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Karl Marx

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Peter Vigneau

Realism and Naturalism Paper 2

Topic #4


The name Karl Marx is famous due to his philosophy and study of social interactions through the human society. He was largely popular in his lifetime of the 19th century and even after his death, he became one of the most influential socialist thinkers. Marx had many different ideologies pertaining to politics, economy and structures of governments. He is most famously known for his publication of the Communist Manifesto. This work of Marx reflects on the explanation and the goals of the communist party. It presents the issues in to the exploitation of social classes by one another. In section, one he says that all of history is based on class struggle. Marx believes in his time there are two separate classes the “proletariat and bourgeoisie”. The proletariat being the working class and the bourgeoisie are the capitalists.

The Marxist perspective is the study of the struggle between the upper, lower, and middle class. The basis of this perspective is economics. Marx found that economics was the driving force behind society. The quest for wealth defines character. Marxist look for oppression of a lower class by an upper class. They examine how people are made into commodities to make money off of. They examine the economics featured in the text, Marxist also examine what social classes are featured in the text.

In Marx’s point of view, the bourgeoisie control the means of production and they exploit the working class or the proletariat. In this case, the capitalists make work difficult and daunting for the proletariat while the bourgeoisie expand and only have concern for making more money. This conflict between the two classes is a constant tug of war that favors the capitalist powers. In the idea of “capital” and “management”, I would place them in to simpler terms; two classes I would depicted as “the have” and “the have-nots”. Marx thought conflict throughout history were the attempts by the lower classes to obtain power, and the effort by the upper class to retain what they already have. These conflicts of economic classes are portrayed in many literary pieces of that time and even to present day.

In Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, it pictures high society in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. This story is an economic story where characters make the best of the intentions they have, hardships they face, and the capital they possess. The story begins with one important character named Lily Bart. Lily has ties of wealth within her family but her fortune resides in her beauty. The constant similarity in the characters is what defines them the most, which is wealth and social status.

Lily accompanies herself with the bourgeoisie as she sees herself as that and her goal is to marry rich to stay in this social class. She has a constant fear of becoming the proletariat she is materialistic and has an eye for the finer things. “The clothes are the background, the frame, if you like: they don't make success, but they are a part of it. Who wants a dingy woman? We are expected to be pretty and well-dressed till we drop—and if we can't keep it up alone, we have to go into partnership." (Wharton) Lily has her chances for marriage but she constantly denies because she believes she can do better than the next.

One man that has his eye for Lily, that is Lawrence Selden who is not a poor man but he is not rich enough for Lily’s blood. Selden sees the value in her beauty where in society it has no real value. “Selden glanced at her with amusement: it was impossible, even with her lovely eyes imploring him, to take a sentimental view of her case.

"Ah, well, there must be plenty of capital on the look-out for such an investment. Perhaps you'll meet your fate tonight at the Trenors'." In this notion, Lily has some power over Selden because he wants to marry her but Lily looks past his personality and only at the wealth of a man. If it were not for Lily’s family, she would just be a pretty face in the working lower class.

        Lily soon realizes that she needs more than just a pretty face and her wit. She turns to Gus Trenor who she gives a small investment to put in to the stock market. This is where things change for Lily, her power diminishes and she starts to turn to the management. Lily soon realizes that Gus has not been investing her money but has been giving her money of his own which he claims that she has to repay him. This soon leads to her demise because next that goes is her social status when a jealous friend, Bertha Dorset slanders her reputation forcing in to the role of the proletariat.

        The wealthy people in this story have a type of capitalist concern and that is keeping their good name and staying wealthy. Lily’s desire for money and material things brings about her death. At the beginning, Lily was a part of the bourgeoisie but other people’s greed and intentions turned her life upside down. If Lily was not too concerned by the wealth of the man, she were to wed than she might not have been put in debt. Ultimately, she became what she feared most, which is the proletariat.

        The next book I would like to touch on is Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. The novel starts with the description of Carrie Meeber, who is Sister Carrie. She leaves her family and moves to Chicago for the hope of a better life. She goes to Chicago to stay with her sister Minnie and her husband, Sven Hanson. Once she arrives, she realizes she has to work hard to pay rent to the Hanson’s. She cannot stand living with her poor sister so she decides to leave to live with her lover Charles Drouet who supports her financially. She is then introduced to George Hurstwood, who is a manager of a popular saloon in Chicago. To Carrie Hurstwoord encompasses a high level of success and seems to be a more promising companion than what Drouet has to offer her.

 She leaves Drouet to accompany Hurstwood to New York after he decides to leave his wife and kids behind, also with stolen money from his employers. While in New York Hurstwood’s is in a downward spiral while Carrie gains success as an actress and becomes quite popular on stage. Carrie ultimately leaves Hurstwood to focus on her career. Without Carries knowing Hurstwood commits suicide because he has no more financial security. With her career as her main goal in life, she tries to obtain more and more money. As ambitious as she is, she is never satisfied with what she has so constantly she seeks something better.



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