Tag Archive: working class


The Creature is all of us?

in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the creature can be viewed as a physical representation of the working class when analyzed through a feminist view. It can be viewed as this since Anne Mellor’s essay attacks the society and how it is structured to be a man’s world. So viewing the creature as the working class and it being a man goes to show how everyone in this time period believed that women couldn’t work in the labor force. They did this since they believed women couldn’t possibly have the same mental and/or physical capabilities of a man.

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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.

Distance

When Montag concludes that the creature is “not so much the sign of the proletariat as of its unrepresentability” I believe this section of Montag’s essay means that the creature does not really give sight that it could possibly represent the working class and all its struggles but rather is not really viewed in that point of view. So the creature has the hidden background that it could possibly be the working class but is not viewed as that by the readers which then shows the unrepresentability of the working class in the character of the creature.

However, Montag’s essay was a bit difficult to read but I do see where Montag’s interpretation of the characters in Shelley’s novel comes from. Although, I do feel like there are a lot of key factors to think of when considering the monster as the proletariat. For example, the creature was created by a man of a higher class standing or the creature being incredibly smart by teaching himself. Most, if not, all the working class could not afford education, leading them to become uneducated. Another thing is the word distance and solitude that constantly popped up in Montag’s essay and all that came to my mind was the distance that people place themselves in their status’. Such as the middle-class, the working-class and so forth. Also, the distance that science places people at such as Frankenstein going into solitude or becoming “sick” after his creation. I found it interesting that Montag placed science as its own category rather than connecting it to the middle-class.

By: Carmen Ibarra

 

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

By: Katherine Hernandez

When reading a work of literature as iconic as Frankenstein, readers tend to develop very different and sometimes controversial interpretations. In the essay, The “Work of Filthy Creation”: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein by Warren Montag, the reader is left with the interpretation that Frankenstein’s creation is the bourgeoisie in the book and that Victor is the proletariat who is terrorized by the demands of this creation. However, from my point of view, Frankenstein’s creation is, in fact, the embodiment of the working class, the proletariat side of society. Montag constantly compares the creation to the intricate work of new technology that was being introduced during the era Mary Shelley wrote and published her book, at times even calling that Victor is rightfully so to be afraid of his creation because it symbolizes the fear of the proletariat in this time of changes in society and the technological advances that came with it. He gathers historical context from Mary Shelley’s time such as the rise of the Industrial Revolution in order to convince the reader that the rise of technology was monstrous much like the creation and thus Victor had every right to be afraid of it, however, the question arises. Should we blame technology for simply doing what it is meant to do? Or is the thing at fault the creator itself? Montag created a hole in his argument, one cannot simply blame things for taking their natural course, we must hold those who created these things, such as technology, responsible. Victor’s creation is the most effortless symbolism of the working class not only during Mary Shelley’s time but also in a time that transcends her era.

The passage in chapter 20 of the novel, pages 145-146, clearly depicts how the creature is the living, breathing embodiment of the proletariat struggle. Throughout the whole novel we are able to see how The Creation struggles with fitting into to social norms and his constant struggle with dehumanization of isolation. Most of his life is spent in longing, spent in a headspace of having hopes and dreams and wanting more out of life. This is especially evident when Frankenstein retracts his promise to his creation and The Creation mourns for his struggles in life recalling his “toil and misery….[his] impeccable fatigue, [the] cold and hunger, [and Victor still] dares to destroy his hopes and dreams.” (145) The Creation is the poster child for the working class struggle. Victor is, in fact, the bourgeoisie who continually makes false promises to the working class in order to continue exploiting them. This passage greatly contradicts with Warren Montag’s ideas of Victor’s creation. The Creation fits in every shape and form to the working class’ constantly mistreated, the underdog, the ones with hopes and dreams that are much to often destroyed by the bourgeois in order to keep the gears of the capitalistic operation running.

Arlyne Gonzalez

cottagers

Construing Warren’s Montag’s essay, “The Workshop of Filthy Creation” A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein, I encountered many interconnections between the working class and Frankenstein. Montag highlights how the working class had entered… forms that could appear monstrous… (Montag, 472). Montag is highlighting how the working class represents the monstrosity within society and cannot be perceived as respected individuals. However, I disagree with that perspective, because the working class is simply folks laboring away, and obeying what they are being commanded of them. If anything, Victor Frankenstein was the one who had a monstrous conscience. He had the audacity to engineer a creature and challenge nature, coming up with the excuse of experimenting with a “God-like science”. Victor was not driven by good intentions nor bad intentions, he just lacked the intellect and common sense of the possible results that would come from creating another creature. What was missing from this passage, was Montag recognizing the true monstrosity in Mary Shelly’s novel, which was Victor, not the creature. Victor was the one who let himself be driven by gothic and dark notions, henceforth, creating the creature and immediately abandoning it due to selfish reasons. The creature, just like any born infant, was innocent and in confusion about his existence and purpose in life.

Moving forward, As I was interacting with the text, I immediately connected the creature with the working class, because they both encompassed great struggles regarding sociality. For instance, the working class is obviously putting forth all their time and effort to earn and wages and establish a decent living, however, the creature has different aspirations. The creature was putting forth time and efforts in attempting to be accepted by society and be considered as an equal. Which was why the creature studied language and fell in love with it, that he considered language to be an art. Montag considers the creature to be an actual monster because he does not see realize the genesis of how and why the creature did all those bad deeds toward Victor’s loved ones. The creature wanted to be understood and loved by a creature similar to him. The Tension that can be perceived from this, can be Montag stating that “the monster is a product rather than a creation, assembled and joined together by… science, technology, and industry… (Montag, 473). Montag is emphasizing how the creature cannot be loved or understood because according to Montag, the creature is nothing but a product of science. This demonstrates a paradox because Montag is being directly honest, eliminating any sympathy toward the creature’s nature. Yes, the creature was conducted by science and technology, but what is missing from Montag’s view, is that the creature may encompass monstrous physical features, but like many humans, he also encompassed a heart of bottled up emotions.

In closing, I disagree with Montag’s view of the creature being depicted as the underrepresentation of the proletariat because the creature may have encompassed many flaws like many, but the cottagers; the family that the creature was observing and learning from, were the ones that can be depicted as the underrepresentation of the proletariat. The cottagers were the ones who were stripped of their wealth and were banished from their hometown. They were compelled to isolate themselves from the village and make a home inside the woods. They did not have a great deal of many, let alone have many resources to acquire food and basic necessities. The cottagers were sentenced to live in poverty due to the capital ceasing their wealth and left with no alternative other than to endure a hardship.

ship

If not for Frankenstein I probably never would’ve heard of Constantin François de Chassebœuf, comte de Volney, let alone his seminal work, Ruins of Empires.

It’s not a widely read book these days, but remember, it’s the exact one from which the creation “obtained a cursory knowledge of history” (Shelley 108). Listing the “different nations of the earth” (108), he talks about Asiatics, Grecians, Romans, Christian kings and even Native Americans — but never explicitly the British.

I never noticed this, but the student gfeldtx did, and in “Powerful Omission,” claims, “Through omission, Shelley has rendered the most powerful nation on earth voiceless. This is the same voicelessness that categorizes [Gayatri Chakravorty] Spivak’s idea of the subaltern.”

A commenter added: “Felix is French, and Volney is French, yet there is no mention of anything regarding Napoleon and his French empire, or honestly just anything regarding France in general.”

No mention of Britain. No mention of France. What’s up that?

I contend that this omission of the British and French empires does not render these empires voiceless. In fact, I think the omission calls more attention to these nations, which cannot be confined within a “cursory knowledge of history” but are at large within the novel through the manifestation of the creation as the revolutionary working class.

Based on the despairingly great lengths I took to actually understand what Volney’s 1791 book is about (you can find a pretty decent summary here), I wish I could articulate it better. Here’s my attempt: Volney highlights the constant dispute between the higher and lower class as the source of all social conflict, and he proposes that through the progress of science, all people will become enlightened and will then work for one another’s interests. Now, I know, we’ve commented at length about the creation as proletariat, but lend me your ear real quick.

I hesitate to paint broad strokes, but the creation embodies the mob. He is the lower class, the French revolutionaries, the British revolutionaries. He cannot be contained in Felix’s teachings because he is present history, the people who “possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property” (109) and have the collective capacity to

Throughout Frankenstein lies this tension. While there may be no mention of France and Britain in relation to Ruins, remember Elizabeth’s letter to Victor: “The republican institutions of our country have produced simpler and happier manners than those which prevail in the great monarchies that surround it. […] A servant in Geneva does not mean the same thing as a servant in France and England” (66). But what happens to Justine?

If I had more time, I’d go further than this. Remember the very first words of the novel? “To Mrs. Saville, England” (28). And when the novel closes, where is Walton returning? “I am returning to England” (183). Everything we’ve read has come through the lens of the English. They’re on the outside of this confined text. And so is the monster.

After spending a large portion of his essay speaking on how Frankenstein’s creature is the embodiment of the proletariat, Warren Montag at the end of his ideas states that the creature actually represents the unrepresentability of the proletariat. I don’t fully agree with this change because the representation of the all of the proletariat in one powerful monster has meaning.

The monster has an incredible amount of power and strength. All his power however is channeled into avenging himself and this happens when he states, “No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me, and sent me forth to this insupportable misery” (122). The creature is a representation of the proletariat because although the proletariat had immense amount of power because of their numbers, their power was not used to change how the machine worked. They used their power to change how their cogs in the machine worked, and this reoccurs in almost every working-class revolt to date. Much like the working class, the monster, rather than changing the machine that views him the way it does, focuses instead on the immediate “issue” which he thinks would help to change his circumstances the most. His circumstances however would not change because he gained control of, or killed Victor. He would have still been seen as an ugly creature who could never amount to anything and only terrorized regular people.

With an overwhelming population like that of the proletariat, almost any law could be changed to suit their needs. This group almost always never uses that power however, because they focus on the short goal at hand, which normally is to change their current work situations. The monster in the same way, channels immense power into changing only one aspect of his life which in the long run, changes nothing.

In a Marxist interpretation of Frankenstein, the monster is often akin too the lower class, pointing to its abused nature and its ability to overthrow its producer. Montag’s essay “The Workshop of Filthy Creation: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein” claims that the text deliberately ignores the implications of the toiling lower class and the industrial revolution, rendering the creature a “representation of the unrepresentable”. However, Montag’s argument ignores how the first-person narration of Frankenstein is flawed and can be picked apart by both the reader and the observing character Walton, demonstrating a cynicism of Frankenstein’s viewpoint and, by extension, his ignorance of the industrial revolution and lower class in general.

Montag brings up the “Hear him not” (178) line to indicate that Shelley would rather deny the lower class of a voice or presence. Upon seeing the creature, Walton is at first impressed by the creature’s tender response to Frankenstein’s corpse, but he then remembers the man’s words; tellingly, Frankenstein is mentioned directly in his thought: “I called to mind what Frankenstein had said of his powers and eloquence and persuasion,” (187). Walter’s reaction to the creature is not something naturally developed, but an artificial parroting of Frankenstein’s hateful words. Instead of being gagged by the text, however, the monster interrupts the explorer and begins speaking, not stopping until finished. For all his bluster, Walton is unable to stop listening to, and the reader is unable to deny the opinion of the creature, because it holds just as much legitimacy as Frankenstein’s ever did.

The creature’s narration actually addresses the current reality of Shelley’s day. The creature criticizes Walton’s perspective by comparing his own qualities with Felix the “rustic”, or a person from rural areas (188). Such a term only makes sense if the creature thinks of himself as different from rustic, as urban. Montag claimed that the urban is unnaturally absent from the text, but the creature is able to see it because of his status as a symbol of the proletariat. He is also attuned to the matter of capital. There is no mention of monetary obligations in Victor’s side of the story, but in the monster’s narration, Felix’s companion tells Felix about how he will be required to pay three weeks rent or lose his garden (123). As an embodiment of the those who have to fear such things as debt, the creature understands that such details cannot be excised from life. The use of these more worldly observations demonstrates that Shelley is aware of them and willing to use them in her text. She gives them to the creature instead of Frankenstein because Victor’s perspective is deliberately askew, emphasizing the conflict between the two.

Walton’s narration also indicates a disparity. At the beginning of the novel, he wishes to “satisfy my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited,” (28). He does not wish to remain in the dark about this class conflict at the center of the Marxist interpretation; rather, he wants to explore this relatively new conflict. This enthusiasm for new territories is combined with his desperate need for a friend or companion. Tellingly, he wants “a man who could sympathize with me,” (31). In other words, Walton wants a person who can tell him what he wants to hear rather than someone who can tell him something distinct. Frankenstein fills that gap with his incomplete narrative and Walter believes him when he encounters the creature, yet the explorer is still rendered silent by the monster’s honesty, demonstrating the superior perspective of Victor’s progeny. A reassuring lie like the one Montag suggests Shelley’s novel to be is let down before truth.

A Marxist interpretation must take into account a story’s context as Montag’s essay did, but in a novel with multiple narrative voices like Frankenstein, it can’t take the viewpoint of one character as the viewpoint of the author. His “unrepresentable” monster is only in Victor’s flawed mind; the monster, and the lower class it represents, is a real and significant factor that can’t be undermined.