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Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto” informed the world about the political and economic conflict of the proletariat against the bourgeois and by extension, the aristocracy. Marx disputes that the proletariat should possess the means of production and that united, they are able to overthrow both the bourgeoisie and aristocracy. He writes that the bourgeois makes the proletariat class through selfishness, oppresses it with negligence for its needs, and creates ideology to keep the “base” in line. However, Marx argues that, in the end, the bourgeoisie is frailer than the proletariat when united.
Copious amounts of these thoughts are present in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a parable of Marxist literary theory by exhibiting the feud betwixt the bourgeois and the proletariat. This is shown via the parallel struggle between Victor Frankenstein and his Monster. The character of Victor Frankenstein is an allusion to the bourgeois. Victor is :‘by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counselors and syndics; and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation’ (Shelley 14.) Victor serves as an example for the bourgeois since, as the Monster’s creator, he owns the means of production. Likewise, the bourgeois created the proletariat through self-interest and negligence for anything except personal craving.
Victor is disinterested in everything but his hunt for success. This is epitomized when he recollects his passion for creating the monster. He says, “‘The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. it was a most beautiful season; but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings… caused me also to forget those friends… whom I had not seen for so long a time’” (Shelley 33). Victor shows no interests barring his own and did not even think to reach out to friends and family. The monster serves as an example of the proletariat because he is made of “ collected bones from the charnel-houses” (Shelley 33.) from which all come from numerous different corpses. Marx writes that the bourgeois is made of a large and diversified group of people, all of whom are in a similar situation under similar circumstances.
Like the proletariat, the monster is exploited by his ruler/creator. Victor arbiters his creation, and thinks of himself to be superior to the monster when he says, “‘How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe His limbs were in proportion and I had selected his features as beautiful… but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery watery eyes’” (Shelley 35.) Victor thinks of himself to be superior to his monster and therefore, ignores the monster’s basic human needs. The monster is forced to live in poverty and rely on himself, despite his creator possessing the means to provide the monster with basic human needs, just like the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. When the monster tells Victor his story, he says, “‘I felt cold I had covered myself with some clothes; but these were insufficient to secure me from the dews of night. I was a poor, helpless, miserable wretch’” (Shelley 71.)
The monster must settle for inadequate shelter since he cannot find a better option. His: “‘place of refuge was constructed of wood, but so low that I could with difficulty sit upright in it. No wood, however, was placed on the earth which formed the floor…. the wind entered it by innumerable chinks, I found it an agreeable asylum from the snow and rain’” (Shelley 74.) This mirrors the proletariat class, who had to settle for any work they could get because little work with poor conditions is better than no work at all.Marx argued that when united, the proletariat class could overcome the abuse of the bourgeois and that the proletariat’s existence is precisely linked to the nonchalance and negligence of the bourgeois. Victor takes all of the different body parts he acquired from grave robbing and puts them together to form a more powerful being “‘about eight feet in height, and proportionally large’” (Shelley 32.) Victor could regulate each piece separately.
However, once Victor amassed all the pieces to create a much larger and powerful being, he lost control. This symbolizes the bourgeois causing the proletariat class to unite, ultimately resulting in the proletariat to seize the means of production. The monster realizes that Frankenstein no longer has control over him. He tells Victor, “‘Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have the power… You are my creator, but I am your master;-obey!’” (Shelley 122.) Once the proletariat class unites and recognizes that it has control over the bourgeoisie, a revolution can occur, thus causing the bourgeois to experience the same mistreatment and neglect that they had once been the perpetrators of. The monster knows that Frankenstein is in his control, “‘you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you’” (Shelley 122.)
Throughout history, the proletariat establishes through demonstrations like strikes that, when unified, it is in supreme control over the ruling class, the bourgeoisie and aristocracy. Similarly, the monster demonstrates that he is in control over Frankenstein when he kills the people closest to his creator (Henry Clerval, Elizabeth, William Frankenstein, etc.) The monster’s murder of these people is equivalent to a proletariat strike in that they both leave the ruling class in anguish, despair, and debt.
The conflict between the bourgeois and the proletariat can be employed on many varying scenarios and novels, one of these is Frankenstein. Victor’s creation, like the proletariat, did not get the essential needs was rightful to and both Victor and the bourgeois are ultimately destroyed by their creations for not giving the key things that every human being needs to thrive. While feeble and exploited in infancy, both start to evolve. Through awareness, observation, and free-thinking, they realized that they are powerful, and with this newfound power, the proletariat, and likewise and the monster, are able to overthrow their dictators.
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