Sie sind auf Seite 1von 11

Brandon Gilbert

Dr. Friedman
ENGL 4330
6 December 2015
The Marxist Monster
Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, when viewed through a Marxist lens, can be seen as a
representation of class struggle between the proletariat or working classes and the wealthy
bourgeoisie class. I can argue this based on the descriptions of the two classes in Karl Marx and
Frederich Engels Communist Manifesto while referring back to the passages in the
Frankenstein text. I will also to refer to the possible texts that Shelley would have been reading,
as well as events at the time that would have served as inspiration for possibly crafting the
creature as a representation of the oppressed working class.
It is important to note that Frankenstein was published the same year as the birth of Karl
Marx and decades before Marx became an established political theorist. So, the themes that are
prevalent in the novel are not inspired by Marxist theories, yet some of these themes can be
better understood if read in relation to Marxist beliefs. In doing this, we can better understand the
relationship between Victor and The Creature as one that centers heavily on the subject of class
struggle and the fear of lower classes uprising and revolting against the wealthy and privileged.
The bond between Victor Frankenstein and The Creature goes far beyond the relationship
of the creator and the created. Their relationship can be seen as one of a master to a slave, a serf
to a lord or as Karl Marx and Frederich Engels would say, proletariat to the bourgeoisie. We can

view Victor as being a member of the wealthy bourgeoisie class because he is educated and his
family is very rich and highly-esteemed. In Frankenstein he states that, my family is one of the
most distinguished of [Geneva]. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics;
and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation (Shelley 27). He
does this same way as the bourgeoisie class uses its control of industrial production to create the
proletariat. Marx and Engels also state that the modern bourgeoisie class has not done away with
class antagonisms, but actually has established new classes that contains, new conditions of
oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones (Marx 15). Because of his education,
wealth, and standing, Victor has ownership of the means of production, which means that his
wealth and education give him access to the ability to literally make the Creature. He does this
same way as the bourgeoisie class uses its control of industrial production to create the
proletariat. The creatures birth immediately causes antagonism between the two characters, and
Victors subsequent abandonment of the creature causes it to be oppressed by society. Marx and
Engels also state that, what the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable (Marx 38). This furthers
the symbolism of Victor being a representation of the bourgeoisie class because by bringing life
to the creature, Victor essentially creates his own demise, as well as the deaths of his friends and
Furthermore, we can view the creature as a representation of the proletariat class by
looking at the descriptions of the class provided by Marx. He calls the proletariat the dangerous
class, and describes them by calling them, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown
off by the lowest layers of the old society (Marx 35). Using this in context with the novel, the
similarities are clear. The creature is nothing more than rotted parts that were taken off of dead

corpses. (See Appendix A.) It is the embodiment of the unwanted and unused scraps of society
that has already passed away. Marx also states that with its birth, the proletariat class begins its
struggle with the bourgeoisie. Comparatively, in the novel, not long after its birth, the creature
sought to gain affection from Victor, only to be alienated and shunned. Upon seeing The Creature
for the first time, Victor states, Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed
out of the room (Shelley 52). Marx continues and states that, At this stage, the labourers still
form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country. Similarly, The Creature at this point
was forced to venture out in the country filled with confused emotions and perceptions and little
control over his faculties. The Creature gives an account of this when he states, It is with
considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being: all the events of that period
appear confused and indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt,
heard, and smelt, at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish
between the operations of my various senses (Shelley 97)

Finally, Marx states that with

development, the proletariat becomes more concentrated, and its strength grows. Marx continues
later on and says that bourgeoisie actually supplies the proletariat with its own elements of
political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for
fighting the bourgeoisie. The creature in the novel is only able to effectively strike back at
Victor when he educates himself through reading books such as Paradise Lost. Through the use
of these books, the creature is able to instill in himself the mental development he needs to revolt
against Victor.
There are those though who are in opposition of reading The Creature in Frankenstein as
a representation of the working class. Professor Howard Malchow, for instance believes that the
physical appearance and uncanny abilities of the creature are inconsistent with the appearance of

the, wan, ground-down and bowed pauper or proletarian labourer, [who are] often small in
stature and poor in health (Malchow 4). In the novel, Victor is agreeable on the appearance of
The Creature as he says, I suddenly beheld the figure of a man, at some distance, advancing
towards me with superhuman speedhis stature, also, as he approached, seemed to exceed that
of man (Shelley 94-5). So we can see that Malchow would be correct in his observation, but
only if The Creature were to be read as a representation of an oppressed individual within the
proletariat class. The issue with his observation though, is that Marxism does not concern itself
with oppressed individuals, but rather the oppressed class as a whole. Marx states in the
Manifesto that, The lower strata of the middle classthe small tradespeople, shopkeepers,
retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasantsall these sink gradually into the
proletariat (Marx 29). While individually, these occupations in the lower strata would not have
the power to strike out against the bourgeoisie, as a collective mass they become far more
powerful and possess the ability to rebel against those who own the means of production. This
lower strata can be read the same as the stitched together appendages or limbs that make up The
Creature. (Refer to Appendix A. for an example of this.) So instead of simply viewing The
Creature as just an individual, Malchow should take into account that it is the totality of all the
parts of The Creature that give it its strength and abilities.
The themes about class struggle that are prevalent in Frankenstein, where more than
likely ideas that were influenced by the texts that Mary Shelley might have read or would have
been familiar with at time. Perhaps more than anyone else, Shelley would have been most
familiar with the works of her parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. One novel that
may have provided inspiration for some of the issues that are prevalent in Frankenstein, would
be Godwins Belongings as They Are, or The Adventures of Caleb Williams.

The novel presents topics that are relatable to Frankenstein in that it illustrates the impact
that corruption in the upper-class can have on individuals. The relationship between the servant,
Caleb, and Falkland, the aristocrat, for instance, is highly reminiscent to that of the relationship
between Victor and The Creature because of this. For example, Caleb in the novel is treated as
delinquent after uncovering information about Falklands murder and subsequent cover-up.
Falkland states, You shall continue in my service, but can never share in my affection. I will
benefit you in respect of fortune, but I shall always hate you" (Godwin 136). This is similar to
The Creatures birth and ensuing exile by Victor in that both of these characters were rejected by
their benefactors and were forced to live their lives as outcasts. These two novels also followed a
pursuit motif, but the characters in the novels pursued one another for different reasons. Falkland
hunted Caleb well into his later years with the sole purpose of maintaining his social standing
and good name, while in Frankenstein, it was The Creature who shadowed Victor and was with
him everywhere he went. The Creature speaks of this when he says, I left Switzerland with you;
I crept along the shores of the Rhine, among its willow islands and over the summits of its hills. I
have dwelt many months in the heaths of England and among the deserts of Scotland (Shelley
165). The Creature did this partially because he wanted his female bride, but also because Victor
is most likely the only human being on the planet that The Creature can relate with. This is
evident when the creature states, I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is
worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that
irremediable ruin (Shelley 219). Eventually, it is this abandonment that leads these two
characters to ultimately cause the deaths of those that they respected as father figures. Both
characters despair over the deaths of their counterparts leading Caleb to accuse himself of the
murder of Falkland and, even more dramatically, leading The Creature to cremate itself. So it is

clear to see some of the thematic similarities between the different characters in the two novels.
The Creature and Caleb Williams represent the oppressed individuals, while Falkland and Victor
represent the aristocratic oppressors.
I can also argue that the communistic themes that are present in Frankenstein are due to
the events that were occurring at the time. Around that time period, the French and Haitian
Revolutions were stirring as well as the Luddite Uprisings. These events couldve been
motivation for Shelley, and might be reason for the themes that are prevalent in the novel.
The Luddite Uprising was a response to the industrial revolution at the time and the
production of machines that caused alienation among the working class in Britain from around
1811 to 1817. Because these machines were able to do tasks more efficiently, a number of
workers had to lower their wages to stay competitive. Edith Gardener in her article,
Revolutionary Readings: Mary Shelleys Frankenstein and the Luddite Uprising comments on
this. She discusses that the craftsmen that worked in the textile industry were being replaced by
machines, as well as by cheap labor. The craftsmen that remained where forced to work in
inhospitable factories. This animosity amongst laborers eventually caused some to rebel and
strike out against factory owners or those who own the means of production. This led to
destruction and bloodshed.
Comparing these Luddites and Luddism to the prevailing themes in Frankenstein, it is
clear there is a strong relationship between the luddites and the creature. Both are alienated by
those who own the means of production, both lash out in violence to rectify the wrongs done to
them, yet both do so in a manner that is not indiscriminate, they lash out in such a way as to have
their voice heard and their needs satisfied. Gardener writes that, Both the Luddites and the
Monster feel that they are being displaced from the positions they ought to hold and, in the case

of the textile workers, had once held, in society (Gardner 75.) She continues to state that, More
than material provisions the Monster desires companionship, affection, love, sympathy,
understanding, [and] recognition (Gardner 75). Similarly, the luddites only craved necessities
such as normal wages and job security. By juxtaposing the two together, we can see that both the
creature and the luddites relate in that they both desire the fulfilment of basic needs, yet these
needs have not have not been satisfied. Both the luddites and the creature are also alike in that
they attempt to reason with their oppressor, but their efforts are futile. The oppressors remain
unrepentant which causes both parties to resort to threats of violence. An example of this is
found during Victors conversation with the creature on the Swiss Alps. The creature gives an
ultimatum to Frankenstein; create a female creature for him and he will leave mankind alone
forever. If he were to refuse though, the creature stated that it would, glut the maw of death,
until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends. (Shelley 94) Likewise, the luddites
were also prone to issuing ultimatums to their oppressors. The threat was simple, remove the
frames on the machines or the building will be burned down. Some though were more violent,
Gardener states that some luddites warned that if the frames werent removed then they, will be
attacked, buildings will be burned and, should the employer resist, he will be murdered and his
house set on fire. (Gardener 79) The creature in his anger and despair, does an act similar to the
luddites in setting the DeLacey cottage ablaze. With that said, it is also important to note that the
creature and the luddites were not random in their acts of violence. While the creature did burn
down the DeLacey cottage, he reasoned that he did this because he could not harm anything
living and decided to focus his anger on objects that were not living. Gardener states that the
creature only began killing humans after he was wounded by gunfire. Even after he begins to kill
humans, he only targets those that are in relationship with Victor Frankenstein. Each of the

victims that creature murders was deliberately chosen on the basis that they would most affect
Victors mental psyche. Likewise, the luddites were selective of who and what they were
targeting based off how much they affected the employers. Gardener also states that, their
assassination attempts were perpetrated against factory or mill owners who employed the
"wrong" type of machinery, underpaid their workers, or hired cut-rate laborers (Gardner 85).
The machines that did not affect the price of workers wages were left untouched. So it is easy to
see that there is a bevy of correlations between the luddites and the creature, but the important
question is what to make of Mary Shelley choosing to symbolize the creature in this way.
I believe that Shelley because inspired to craft her creature after the luddites because she
was sympathetic to their cause. Even though the luddites have burned down mills and have
murdered owners, they were only motivated to do this because they were not receiving fair pay
and were alienated to the point where they felt that violence was necessary. She shows this
sympathy in her writing of Frankenstein. Even though the creature murders six people and burns
down the cottage of a family, Shelley allows the reader to sympathize with the creature by giving
him a voice. She allows the creature to speak on the wrongs that Victor and society has done
him. In doing this, Shelley warns her readers about the issue of oppressing the working class.
Mary Shelley in Frankenstein crafted the relationship between Victor and The Creature to
illustrate the class struggle between members of the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes. Were able to see
this relationship by using Marxist theories to better illustrate the roles of these two classes and how they
react to one another. Were also able to see this relationship, by using some of the prevailing themes in
Caleb Williams as context to how Shelley might have shaped the characters in Frankenstein to reflect the
characters in her fathers novel. And finally by using some of the events at the time, such as the Luddites
breaking the frames off of machines, we can further understand why Shelley might choose to have her
characters embody a relationship between two opposing classes.

Appendix A.
The Different Parts of The Creature

Works Cited
Gardner, Edith. Revolutionary Readings: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Luddite Uprising.
1st ed. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Godwin, William. Caleb Williams Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 1970. Print.
Harvey, Arnold D. Frankenstein and Caleb Williams Keats-Shelley Journal 29. (1980): 21-27
Keats-Shelley Association of America. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Lugo, Alexander. The Monster. 2012. Pencil on canvas. JPEG file.
Malchow, H. L.. Frankenstein's Monster and Images of Race in Nineteenth-century Britain.
Past & Present 139 (1993): 90130. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Marx, Karl. Friedrich, Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Marxist Internet Archive.
Andy Blunden, 2004. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974. Print