Tag Archive: Sublime Object of Ideology


Through critical Marxist techniques and theories of the sublime, the modern cultural duality of the Frankenstein myth may be explicated. This process is initiated by analysis of the main characters in Marxist terms. The creature in Frankenstein serves as the culmination of the bourgeoisie dream, long ago planted in the roots of society. Behind the façade of maintained societal sentiments such as “justice,” the elite have secretly plotted the overthrow of these same ideals. All of their silent manipulations have led up to this moment, in which they have planned to ascend to the helm of civilization as godlike beings, served by the created proletariat. As the manifestation of the bourgeoisie, Victor completes this process as planned, giving life to the monster.

However, something is deeply wrong with this entity. The proletariat and the monster were not naturally conceived in the womb, but in the mind; they have no ancestry, cobbled together from various decaying components, and forced into life by mysterious mechanistic means. Even Victor and the elite recognize the horror in such a filthy fabrication. They flee from their progeny, failing to use it as they intended. The ultimate result of this action is the suffering of all of society, expressed in the violence committed towards and by the creature. The true unnatural bourgeoisie construct is not just the proletariat class, but the hegemony of societal violence. Although they intended to rule their brave new world, all are enslaved instead by a different power, violence, expressed in the unending conflict of the creature and Victor as they hurtle towards their deaths.

The narrative inspires a great sympathetic response in the reader, as they conceive of the existential terror of the creature, and the horror of Victor in the consequences of his work. This sympathy leads to a more superficial level of the sublime, and also a realization of Montag’s “unrepresentability,” in the creature. By sympathizing with the Marxist metaphor presented, the reader perceives the invalidity of the proletariat construct, and the falseness of the capitalist symptom’s hegemony of violence, as it is unnatural and a source of terror and disgust. By understanding this invalidity, the reader also comprehends that the capitalist construct does not represent the societal ideal or even a natural creation process, and therefore leads to “unrepresentability.”

This significant realization of untruth leads to the formation of a fissure in the capitalist symptom. Behind the tattered edge, the deepest source of the sublime can almost be seen: the sublime object of ideology.  The reader begins to perceive that capitalist ideology does not reflect the “object,” which is the nature of reality. There is great awe and fear in realizing an incorrect way of viewing the real, and is therefore a great source of the sublime.

However, the capitalist symptom is not without power, even in the modern world. Like an oyster’s pearl, the ideological irritant is morphed by a smooth outer sheen. It cannot be completely removed because its sublime aspect is inherently attractive. This is the reason for the duality of the myth; it is too powerful to ignore, so it is sterilized into the common form as folk tale, which offers no threat to collapse capitalist ideology.

To a significant segment of modern society, the concept of Marxism is perceived as nothing more than a political buzzword, a failed governmental system and a relic of vicious totalitarian regimes. However, with deeper analysis, one can see that the true roots of Marxist thought are embedded in the intellectual and theoretical, rather than the practical or the mundane. This quality is exposed through Montag’s adroit Marxist analysis of Frankenstein. The text serves both to represent the structure of capitalistic society in the interactions between Frankenstein and the creature, and also to expose the deeper composition of ideology itself.

The parallels between the Marxist understanding of modern society and the events of the story are numerous and glaring. Victor Frankenstein acts as a manifestation of the newly formed bourgeoisie. He is descended from neither the serfs nor the lords, instead inhabiting the middle class. As the events of the text progress, he ideologically overturns and destroys the ancient social system by transcending the traditional means of control, such as religion or violence, instead embracing science. This knowledge is powerful enough to allow the ascension of the middle class as the new social elite, who champion industrial capitalism and doom the feudal agrarianism of the past. Victor’s study of biology and anatomy can be equated with the subjects of mechanical engineering or factory construction.

The subsequent product of the rise of enlightenment and scientific discourse is the creation of another social class. This is the proletariat, fabricated by the demand of the new elite rather than rising out of the natural structure of the world, and manifested in the creature. It and Victor, and also the workers and the owners, are inexorably linked. The principles of the bourgeoisie demand the formation of the proletariat, and the proletariat arises solely from the capitalist context. In order for the bourgeoisie to implement their new vision of the world, they had to manipulate the strength of the working classes. Frankenstein’s creation of the monster functions in the same way. Victor never questions the reasoning or implications of his work, uses the creature’s birth to validate the respect for his scientific field, and accepts a sense of natural providence or fate.

Once the proletariat has been created, a very strong sense of tension appears. A great amount of material wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the elite, only through capitalistic societal mechanism. If the matrix of the bourgeoisie were to collapse, nothing would prevent their destruction by the masses. This results in a latent fear. In the same way, Frankenstein recognizes the significant bodily and mental power wielded by his creature, giving it life and attempting to control it although he knows of the risks. There is also a sense of pity, in that even the elites recognize the suffering at the bottom of society, and a sense of disgust, through the rejection and debasement of those given less worth. Both of these ideas can be seen in the interaction of Frankenstein and the monster, as Victor pities the creatures ignorance and loneliness, yet is revolted by its natural form.

The creature also bears some meaning towards the nature of ideology itself. Transcending superficial allegory for the proletariat, “the mass is reduced to the absolute singularity of Frankenstein’s creation, which is therefore not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (Montag 395). The monster not only expresses the superficial characteristics of the proletariat and the capitalistic social structure, it signifies the deepest and most important aspect: its falsehood. This sense is derived through Montag’s emphasis of the unnatural and unexplained origin of the monster, and its singular uniqueness in the world. Without these themes, the reader would not recognize anything unusual, and embrace the capitalist ideology present as allegory in the text. With these themes, however, this cultural bias is avoided. By concentrating the metaphor into a single entity, it seems grotesque and strange, rather than acceptable. The creature appears as a fissure in the symptom of capitalism, which exposes the inconsistency of the ideology with reality. The monster acts as a portal to what some might call “the sublime object of ideology,” which is by nature impossible and incomprehensible. This is the origin of unrepresentability; just like the creature, the very concepts of proletariat and the capitalist social structure are mysteriously constructed by man instead of being discovered, and posses no inherent truth or natural validity. Because of this lack of inherent or natural truth, the monster does not invoke a defined meaning in “proletariat,” but a lack of meaning in “unrepresentability.”

I find that I thoroughly agree with Montag’s analysis of the text. The allegory that he denotes is logically discovered and processed. However, what I truly agree with and find interesting is his idea of “unrepresentability.” This explains greater questions such as the horror present in the novel or the creature’s sublime aspect, which Montag would derive from the terror in the collapse of ideological symptoms and exposure to the incomprehensible kernel of reality.