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