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Influence of Karl Marx on Modern Literature

Marx and Freud have influenced life and literature in the twentieth century more
deeply and extensively than the earlier great thinkers and scientists like Copernicus
and Darwin influenced the life and literature in their own respective eras. Karl
Marx (1818—83) and Sigmund Freud (1856—1939) had very different fields and
While Marx was basically a social philosopher, Freud began his career as a doctor
specializing in the physiology of the nervous system and the treatment of such
disorders as neurosis and hysteria. He soon became the founder of psychoanalysis
and thereby one of the seminal figures of the twentieth century. And as regards
Marx, he started with the study of Hegelian dialectic at the university in Berlin and
Bonn but soon gave a new direction to socio-political thought by publishing, along
with Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848). This makes him the "father of
Communism." Freud's psychoanalytical theories and Marx's Communism both
proved revolutionary and highly impactful throughout the world.
Let us now consider the impact of Marx on twentieth-century English literature.
Marxian Thought and English Literature:
Marx's philosophy is known as "dialectical materialism-." No place is given by him
to the soul or the spirit. According to him, religion is the opium of the masses
which keeps them in a world of material reality. He adopted the Hegelian dialectic
to give a materialist account of social formations. His concept of class conflict is a
basic point. Conflicts arise from the desire to control the means of production. He
attacked the laissez-faire policy which allows the industrialists and capitalists to
exploit the working class without let or hindrance. Marx was for Communism, i.e.,
the supremacy of the community of workers rather than of a few individuals in
control of the entire wealth and its generating sources. The proletariat should rule a
country jointly instead of a king or an elected parliament, which normally protects
vested masses throughout the world. His teachings inspired the Russian Revolution
and then the Chinese, not to speak of another dozen or more on smaller scales
throughout the world.
Fourfold Influence:

Influence on Drama: . drama. Influence pa-Poetry: Let us now consider the influence of Marx on English poetry." Witness George Orwell's novels 1984 and Animal Farm. They were committed leftists the aim of whose poetry was the propagation of Communist ideology.H. His poetry is less overtly propagandist than that of Day-Lewis. novel. (iii) A tendency to subvert the conventional literary forms and techniques by condemning them as constructs of the bourgeoisie. viz. The impact of Marx is most clearly discernible in the work of Oxford poets of the 1930s. Even non-Marxian writers in the twentieth century tend to give a much greater representation of the working class in their works.So far as English literature is concerned. (ii) Use of literature as a means of communistic propaganda. See. and literary criticism of the twentieth century. And Lawrence's proletarian hero sometimes walks away with an aristocratic lady. it gives direct expression to the anxieties of the contemporary intelligentsia as perhaps no other writer has done. Auden is now given the status of a major poet of the twentieth century. for example. a contribution to the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie the ruling elite. Cecil Day-Lewis. Auden. At least two of the four Oxford poets got actually involved in the Spanish Civil War. we have mostly working-class heroes. Linda Williams observes: "His verse is full of topical reference to the social and international crises of the time. without any overt projection of the Marxian ideology. Here the Marxians are on the avant-garde ground. Stephen Spender. W. (iv) A reaction against the Marxian ideology which seems to encourage statism as against the concept of the sanctity and freedom of the individual and abject materialism as against spiritualism and "the higher values of life. Marx's impact manifests itself in four different ways: (i) A greater concern for the poor exploited masses. for example.. and Louis MacNeice." Spender for some time remained a member of the Communist Party and as such supported the Republicans' cause in the Spanish Civil War. the English Socialist theatre of today. In the novels of Arnold Bennett. Poetry in their hands become political action. In the 1930s he was the voice of his generation. in this order. MacNeice had Socialist leanings but was not a committed leftist.

He tries to make beautiful artifacts out of the gloomy ugliness of life. the novel can both a show and tell. in England no Marxian novels worth the name have appeared in modern times. Cazamian observes about him: "Bitterness sank to the core of his nature. there have been novels representing the life of the poor. it became the very food of his imagination Gissing describes the diseases of society without any hope of curing them. exploitative society. Shaw was a Fabian." George Moore. to start with. . Influence on the Novel: Of all the literary genres it is the novel that allows an author to represent life the most comprehensively-even more than he can in drama because whereas drama only shows. Justice. was a rare combination of an uncompromising realist and a refined aesthete. The most important of them was Arden who used the theatre like Shaw for a thorough exploration of political and social ideas. But if there has been practically no English novels based on Marxian theories like the materialistic basis of social formation and class struggle. Contemporary British theatre is dominated by Socialists like David Edgar and David Hare. His first play Widowers' Houses is about slum-landlordism. miscarriage of justice. Cazamian says: "George Moore reconciles the audacity of crude. and so on. That is why the novel all over the world has been the most eligible literary medium of propaganda. exploited classes with all its unrelieved gloom. In the 1950s several dramatists came under the influence of Brecht. The two novelists who wrote such novels with some distinctiveness were George Gissing and George Moore. Gissing was influenced more by Schopenhauer than by Marx. And so on. Shaw had the passion of a debunker rather than of a rigid ideologue..teaches us the vanity of the socialist dream. "the career of a plebeian agitator. and permeated all his fibers. a mild kind of Socialist.B. the irrationality of consigning criminals to solitary imprisonment. Warren's Profession is about the economics of prostitution as a profession in a laissez-faire. Mrs. Galsworthy in his plays like Strife. But. strangely. unlike Gissing. He believes neither in the philanthropy of the rich nor in the revolt of the poor. and The Silver Box tries to highlight class struggle. Several of his "problem plays" are built around the problems created by the economic exploitation of one section of society by another." In his novel Demos..G. propagandists have used drama instead. brutal observation with the sensuous refinement of a voluptuous aesthete.

and even Reconstruction. Fredric Jameson. and the systematic perversion of language. taken to an extreme in which private life and private thought are all but eradicated by surveillance. propaganda. The former has the form of an allegorical beast fable. According to Andrew Roberts. But it has its own insights to offer. . Among the practicing critics in today's England Terry Eagleton (1948— ) is by far the most eminent. In England Raymond Williams (1921—88) has been the best-known Marxian critic. The Marxian school has in its ranks such great critics as Lukacs. Gramsci." Influence on Literary Criticism: The Marxian thought has had a tremendous impact on literary criticism not only in Socialist countries but the world over. To Marx literature was only part of the "superstructure" of which the "base" was formed by economic conditions and dispensation of a society. leading to new insights if not comprehensive systems. Marx did not have a comprehensive theory of art and literature. to name just a few. and Macherey. this novel is "a vision of a world "ruled by dictatorships of the Stalinist style.George Orwell's well-known novels Animal Farm and 1984 are satires on Socialism and Stalinism. Several latter-day critics have tried to relate Marxism with Structuralism. psychoanalytic theories. The latter came after World War II. In its purity Marxian criticism tends to be simplistic if not severely blinkered. Walter Benjamin. but his fierce attack on bourgeois idealism has given new directions to literary criticism.