Marx's theory of estranged labor is clearly portrayed throughout Charles Chaplin's film, Modern Times. In "Estranged Labor," Marx summarizes his theory as "the misery of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and volume of his production" (Marx, 1). The film, which takes place in the industrial era, follows the demanding life of a factory worker and his job fastening nuts onto a product as it furthers its way down the assembly line. The monotonous labor's alienating consequences are clearly shown at the start of the movie during Chaplin's character's efforts in attempting to persist in the tediousness and constant quickening pace of factory work. This cyclical lifestyle leads Chaplin's character to eventually suffer from a nervous breakdown. Chaplin's character in Modern Times is an ideal portrayal of Marx's theory of estranged labor.
In "Estranged Labor," Marx contends that society is divided into two conflicting classes by the capitalist structure of production. There are those who own and are in charge of the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and there are those who are the workers at the means of production, the proletariat. The worker becomes alienated in this system because as a non-owner, he or she is obliged to sell their labor to those who do. Marx further divides this alienation of the worker into four groups, all of which are depicted in Modern Times. There is alienation of the laborer from his "species-being," from his work's final product, from his fellow men, and from the production process.