German philosopher Karl Marx & German sociologist Friedrich Engels (Communist Manifesto 1848) called for a state ownership of means of production, distribution, and exchange (industry, transport, etc.)

Started as philosophical system in 19th century offering humanity social, political, economic and cultural understanding of reality, society and individual.

Marxist literary theory emerged in the 20th century: reality can be defined and understood, society shapes our consciousness, social and economic conditions influence how and what we believe and value.


Marx is a materialist (explaining things within the boundaries of the natural world, as opposed to the idealist belief in the existence of a spiritual world) dialectic (following Hegel's thesis, antithesis and synthesis: conflict between opposing forces and ideas leads to the development of new forces and ideas)


Class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat leads to alienation as workers are deskilled in the industrial/capitalist mass production of items they might not use (unlike pre-industrial society where home and workplace were one)

Alienated workers undergo a process of reification as they are regarded not as human beings but rather as ‘hands’ or ‘the labor force.’ People become things.


Marxism sees society to be constituted by base (material means of production, distribution, and exchange) and superstructure (the cultural world of ideas, art, religion, law) resulting in economic determinism where superstructure is determined by base.


Ideology: ideas and beliefs of ruling class that circulate in the superstructure.


Gramsci’s hegemony: internalized form of social control making certain views seem natural, resulting of the bourgeoisie's control of the economic base through institutions like churches, schools, etc (Althusser calls these Ideological State Apparatuses)


Althusser’s Interpellation: hailing the subject: world’s worldview is shaped by hegemony. But since dominant class’s hegemony isn’t complete, alternative hegemonies exist and compete for supremacy, revolution usually occurs.


False consciousness: proletariat ascribe to bourgeoisie ideas though contradicting with theirs.



Analyze the different classes presented in the text, the values each class represents.

Analyze any conflict you see between the class values the work outwardly supports as opposed to that it actually endorses.

Analyze how characters from different classes interact or conflict.

Study how/if the text presents the emptiness of bourgeoisie life.

Analyze the protagonist and/or author’s defend or defect from the dominant values of society.