Tag Archive: Warren Montag


The bourgeois character of Frankenstein’s monster is identifiable in his being subjected as a refuge of industrial, working class. The entirety of Warren Montag’s essay emphasizes the environmental issues with which Mary Shelley is analyzing in her embodiment of the melodramatic hero known as the beast-like, Frankenstein’s monster. Science itself becomes subject to the enlightenment-era novel which Shelley attributes and personifies via the pathos of an anti-hero in her portrayal of an oppressed, lower class. Montag rightly disagrees with Gothic tradition. “The very logic of capitalism has produced the means of its own destruction: the industrial working class,” (473). Destruction and chaos throughout the novel subject the monster’s rationalizations and rebelling against bourgeoisie (Walton). Walton, and not Frankenstein himself, achieves symbolism of the upper-elite, as it is Walton, and other secondary characters- for example Clerval, whom assumes narratorial authority over Frankenstein’s fable. Walton ultimately appropriates forms of both Frankenstein and his monster’s mourning if we accept the premise of public instances of mourning, a stressor on the human body, as a form of contesting labor conditions. The problem of a Marxist Literary criticism in Frankenstein further develops in the understanding of alienated (groups of) individuals.

According to Montag, the bourgeoisie are unable to identify with an irrational class. Montag continues to quote Goldner, claiming that “the monster is a factitious totality assembled from (the parts of) a multitude of different individuals (Goldner),” (473). Montag’s Marxist criticism suggests an ironic return to images of a fragmented (human) nature, and rather than ascribe to living individuals the responsibility that comes with recognizing interiority- the monster’s cries for justice- are ignored until a member of the excluded bourgeoisie is allowed expressivity. “I did not satisfy my own desires,” (Shelley 197) is an echo of a monster damned from conception to exist in an environment that would destroy it. Gothic tradition contests the expressions of public protest which appeal to faculties of reason for the sake of legitimacy. Frankenstein’s monster roams through ice caps in the North Pole, the mountains of Geneva, and across oceans seeking refuge from the industrial class. The only watchers of the story, Walton and Frankenstein, are thus incorporated into the production of Frankenstein’s monster for cultivating the critique which primarily identifies with the desires of the bourgeoisie, which Montag observes in the overlooking of proletariat struggle. Montag perhaps relies on logic too much- not even Frankenstein’s monster was so deluded by Cartesian means of worldly being.
-Bradley Dexter Christian

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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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The proletariat was originally meant to rise up and create a new world order that took the power away from the bourgeoisie. This theory never proved true however because the proletarians would buy into the same traps of capitalism that the burgeoisie did. In this way the proletariat did not quite represent itself the way it was meant to. Montag’s conclusion that Frankenstein’s Creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” (480) is a conclusion that I agree with.

The reason I agree with this conclusion is because throughout the novel there is a constant sense that the Creature is not meant to be viewed as an equal. It is monstrous, unnatural, and wrong for the entirety of its existence in the eyes of its creator. A creator who cannot handle what he has created and who prefers to live oblivious to his “monster.” Within the text there is one example that stood out to me of this inability to exist together equally. On page 93 there is an exchange between Victor and the Creature that exemplifies exactly what I mean:

“Begone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall.”

“How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favorable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me, Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity: but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me. The desert mountains and dreary glaciers are my refuge. I have wandered here many days; the caves of ice, which I only do not fear, are a dwelling to me, and the only one which man does not grudge. These bleak skies I hail, for they are kinder to me than your fellow-beings. 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? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. Yet it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great, that not only you and your family, but thousands of others, shall be swallowed up in the whirlwinds of its rage. Let your compassion be moved, and do not disdain me. Listen to my tale: when you have heard that, abandon or commiserate me, as you shall judge that I deserve. But hear me. The guilty are allowed, by human laws, bloody as they are, to speak in their own defense before they are condemned. Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man! Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me; and then, if you can, and it you will, destroy the work of your hands.”

There is a lot to unpack from this quote but let us focus on some of the things the Creature tells Victor about being a creation. Much like the proletariat is a creation that got out of hand for the new emerging elite so did the Creature get too out of hand for Victor. The Creature is aware of this and goes further to say that Victor is the one who can do something about him being so out of hand, that “it is in your power to recompense me, and deliver them from an evil which it only remains for you to make so great” because as the creator of the monster Victor is the one with the ultimate power to stop him. Much in the same way that the newly emerging elite should have been able to stop their creation: the working class. Yet both creators were unable to take control back from what they had created.

Here the tension is obvious between Victor and the Creature, it is quite clear that they are “enemies” and yet the Creature is imploring to be heard before he is judged even further. It again comes back to the disconnect between the working class and the new elite of the time. The desire to be represented and heard being ignored and pushed aside must certainly caused those oppressed people to rise up to be at least acknowledged. The Creature is quite a good symbol of this aspect of the working class. Throughout this passage the motif of justice is recurring and in conjunction with words like “goodness,” “benevolent,” and “compassion” almost makes it seem like there is a possibility for a positive outcome. However, Victor never interjects with any semblance of possibly changing his mind when the Creature speaks. Which suggests that Victor will not acknowledge his creation and will not forgive or pass fair judgement on his creation. There is no real justice in this despite there being an attempt of it within the passage.

The last thing I will focus on is the narrative voice and the style of the passage. This is a dialogue between Victor and the Creature told from Victor’s perspective. Victor’s feelings no doubt affect how the Creature comes across to the reader. The bitterness on Victor’s part and the almost pitiful pleading on the Creature’s part are conveyed in the style of the passage and in the words themselves. As this is a retelling of the conversation from Victor, it could be entirely possible that the Creature was not as pitiful as Victor likes to see him as. Perhaps the Creature was more angry and intent on getting what he wanted from this moment but Victor retells it so it does not seem that way.

Ultimately the Creature is symbolic of the “unrepresentability” of the proletariat because he is a prime example of a creation that went wrong and could never be viewed as more than a huge mistake. A mistake that should be forgotten and not put at the forefront for being so monstrous and unlikable in the eyes of its creator.

 

By Diana Lara

 

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.

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

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

A Marxist Perspective

Tania De Lira-Miranda 

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In Warren Montag’s essay “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,”  it is stated that Mary Shelley writing shows the “birth of [the] monster, simultaneously the object of pity and fear, the industrial working class” thus making the creature be classified as a proletariat. Montag further explains that this is due to the creature not being natural but instead artificial and how it made from a “multitude of different individuals.” But while Montag gives evidence to show that Mary Shelley intended the creature to be a representation of the working class, Montag own opinion is that the creature is not “the sign of the proletariat.”

I agree with Montag as the reasons why the creature could be considered a proletariat can be disproven. While it is true that the creature is not a natural being but artificial, Mary Shelley does not write on how the creature is created; only that Victor sewed up the body parts he took from the graveyard and then that the creature was alive. Thus the statement that the creature was created from a “multitude of different individuals” cannot be proven by the novel.  Another reason would be the difference on the reasons why to pity/fear the creature and the proletariats. The creature is to be pitied because of the loneliness he is subjected to as when Victor, his creator, ran out of the room because of the creature’s appearance (60) and when he was chased out of the cottage by Felix though he had done nothing to deserve it (121) and he should be feared due to the fact that he was the one who killed William (75) and Elizabeth (167). But the proletariats were pitied due to how poor they were and they were feared because of the revolution they could bring. So while the creature was a byproduct of a middle-class capitalist, Victor Frankenstein, the creature cannot be truly be seen as a proletariat thus making Montag’s view to be correct.

By: Jocelyn Lemus

the creation

Each person that reads Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, tends to develop new key ideas and perspectives towards what there is to believe and what is there to know. As reading Warren Montag’s essay, “The Workshop of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, Montag gets into conclusion with the idea that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability”(480). This idea made me realize how important it is to shape this concept as reading the novel. In my personal ideas, I disagree with Montag’s way of thinking because througout the book there was definitely a correlation between the creature and Victor with the concept of a proletariat.

As reading the novel, Mary Shelley gives Victor the power to label his creature as his slave. In the book, Victor labels the creature as, “Slave… Remember that I have power”(146). This demonstrates how the creature is depicted as someone that comes from a lower class. As we already know, the word ‘proletariat’ does identify someone as working class people. In which this case, Victor and the creature seem to fit in, in the image of that because they both don’t quite seem to know who controls who. They both are lost with the idea that one has power over the other. However, in this situation they both seem to consciously know what and who the power is being created by.

By Melanney Giron

While reading Warren Montag’s essay, “The ‘Workshop of Filthy Creation’: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein,” he brought up what he noticed was missing from Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” Montag mentioned that Shelley’s novel was written in a way that worked around and completely ignored what could have been the French Revolution. Montag brought up that “…the absence of the French Revolution from the text is not the only surprising fact in this passage,” (470).

Throughout his essay, Montag consistently compares the creature to a proletariat meaning that the creature was the “working class” of Shelley’s novel while Victor was the “middle class capitalist.” This brings up what Montag noted in his essay when referring to the creature, he said the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability,” (480). I agree with Montag’s interpretation of the creature.

In Shelley’s novel, although the creature was being represented as the oppressed working class, he was mostly watching the “middle class”, in this instance the middle class being everyone above him. As the creature first explains his impressions with the outside world he explained to Victor, “I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches,” (109). The creature’s impression suggests that he feels like the working class when in reality, as Montag expressed in his essay, the creature knew only what he has been exposed to since he was created. Even though the creature was not aware of who or what he was, he still felt the wrath of what the actual oppressed working class would have felt if they were represented in the novel, the creature noted, “Of my creation and creator I was
absolutely ignorant; but I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property,” (109).

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