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Marxist Literary Theory Applied to Kate Chopin’s Short Stories

The Marxist literary theory is based on the philosophy of Karl Marx, a German philosopher. His main argument was that the means of production in society controls the society, therefore whoever owns the main sources of production basically owns the society and the culture, which is also known as dialectical materialism. To read a work from a Marxist literary perspective, it’s critical to understand that Marxism asserts that literature is a reflection of culture and that culture can be affected by literature.

We see Marxist elements in Chopin’s short stories as it discusses and portrays the interaction between the wealthier classes and the lower classes. This is shown in “Beyond the Bayou” and “La Belle Zoraide” when these classes interact, such as Zoraide’s interaction with Madame Delariviere. Madame Delariviere treats Zoraide as a daughter even though she is of a different class than her mistress. In a way, Chopin is commenting on the restriction that comes with a society structured the way that it was in “La Belle Zoriade”, a society with clear demarcations between classes. This story may be arguing that there are negative consequences for the characters in the story due to the class division, for example when Zoraide could not marry Mezor because he was a slave. Therefore, the reader is made to think that if these demarcations were erased between the classes and there was an equal distribution of wealth within the society, the story could have had a happier ending and Zoraide would have been able to marry Mezor, no matter their social class.

Another example is La Folle’s fear of leaving the Bayou in “Beyond the Bayou”. If we look at it in a Marxist way, the Bayou is a symbolic representation of the limitations and constraints La Folle faces due to her race, almost as if she is trapped within her social and economic class. It can be argued that La Folle is afraid to leave the Bayou because of society’s consequences for people who leave their place in their social class and go against society’s view of where they “belong”. However, when she leaves the Bayou to save Cheri, this can be interpreted as the potential that people have to be a benefit to society and to make a positive impact for themselves and for others when not imprisoned by their social and economic class.

Link on Marxist Literary Theory: http://www.iep.utm.edu/literary/#H7


2 Comments

  1. nayaabkhan99 says:

    I found it interesting that “Marxism asserts that literature is a reflection of culture and that culture can be affected by literature.” In many ways, this is true. Many stories are written based off of culture as shown in Kate Chopin’s stories about Creole culture, and the fact that literature does impact culture. There have been many books that allow for the people to step out of ignorance or have brought issues into focus. As Hoda said, Marxist elements are found in La Belle Zoraide and Beyond the Bayou. The Marxist elements can also be found in Kate Chopin’s story, Dead Man’s Shoes. The Marxist element is found through Gilma’s interactions with other individuals. He is able to freely interact with the plantation slaves but when it comes to his deceased master’s family, he is treated poorly and without respect. Once he is informed that “le vieux Gamiche” (his master) has named the plantation in his name, Gilma is immediatly placed at a higher level. Although he had the power to disrespect and kick out Gamiche’s family, he maintains his dignity and leaves them alone. These characteristics and interactions all showed the separation of social classes.

  2. saraeltayeb says:

    Great points you made, especially about the culture differences in the stories and it relating to Marxist Literary Theory. I also think that culture differences between upper class and lower class is shown in these short stories such as you mentioned “Le Belle Zoraide” and how Zoraide was not able to get married to Mezor because he was a slave, we can see that culture is very important, and what Marxist Literary Theory states that literature is a reflection of culture is very true, and i definitely agree about the point that you made about the division between two different cultures is not existed then the story will be different, and Zoraide will be able to marry who she wants. This theory really made me look at the stories differently, and considering that culture plays a major role in literature.

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