conclusion that the Creature is in fact not the mere image of the working class because Victor, its creator, seems to fit this image much more; although his social status is undoubtedly higher than that of a proletariat.

It is true that Victor’s creation is viewed as being part of the oppressed working class because of the life it lead on. Abandoned and rejected everywhere it went, the Creature mirrored several struggles that proletariat’s face due to their poor social standing. However, the monster is much more absent to the working class than a part of it. Montag explains how, “the narrative (Frankenstein) suppresses all that is modern in order to render this being inexplicable and unprecedent, a being for whom there is no place in the ordered world of nature” (480). In other words, because the Creature was ultimately written with the intention of being isolated from the world, it was unable to take on any social roll.

Now, despite Victors obvious social status, I believe that he relates more to the image of a proletariat than his creation. The reason behind it being, his dedication to learning and ultimately “creating a race that would worship him as a master” (475-476). This dedication was what lead him to become a slave to his work, killing himself day in and day out to one day finally succeed. This can be seen when Victor says, “Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labors; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves-sights which before always yielded me supreme delight-so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation” (59). In the same way, a proletariat is also a slave to the upper class, endlessly working in hopes to someday acquire a stable salary; this causing them to miss out on living and enjoying their life. Similarly, Victor “[was] always a prisoner, and perhaps most when he believed himself to be free forced to labor on a project whose ultimate meaning he remained ignorant [to]” (478). Although a working class individual perhaps never sees themselves as “free” like Frankenstein did in working, Victor can be seen as a proletariat because of the constant oppression and pressure he put on himself to create something great.

– Juanita Espinoza

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