Tag Archive: proletariat


Butchered Justice

In the novel Frankenstein, we readers witness the execution of Justine, the maid of the Frankenstein household, for the death of William. Although she was never guilty, she was still put on trial and found guilty for planted evidence. After reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men, the connections between Justine/Justice and the writing material is very strong.

For instance, Wollstonecraft focuses the majority of her paper on the idea of beauty, and how it is treated towards Justine and all women found in Frankenstein. Wollstonecraft quotes that “littleness and weakness are the very essence of beauty” (47). With Justine being a female, this same idea of beauty collided with her, and her wretched state as she goes on trial, knowing that she herself is innocent. At this point in the novel, Justine is tear-faced and broken to hear the news of her guilt from the jury. Wollstonecraft shows us that in order to be considered beautiful by men, we must appear smaller than them, and act as if we have a necessity for males in our lives in order to survive. Justine was not able to fit in that category, since she was “guilty” of William’s murder, which led to her demise.

-Jody Omlin

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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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Bianca Lopez Munoz

As we were introduced to Victor at the beginning of Frankenstein, we learn that he is Genevese and that his family is, “one of the most distinguished in that republic” and that his ancestors, “had been for many years counsellors and syndics” (39). Not only that but Victor also states that, “No human being could have passed a happier childhod than myself” (44). In other words, Victor grew up in a very well off home, was raised by kind parents, and members of his family have a history of being government officials. This character lived a pretty comfortable, undemanding, and privilaged life up until he created the creature. Victor’s background allows us to interpret his character as the representation of the bourgoisie, the well off middle class in society. In Montag’s essay, he reminds us that it was this bourgoisie middle class that “conjured up a monster that once unleased, could not be controlled” (471), the monster being the French and English Revolutions led by the bourgoisie but comprised mostly of the proletariat class. Similarly, Victor conjured up an uncontrollable ‘monster’ as well. But I don’t believe this interpretation stays consistent throughout the novel. Victor starts out as a sort of representation of the bourgoisie but after the his creation and towards the end of the novel he seems to become more part of the proletariat, the working class. As the burgoisie did, Victor becomes fearful of the monster he created. When the creature demands that Victor create a partner for him, Victor obliges out of fear. The creature’s demands are similar to that of the proletariat class, in that during the revolution, the people sought justice and fairness that according to Montag their “innumerable demands went far beyond what was rational or even ‘just’ (according to the norms of middle -class revolutionaries)” (471). In Victor’s eyes, creating yet another monster that could possible add on to his torment was not rational or just to him, but to the creature, having experienced such isolation, saw these requests as ‘just’. The creature also overthrows his ‘master’. After Victor destroys the second creation, the creature calls Victor a slave and tells him, “you are my creator, but I am your master;––obey!”(146). The creature becomes like the anarchists of the revolutions! 

For the most part, I agree with Warren Montag’s concluding statements in his essay, “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A marxist Reading of Frankenstein”. Montag concludes that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability. Though in my eyes, the creature does represent the proletariat, not in that it is a ‘working class’ but that it’s an unatural mass created by some higher authority, made up of different individuals (literally) and that it itches for change and the overall betterment of its life. The creature tells Victor, “Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me, and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands” (94). This is the creature’s attempt to have his creator listen to him. The creation craves the attention and demands that his perspective and struggles be heard much like the proletariat to the bourgoisie. But according to Montag, the creature represents the unrepresentability of the proletariat. This mass of people, the working class, the peasants and the slaves all want their lives to be generally improved and they attempt this through the authority of a bourgoisie leader/figurehead. But that bourgoisie individual and the individuals of that same class have their own agenda to push that would still of course benefit them in some way, I personally doubt they would support a revolution that didn’t in some way give them more power or authority. Because of the different agendas and degree of change these two different classes demand, the unrepresentability of the politariat is that their voice/opinions may have to be approved and supported by bourgoisie authority which is the opposite of what they demand because I get the vibe that they know what they want and they want it now! For their demands to have to agree with anothers agenda seems counterproductive to the movement they are part of and the change they wanted to see.

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.

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

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

Whilst reading Warren Montag’s “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, I was completely confused as to what his argument was. It wasn’t until the end that I somewhat developed an understanding of what he meant. To my understanding, Montag argued that the way Mary Shelley has structured the book and its characters is like a direct reflection of society at the time when she wrote the novel. He starts off by stating that Shelley’s Frankenstein takes place in the French Revolution, a time where the relationship between the bourgeoise and the proletariats was extremely tense. He then goes on to say that Victor is a representation of the middle/upper class and the creature represents the working class.

However, what I don’t understand is how at the end Montag states, “Frankenstein’s monster is finally not identified with the working class of Mary Shelley’s time but with its absence,” (480). What does this mean? I can’t say I agree because to me, everything the creature stands for—who he is, the things he has gone through, everything—reflects the struggles of a proletariat of the time. Montag even says himself that people regard proletariats as an uncontrollable monster because of who they are, what they stand for, and what they can do (474). So how can he say Frankenstein’s creation isn’t a proletariat if he is literally an embodiment of this group of people. I mean, the way Montag has described the proletariat’s life and how it’s affected by new technologies and industrial systems makes me think that their lives were pretty bad, and in a way isolated them from the world. Which then reminds me of the way the monster was created as well as how he had to live his life (full of misery and isolation). Then, at the end where he says “’But soon,’ he cried with sad and solemn enthusiasm, ‘I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames,’” (189). He’s just basically done with life, he doesn’t want to live anymore, he’s depressed, he’s lonely, and that sounds a lot like what life was like for the working class during the industrial revolution. Their lives revolved around this never-ending cycle of work and more work that they didn’t get any kind of satisfaction in life. And so, when it’s time to die they embrace it and accept it and in way seem happy about being put out of their misery.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

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

In his essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” Warren Montag introduces several arguments as to what the creature in the novel can represent but he ultimately concludes that he is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480) and pushes for the idea that in reality Shelley is saying that science/knowledge is to blame for the result of a lower class. Although the idea is incredibly interesting and introduced me to a different perspective, I have perceived the creature in a completely different light and would have to argue that he definitely represents the proletariat. Montag also mentions in his essay that Shelley “lends her voice to the voiceless, those who, bowed and numbed by oppression and poverty, cannot speak for themselves” (473) and personally, I agree more with this statement than the prior.

In the first chapter of the novel, Victor’s place and class-standing in society is made clear when Victor recalls his childhood and says, “… I was so guided by a silken cord, that all seemed but one train of enjoyment to me” (41). The imagery we get of a luxury such as a “silken” garment leads us to assume that he must be of upper or middle-class standing and knowing that his childhood was “a train of enjoyment” also helps us assume that he did not struggle much growing up. This is important when we think about Victor as a character and what he is meant to represent – the bourgeois. We get further assurance of his representation in society when Victor says, “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me” (57). In this instance, Victor is already placing himself above whatever creature results from his experiment and Shelley assures him as a superior. Thus, using the creature as a symbol for the proletariat and being beneath Victor.

When Victor creates a monster that eventually reciprocates the torment onto him, which he cannot escape, we can interpret this as a representation of the real fear that the proletariat class could one day revolt against the bourgeois class. By Victor’s choice to ignore and outcast what he created, he worsens the problem and that only causes the creature to revolt and protest his mistreatment. However, as a denounced member of society, he never held the privilege to speak up about his conditions or his feelings – just like the lower class at the time. Therefore, I believe that it is true that Shelley was lending her voice for the outcast members’ of society through the character of the creature. A passage that demonstrates Shelley lending her voice to millions of voiceless members of society is when the creature tells Victor “I expected this reception, … All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us” (92). With this quote, Shelley is bringing pity to the lower-class and stating the reality of their struggles using her platform as a writer to reflect their conditions and sentiments and to get them into the public. By saying, “… how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!” Mary Shelley is sharing a common cry amongst the working class that is intended for the upper classes considering that the superior classes always made their lives more difficult than they already were and yet, they were hated for things out of their control.

I also think Shelley did something interesting with the last line, “Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me, thy creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us” because I believe the statement she is trying to make is that without the lower-class, the bourgeois would not have had everything they did and that the working class were indebted to them and in case of the annihilation of either, the system they live in would collapse. With this, I also believe there is an underlying irony because we are lead to believe that the upper/middle class would hold all of the power. However, through these statements Shelley is placing more power than expected in the hands of the lower-class because she insinuates that if the proletariat chose to they could be a threat to those above them in class. Overall, I do not agree with Montag’s interpretation of the novel and its message because I think there are a great deal of instances where Shelley sets up and encrypts passages that indicate to a different message. I believe that what Mary Shelley was trying to do was give a voice to those who did not have one through her writing and her story, although it is a very deep, embedded message of pity and warning and I agree with that part of Montag’s essay.

-Beverly Miranda

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