My top 10 Marxist books

Okay, these might not technically be about Marxism. But, they do talk about society and social class. Therefore, I believe that any literature that concerns class, metanarratives or ideology counts. Okay, here we go:

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Where religion now rules the world and there are several different classes, women can no longer read. I daresay this is not Feminist literature (more like anti-feminist), but Marxist. The Eyes of God seem to rule over this society and control everything in a dystopian world. Perhaps this is more a novel about religion than women.

2. 1984 by George Orwell

This is what started the Thought Police and Big Brother off. 1984 is about the media ruling people’s lives and being denied the right to Freedom of Speech.

3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Set in the society After Ford, everyone is cloned and lives in one if five castes; Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon. Fordism is the new religion, babies are conditioned in a Pavlovian fashion to dislike books and flowers (to prevent reading and to use more transport. Bernard and Lenina visit the society of “Savages” who still read the Bible, live in mud huts, marry and give live birth, where we meet John the Savage. John is the bastard child of Linda and the leader of the dystopian society, and he goes to try and change things. Nobody ever gets ill, they take soma in order to remove negative emotions and have sex for pleasure. Perhaps the main concern with this novel is consumerism.

4. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Ah yes, the Victorian workhouses and the unhappiness they caused for children. It is a picaresque novel about the adventures of a young orphan. You probably know the story, but Oliver first runs away to live with the Artful Dodger and Fagin, meeting the whore Nancy in the process. After being convicted of pick pocketing, he is rescued by a rich Upper Class man to live in his mansion, and then lives with him. This a “rags to riches” story similar to the film Annie, where a child from a bad background escapes their social shackles.

5. Heroes and Villains by Angela Carter

After a Nuclear Holocaust, there are three classes of society; Professors, Barbarians and the Out People. The Soldiers fight against the Barbarians to stop them pillaging their village, and the Barbarians resemble Celtic tribes who wear face paint, braid their hair and are very superstitious. As for the Out People, they are mutants who are kept separate over a wall and have poisonous sores. Marianne, a Professor’s daughter, runs away with a Barbarian and discovers their way of life. This novel is largely about Primitive culture in the Dark/Medieval ages, in particular concerning marriage, rape and Marianne’s sheltered life in her steel and concrete tower (think Rapunzel) compared with her boyish nature, making it Feminist literature too.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This about Jay Gatsby, a man who lives a wealthy lifestyle by changing his game and being a forgery businessman rather than a member of nobility. The novel explores the social lives of flappers and young men living in the 1920s and how they rebel against traditional values. A novel about money, the American dream and the nouveau riche, it explores the superficial lives of young wealthy people who waste their lives.

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Widely regarded as a social criticism novel, Jane Eyre is about how Jane goes to Lowood to teach and eventually lives in Thornfield Hall. Whilst Mr Rochester toys with marrying wealthy Blanche Ingram, he cannot marry because his wife Bertha – who was once very rich – is kept in his attic. Jane knows that, whilst she loves Mr Rochester, marrying him would mean that she is secure for once. A novel about masters and servants as well as education, this novel shows how one can escape their circumstances.

8. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik

Capitalism runs New York, and it’s consumers are the victims. Joe decides to create an alter ego who takes over at night, creating first Fight Club and then Project Mayhem.

9. Pride and Prejudice em> by Jane Austen

Widely regarded as a novel-of-manners, part of the story illustrates the social norms and expectations for men and women of a certain class.

10. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shore

The play that inspired Educating Rita, the story goes that working-class Eliza Doolittle is taught how to be a lady with elocution lessons and appropriate topics by Colonel Pickering and Higgins. A TV programme named “ladette to lady” has a similar theme running through it.

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3 comments

  1. Interesting list – I wouldn’t have thought of Oliver Twist or Pride and Prejudice as being Marxist, but they do have definite themes of class and inequality running through them.

    I’ve been meaning to read Handmaid’s Tale for about ten years now, I have to get round to it at some point…

    Like

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