We do not study Karl Marx for his biography, but rather for his ideas. Let’s begin with the basics. What is Marxism? Marxism is a philosophy of history. It is also an economic doctrine. Marxism is also a theory of revolution and the basic explanation for how societies go through the process of change. Marxists believe that they and they alone have the analytical tools to understand the process of historical change, as well the key to predicting the future. As Marx put it, “Communism is the riddle of history solved.” Marxists also believe that they and they alone have an empirical, scientific approach to human history and society: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history.” (Engels, 1884).
There are two basic ideas in Marxism: Materialism and Class Struggle. By materialism, Marx meant that the engine that drives society is the economy. Economic forces are more complex and pervasive than we think; according to Marx, they even determines how we think: “Consciousness is from the very beginning a social product.” (Mazlish, p. 94). The Mode of Production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but on the contrary their social existence that determines their consciousness. (Berlin)
The Role of Ideas, Marx extended this argument to suggest that individuals really do not think independently at all; rather, the great majority of people simply repeat the dominant ideas of their time in place of thinking. Do any of us really think on our own, or do we simply repeat the ideas and attitudes we hear every day? Since the people who control the economy also control the political arena, it is not surprising that most simply (once again, according to Karl Marx, merely parrot the rhetoric of the ruling class. As he put it in a famous quote: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.” (Mazlish, p. 98). In other words, everything you know is wrong! According to Marx, we think and believe the way we do because we are products of the mode of production (i.e. we are all products of capitalism).
2.2 Marxist Literary Theory
Literature is one of the major constituents of consciousness, and should be studied within the framework of history. As much as literature can be used as an oppressive tool to maintain and enforce the master-capitalist hegemony, it can also be used to undermine this hegemony. For Marxism, literature can be viewed in two main ways, regardless of the difference in opinion and practice among various Marxist thinkers and critics such as Lucaks, Brecht, Adorno, Raymond, Jameson and others:
1. as reactionary narrative that aims at marketing, devoting and enforcing the ruling classes’ ideology; yet not without contradictions, that can undermine its basic thematic assumption(s).
2. as a progressive narrative that champions the oppressed in their long and bitter struggle against the decadent bourgeois order.
Some traditional Marxist critics including Lukacs stressed the importance of realism in writing and denigrated other modes of narrative like naturalism, post/modernism as less, if at all, representative of class struggle. In defense of their theoretical position, they claim that modernist writers, like Eliot, Joyce, Wolf among others dwell usually in their writings on the personal experiences of demented characters that can hardly be taken to represent the suffering and struggle of the oppressed at large.
Traditional Marxists favored realism because of its total representation of people in real situations trying to improve their social conditions by engaging with the repressive forces in the bourgeois world. They favored narratives that compromise inherited bourgeois obsolete ethics and values. Other thinkers and writers like Brecht, Adorno, Althusser among others considered all forms and schools of narrativity suitable for exposing human suffering, class conflict and the various ideologies that dominate the world of the text and shape consciousness of the generations. (Visam Mansur).
The theme of the book differs from the plot, although many people think plot and theme are one and the same. Theme is the lesson or moral underlying the plot. The theme of a book is a message that describes an opinion about life, human nature or elements of society. (Rachel Mork: 2010). Common Themes in Literature are:
Man Struggles Against Nature: Man is always at battle with human nature, whether the drives described are sexual, material or against the aging process itself. Man Struggles Against Societal Pressure:
Mankind is always struggling to determine if societal pressure is best for living. Check out books like Revolutionary Road or Mrs. Dalloway for examples of characters who know how society says they should live, but feel society’s dictation is contrary to what makes them happy. Man Struggles to Understand Divinity: Mankind tries to understand and make peace with God, but satisfaction is elusive and difficult.
Crime Does Not Pay: A popular theme played out in books throughout time is the concept that honesty is honored and criminals will eventually be caught. Crime and Punishment and “The Telltale Heart” are two stories written on this theme.
Overcoming Adversity: Many books laud characters who accept a tough situation and turn it into triumph. Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind exemplifies a shrewd person who finds a way to come out on top despite failed relationships and an economic depression after the Civil War.
Friendship is Dependant on Sacrifice: This is the idea that you can’t have friends if you don’t act like a friend.
The Importance of Family: Sacrifices for family are honored and explored, as are the family bonds that survive adversity.
Yin and Yang: Just when you think life is finally going to be easy, something bad happens to balance it all out.
Love is the Worthiest of Pursuits: Many writers assert the idea that love conquers all, appealing to the romantic side of us.
Death is Part of the Life Cycle: Literary works with this theme show how death and life and intricately connected.
Sacrifices Bring Reward: Sacrifices and hard work pay off in the end, despite the challenges along the way.
Human Beings All Have the Same Needs: From Montagues to Capulets in Romeo and Juliet or the characters in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, book after book asserts that rich or poor, educated or dumb, all human beings need love and other basic needs met.
2.4 Literary and Themes
These are a just a few of the many possible literary subjects and themes. the point to remember is that a subject is not a theme: a subject is some dimension of the human condition examined by the work; a theme is a statement, direct or implied, about the subject. The themes about the subjects on the list are still fairly general.
As a critical writer discussing a particular literary work, you’ll need to bring your observations about theme closer to the work.
The word ‘literature’ derives from the Latin ‘letter’ which primarily refers to the written or printed words. It might be based on this idea that even today we still often think of literature almost exclusively as written expression. The word ‘literature’ is also frequently used in very general sense of the word to refer to the whole body of writing in a culture,regardless of its purpose.
Literature sprang up from imaginative mind of people who had talent to create stories.They perceived what was happening arround them from a natural phenomena to the lives of the people in their community.The eruption of a volcano,earthquake,war might have become the source of stories. A writer can make a story from the incidents he had seen or feel and organized a series of related incidents into a plot and produced a literary work,such as; novel,drama or poetry.
Wellek and Austin Warren (1977:25) stated there are three genres of literary work, these genres originated from lyrics, epic and drama. As Literary genre developed,lyric developed into poetry,epic developed into prose and only drama has retainded its own name.
2.4 Kind of Themes
This study can be analyzed in several points of view. It can be analyzed from the moral, social and religious point of view. Moral has a close relationship with character, because moral is reflected by character. Character is the element of prose and moral actually is one of four levels of characterization. These four levels are; physical, social, psychological and moral. These levels help us to see the very basic description of characters. Values means standard that used to define something and regarded as a conventional. In other word, moral values is standard of attitude that based on the determination of right and wrong which regarded by those who make the standard of moral.