Karl Marx is ranked the seventh most influential personality in the world, and this is majorly attributed to the influence of his communism theory that has found vast applicability in the political, social, economic as well as in the world of literature. His was an argument of the overthrowing of the upper class in society, the bourgeoisie, the property owners and the owners of the production processes to the proletariats, the low class, labor owners, an act that would direct all the means of production as well as the private ownership of property to the control of the government. Through the merging of the materialistic as well as the historical circumstances of any society, Marx was able to clearly explain the social structures of society and predict what was to come of it (Benn, 82).
Marx's Argument: Overthrowing the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat
Marx stood up for the welfare of the workers in factories who had to work for long hours, in poor working conditions and yet often forced to pay more for the very product they produced, leaving them in debt of their masters. The issue of owner-worker inequality can be traced from slavery, then late feudalism and the most recent one being capitalism, a system that has continuously put the owner at better positions than the laborers. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, she presents such a form of society through the main character Victor Frankenstein as both a laborer who can barely enjoy the product of his labor, hence the theory of alienation of the laborer from the product, and also the relationship between the capitalists and their workers.
The Theme of Alienation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
The book Frankenstein is a masterpiece with regards to its use of fiction to depict the future of the human medical and anatomical changes, but deeper within is embedded the issue of the unforgiving aspect of labor, coupled up with its unappreciative form. Victor announces his extraordinary journey through the phrase "I began the creation of a human being" (Shelley 54). This places him as the labor in his endeavor, and he gives all his time, mind and spirit to the assembling of dead human parts to come up with a creature that could surpass the short lifetime lived by humans due to diseases. He cuts his connection to his family, alienates his emotional need from his vital task and locks himself in his laboratory, all so he could accomplish his task. Instead of his labor raising him to higher platforms and avenues, it sinks him deeper and deeper into his misery. This is the very struggle Marx addressed in his communist manifesto on the poor living conditions of labors and the long working hours.
Alienation of the Laborer in Frankenstein and Marx's Theory
There also comes to play, the alienation of the laborer both from his or her work, as well as from the bourgeoisie society. Victor locks himself in isolation and is even incapable of noticing the changing seasons. This is the very alienation that Marx spoke of, as the "Labor produces palaces but only hovels for the worker It produces beauty but cripples the worker; it produces culture but only imbecility and cretinism for the worker" (Babar, 4). The end products of labor are depicted as unrewarding, from the point where the creature grows into an uncontrollable, undesirable mess. It has powerful features as intended by the creator, but lacks the social acceptability and compatibility. The labor sure came up with a creature, but to Victor, this was a disappointment, as "the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart" (Shelley 58). Victor utilizes the dead parts of deceased human beings to come up with his creature, a resemblance of the broken natural order, the inversion of the fruits of labor, and hence the depiction of the process of production as an undesirable, disgusting process.
Victor as the Bourgeoisie and the Creature as the Proletariat
In yet another perspective, Victor is viewed as the bourgeoisie in society, the creator of the creature, and the holder of the production process, while the Creature is the proletariat who can barely function without the former. It is anatomically made inferior to its creator, and owes everything it has, including its life to Victor who claims superiority or even divinity to it as he refers to it as a "lifeless thing that lay at [his] feet." The creature, through a number of dialogues and monologues, attests to this inferiority by referring to itself as an abortion, and speaking of its solitary being, alienation, misery, abandonment and detest. The proletariat is often an object to trample on, and subject to unfair treatment in a capitalistic society. Once the creature finds a way to rise above it misery, and find a place in society, its move is considered unnatural, unacceptable and uncalled for. Mary also presents a warning to the upper class of the rising of the lower class, as she presents it as a messy and undesirable move, as depicted by the murders committed by the creature.
Slavery, feudalism, and capitalism presented a form of human disgrace that only seems to favor those who held the buttons of production, leaving the weak and the poor at their mercies. This is the very issue that motivated Marx to come up with this Marxist theory that explained the structures of the society and predicted the inevitable end of the bourgeoisie due to the rise of the proletariat. Mary, in her book, Frankenstein presents a similar scenario, by one, presenting victor as the laborer who works all days of their lives and never getting any desirable out, and two, presenting the creature as the proletariat who, to the eyes of the bourgeoisie have no say.
Babar, A. K. Frankenstein; From a Psycho-Political Perspective. CUNY Academic Works. 2013. Pp. 1-30. http://academicworks.cuny.edu/cc_etds_theses/194
Benn T. Marxist criticism: Reading from a Marxist perspective. Chapter 5. Pp.79-96.
Shelley M. W. Frankenstein. 1823. Pp. 1-280
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