Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German theorist and historian. After scientifically examining social organization, he perceived human history to have consisted of a series of struggles between classes between the oppressed and the oppressing.
More Notes: Literature and Society
The definition of Marxist criticism is a method of diagnosing political and social problems regarding struggles between members of different socio-economic classes. Drawing from this perspective, criticism is not aimed at the faults of particular individuals, even if they have achieved positions of power. Instead, such an approach focuses on how class antagonisms determined by labor relations structure social life. Or in other words, Marxist criticism seeks to show how the economically powerful exploit and dominate the financially disadvantaged. Moreover, Marxist criticism also points to how class conflict is obscured and hidden in ideology.
According to Marxists, and to other scholars, in fact, literature reflects those social institutions out of which it emerges and is itself a social institution with a particular ideological function. Literature reflects class struggle and materialism: think about how often the quest for wealth traditionally defines characters. So Marxists generally view literature “not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as ‘products’ of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era.” Literature reflects an author’s own class or analysis of class relations, however, piercing or shallow that analysis may be.
In fine, Marxist criticism emphasizes class, socioeconomic status, and power relations among various segments of society. Marxist criticism places a literary work within the context of class and assumptions about class.