By Amber Loper

In Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein”, there are many strong correlations made between Mary Shelley’s novel,  “Frankenstein”, and the French Revolution. In order to properly make the connections, a basic understanding of the Revolution is necessary. Montag explains that the elites, or Bourgouise, desired to create a new system by overthrowing the old state. By doing this, the elites were “forced to mobilize the plebian masses…but in doing so they found that they had conjured up a monster that, once unleashed, could not be controlled”(p.471).  Several times throughout Montag’s essay, the working force mobs are referred to as “monsters”. Accurately so, because the proletarians (plebian masses, or  working force) are a product of the elites that they lost control of, just as Victor Frankenstein created his monster with, somewhat, noble intentions, then found he lacked any capability of controlling his creation.

Montag also mentions several instances of real history included in the text of “Frankenstein”, yet Shelley leaves out the French Revolution which would, through speculation, be in full force at the time of Victors visit to England later in the novel. Knowing that Shelley and her husband were both politically outspoken, it is odd that such an important event would be left out entirely. Montag offers two reasons for its absence: “the monster is the proletariat”(p.174), and “the monster equals the proletariat”(p.175).  The first suggests the monster is a metaphor while the latter suggest the monster is an allegory of proletariat’s. At the time of the French Revolution, the uprising was regarded as a monster. Shelley’s novel provides a replacement of the proletariat’s with a real monster. Frankenstein’s monster is one creature but has the strength of many men, and is literally created of many men. This is similar to a mob; a group of many men who work as one entity.  Furthermore, Victor has all the power of an elite. He has money, property, and is welcome by all those he comes by. Despite being responsible for everything, and admitting to his deeds in the end, Walton still admires Frankenstein as “noble and godlike”(p.179). The elites will always have their ill-deeds looked over because of their position in the social hierarchy, and the working class will always be fighting to be listened to because no one wants to listen to those outraged.

The monster states clearly, “make me happy and I shall again be virtuous”(p.93), while begging for Victor to listen to his side of the story. It is a cry for help. He knows what he has done wrong and wants Victor to take some kind of responsibility. Unfortunately, Victor has trouble seeing how he has anything to do with the monster’s actions. The proletarians crying for justice to the Bourgeois are no different. The wrongs they have done, no matter how small, get in the way of change. After all, the creator can not be held accountable for the actions of their creations.

I found myself disagreeing with Montag in regards to why Shelley provided a lack of description to urban scenery. Shelley  went into extraordinary detail for her scenes of nature, yet, even though there are many times Victor resides in urban settings, there is little to no detail of cities and other man-made creations. Montag says, “if the modern…were allowed to appear, the monster would no longer be a monster; no longer alone but part of a ‘race of devils'”(p.480). He believes the lack of urban description is because Shelley wants the monster to take on the roll of all things man-made and therefore all things devilish. By doing this, Shelley is able to make the monster even more isolated than he already is. I disagree. Frankenstein’s monster is a wretched man-made product trapped in a natural world of beauty. This creates a paradox. He, the very definition of man-made, is cast out of a world that relies on everything man-made, weapons, housing, transportaion, etc. Why, then, is he the exception? Stripping the novel of description of everything that the monster was unable to experience is appropriate. Although, the monster is not the narrator, Victor is. This does not change anything. Victor carries the facade of an elite, but he has detached himself entirely from the rest of the world the moment he is consumed with ambition. The monster says to Victor, “you are my creator, but I am your master;–Obey!”(p.146). Even though Victor narrated, the reader is led to believe the story was never his to tell. This is the story of a monster, who despite having the ability to speak, never had a voice. It is at this point that again the story makes a strong correlation to the French Revolution. The elites, like Victor, feign control, but it is the working class, the monster, that are really in control, yet are not the ones who are heard properly. That is why the creation revolts against the creator