What are Examples of Marxist Literary Criticism?

We can see examples of this criticism in two stories: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Conner.

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”

Connie’s ability to be in a high social class derives from her good appearance.

  • “Her name was Connie. She had a quick nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors, or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was alright.” P.318
  • “…she knew that she was pretty and that was everything.” P.318  

Her mother and the rest of her family did not like that an individual of a higher class lived amongst them, so constantly they tried to put her down to try and lower her social class in their own minds.

  • “Her mother had been pretty once too…but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.”
  • “Her sister June…was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother’s sisters.”

Power over other people is acquired as individuals of higher classes can oppress those of lower classes.

  • “…Right away someone leaned out of a car window and invited them over, but it was just a boy from high school they didn’t like. It made her feel good to be able to ignore him.”

We realize that Arnold Friend is pretending to be of a higher class than Connie, for her the epitome of what is popular, because he knows that this is how he can appeal to Connie, because all people want to associate with higher classes, hoping to raise into it.

  • “Then he began to smile again. She watched this smile come, awkward as if he was smiling from behind a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down onto his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make up on his face but had forgotten about his throat.”
  • “..The boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller.”

“A Good Man Is Hard To Find” : Compare the economic classes of central characters Granny and Misfit, in the following excerpts.


  • “The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse…the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot on the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet . In case of an accident anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know that she was a lady”
  • “…with the mileage on the car at 55,890.”


  • “…didn’t have on any shirt or undershirt . He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat”
  • “He had on a tan and white shoes and no socks”
  • “It was a big black battered house like automobile”
Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Primary Founders of Marxist Literary Criticism

Karl Marx (1818-1883)  

  • Insistence that human interactions are economically driven and that the basic model of human progress is based on a struggle for power between different social classes.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) 

  •   German Social Philosopher and Revolutionary
Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

What is Marxist Literary Criticism?

Marxist literary critics tend to look for tensions and contradictions within literary works.

This is appropriate because Marxism was originally formulated to analyze just such tensions and contradictions within society. Marxist literary critics also see literature as intimatel

y linked to social power, and thus their analysis of literature is linked to larger social questions.

Since Marxism is a belief system which can be used to analyze society at the grandest or most detailed level, Marxist literary criticism is ultimately part of a much larger effort to uncover the inner workings of society.

Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

What is Marxism?

The system of economic and political thought developed by Karl Marx, along with FriedrichEngels, esp. the doctrine that the state throughout history has been a device for the exploitation of the masses by a dominant class, that class struggle has been the main agency of historical change, and that the capitalist system, containing from the first the seeds of its own decay, will inevitably, after the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, be superseded by a socialist order and a classless society.

Published in: on April 6, 2010 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment