Fairytales have existed for thousands of years. Originally unwritten, spoken stories often made for children. They survived through oral tradition, and stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin date back to some 6,000 years ago (BBC news). The focal text selected for the transformation task was The Elves and the Shoemaker, written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The tale tells the story of a poor shoemaker who receives help from a pair of benevolent elves. The world-centred theory that was chosen for this task was Marxist theory. The invited reading of the text was examined, and a new reading was created. The transformation was analysed through theoretical reasonings, and challenges encountered during the transformation process are investigated. Other aspects of this task incorporated in this analysis include: binary oppositions, signs and signifiers, gaps and silences, and genre.
Karl Marx was a ‘philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary’ (the history guide). His main economic theory was that of the struggles between the social classes during his time, focussing on the struggle between the upper class, which he labelled as the ‘bourgeoise’, and the lower, working class, the ‘proletariat’. A summating quote from Marx himself describes the attitude he expressed.
“The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity — and does so in the proportion in which it produces commodities generally.”
– Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)
Marx has also recognised that ‘the ruling class in every society owns or controls its capital, or the means of production’, with the ruling class being the bourgeoise (alpha history). In Marxist theory, the bourgeoisie own all of the land and means of production, along with their dominance within the government, therefore the proletariat is thought to be completely subject to the bourgeoisie. Marxism is based on the theory that every class is trying to improve their standing in society, and this creates the class struggle that Marx was attempting to improve when he wrote his works. Marx wanted to create an uprising of the proletariats in order to bring them to the same standing as the bourgeoisie. Brian Moon wrote, regarding Marx, ‘In his view, those groups of people who owned and controlled major industries could exploit the rest of the population, first through conditions of employment, and second by forcing their own values and beliefs onto other social groups’ (Moon).
With respect to literature, Marxist critics examine works with the goal of revealing if it contains any views which either support or reject Marxist opinions. Critics argue that ‘the reading and writing of literature is important to the spread of beliefs and values in a society’ (Moon). They examine whether a text includes all classes in society and presents these, as well as their interactions and differences in power, accurately. Marxist critics also analyse the form of a text, in order to see whether it favours a certain class. As an example, ‘It might argue that the sonnet … is a particularly middle class form of writing, since it requires readers who are well educated (and therefore comparatively wealthy). In contrast, the realist novel … might be seen as requiring a less well educated readership’ (Moon).
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