“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”, is a long forgotten quote by the most influential social philosopher of all time, Karls Marx (Engels 3). Gaining fame after his publication of The Communist Manifesto, Marx brought the idea of class struggle to the forefront of the public’s thought. The most prominent class struggle across the world, and indeed the one Marx chose to highlight, exists between bourgeoisie and the working class. The bourgeoisie is considered the class of capitalists, owners of social production and wage labor, and thus the owners and creators of the working class (3).
The bourgeoisie are typically thought to control the main aspects of life, including the government, the economy and the regulations of society (6-8). The people that the bourgeoisie have the greatest control over are those of the working class. The working class, the largest of all the classes, are reduced by society to sell their labor in order to live and oppressed to poverty by the bourgeoisie (3-21). They are most often affected by events out of their control. During the Industrial Era, the workers labored in factories for the benefit of the bourgeoisie and at cost to themselves (Wilson 254).
Conflict between these groups, often called a class war, is caused by competing social and economic interests between these classes. Not only is this struggle visible in all corners of the world, it also manifests itself with the literature and art of every era. One of the most notable examples of this is within Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Over the duration of the novel Shelley’s main characters, Victor Frankenstein and the monster, respectively grow to represent the bourgeoisie and the working class.
As the monster and Victor grow more alienated, the representation of a class war grows, influenced by the strife of the classes during the Victorian Era, the time in which Mary Shelley lived. In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the main characters represent distinct socioeconomic classes, causing the alienation of Victor and the Monster to be representative of a class war. Victor Represents the Bourgeoise Victor represents the bourgeoisie mainly because he controls the world around him, in part due to his creation of the monster. Even before arriving in Ingolstadt, Victor is entranced with natural philosophy.
Soon, after learning about modern science, he embarks on a journey to reanimate the dead and discover the secret of life. To achieve this goal, one that is considered impossible, Victor begins to meld together knowledge of natural philosophy and modern science, and in doing so creates a new science (Shelly 24-25). Without the creation of this new form of science, Victor would have been unable to produce the monster. Both the creation of the monster and the means by which he is created are key in Victor’s representation of the bourgeoisie.
By creating the monster, or a new social class, Victor is acting as the leader in a new age, in the role of the bourgeoisie (Bloom 7). The way that Victor went about creating the monster is also similar to the creation of the working class. Specifically in the way the working class was permanently established and expanded during the industrial revolution of the Victorian Era (McMurtry 19). The driving force behind the industrial revolution, and moreover the development of the working class, was the innovation of new technologies and machinery.
These innovations were mostly pioneered by the bourgeoisie, as the only way they can remain the dominant class is by “constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby… the whole relations of society” (Engels 9-10). In a similar fashion, Victor revolutionizes a field of science that allows him to produce a new form of life. Once Victor succeeds in discovering the science to animate the monster, he proceeds to “infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing” (Shelley 29). In this Victor does reanimate a form of life, this act of creating a new life form is strikingly significant.
As aforementioned, the monster represents the working class, and the act of Victor creating the working class makes him a representative of the bourgeoisie. Victor being the monster’s creator is important as it draws parallels between the relatie ship of the bourgeois and the workers to Victor and the monster. Considering the bourgeoisie “has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations,” Victor clearly is representative of them because he also created a productive force (Engels 13).
Due to the creation and path to creation of the monster, it is clear to see that Victor represents the bourgeoisie. Victor’s Control over the Monster After the monster is created Victor continues to control the world around him, this is due to Victor being the only one with knowledge and leverage over the monster. Soon after his creation, the monster experiences the scorn of humanity (Shelley 67). This, he decides, creates unlivable conditions, and is willing to do anything possible to make his life better. The way to do this, the monster determines, is to have a companion, one who can only be created by Victor (Shelley 96).
This situation parallels that of the real world during the Victorian era. During this time, the English government was controlled by the upper and middle classes, meaning that the workers had no way of improving their standard of living, only the bourgeois had the power to do so. As Victor is the only one that can give the monster what he wants, Victor has immense control over the monster, in turn giving Victor control of his surroundings. As Victor controls the creation of the monsters companion, he thus controls the monster himself.
This immense power allows Victor to become the most powerful character in the novel, exercising control over the monster and those within the monsters vicinity. As Victor’s actions dictate the fate of his friends and family, he clearly controls the world around him. Victor controls the lives of his family by his willingness to comply with the monsters wishes. When the monster approaches Victor to create a companion for him, the monster issues an ultimatum. If Victor does not create a companion, the monster will continue to kill Victor’s friends and family (Shelley 96).
As Victor is dedicated to his family, this has a large impact on his actions, controlling the places he goes and who he speaks to. Victor, at first, complies with this ultimatum, and the lives of his family are, for the most part, safe. Yet when Victor revolts against the Monster, the results are immediate, and Clerval is murdered less than an hour later (Shelley 121). This displays the extent to which Victor’s actions control his surroundings, as Clerval is murdered simply hours after Victor’s actions, it shows the amount of power Victor holds over the lives of his loved ones.
Considering that controlling society is a clear aspect of the bourgeoisie. Victor not only controls the lives of those he loves, but also of those he hardly knows. Due to the creation of the monster, both Justine and the De Lacey family are greatly affected. After his creation, the monster soon settles down in a hovel to live, during this time he watches the De Lacey family. Soon the monster tries to meet them and form a relationship, yet the De Lacey’s react poorly to his appearance and large stature.
This results in the De Lacey family moving from the cottage and fleeing the area. Thus, Victor’s act of creating the monster resulted in a family fleeing from an established life of moderate comfort. During this time, Victor was unaware of his impact on this family, yet his actions inadvertently changed the course of four people’s lives. This shows the extent of Victor’s power and his influence over everyone within his vicinity, a clear connection to the bourgeoisie’s role in society. Victor also affects the lives of those whom he has hardly come in contact with, including Justine.
While Victor is aware of his impact on Justine’s life, the distance between him and Justine along with the indirect actions that caused Justine’s death provide a context similar to that of the De Lacey’s. Victor’s impact on Justine is particularly important, as the actions of Victor resulted in the ending of Justine’s life. For it be possible for Victor’s actions of creating the monster in a separate country incredibly far away from Justine shows that Victor has immense control over all of those within the several hundred miles of him. The Creature Represents the Working Class
As he is created by man, the appearance of the monster is unlike any other. The creation of the monster from bones and artificial parts lends itself to being representative of the working class (Benford 181). This confirms that the working class is a man made creation and X states that the artificial parts lead to the monster being mechanically inclined. Part of the reason the monster is so unnatural is his physical perfection, not only is the monster stronger, faster, and more resilient the humans, he has intelligence to rival man (Shelley 31).
This seemingly physical perfection of the monster is akin to a machine, it is simply to powerful and reliable in its strength to be human. The physical body of the monster can be equated to the working class, as Crosbie Smith considers them both “a perfect human economy,” that “acts like a balanced machine” (Smith 42). As both the monster and working class contain human attributes, the monster has several similarities to man and the working forces is made up of human laborers, this states that a machine like force is the perfect form of a system.
Considering that the working class makes up the bulk of the economy in the Victorian London, this quote implies that the mechanic attributes possessed by the monster represents elements of the economy during this time period. This is aided by the idea that the working class, during the Victorian Era, was considered a clockwork, ticking in a timely fashion and representing a society of machinery (Bentley 665). As both the monster and the working class are thought of to be machine like, it is clear to see that the monster is a representative of the working class.