Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Melodrama and the Communist Manifesto

At the time that the Communist Manifesto was published, melodrama was widely looked down upon by higher society since "bourgeoisie traditionally has disdained melodrama as a product of lowbrow vulgarity" (Singer, 132) due to the fact that it took no intellectual capability to understand or appreciate.  This is epitomized by the statement made by Pixercourt, who said, "I write for those who cannot read"(146), which went to show that melodrama's purpose was to excite and entertain their target audience of the illiterate, working-class members of society, as opposed to the intellectual stimulation of the better educated bourgeois.  They continued to express their sentiments against melodrama frequently, with one such sentiment being, "Is it conceivable that any audience with the smallest pretension to taste or education could be moved to anything but ridicule or contempt by the average melodrama production of today?"(147).

Knowing that melodrama was something that resonated essentially solely with the lower-class, Marx and Engel utilized quintessential melodramatic rhetoric in as a means of fostering support for a proletarian revolution against the bourgeois. In what inevitably boils down to the classic battle of good vs. evil, the working-class proletariat are characterized as the "victim hero" that needs to revolt against the oppressive, aristocratic villain of the bourgeois in order to secure their own basic freedoms. They write that the bourgeoisie "has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”... It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation." This sets the stage as the bourgeois as having wrongly created an oppressive system of exploitation that promotes their betterment at the cost of subjugating the proletariat, and furthers this message by saying, "The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history."  The combination of these two statements are particularly powerful, as they not only portray the bourgeois as the villains, but also give a justification for a proletarian revolution as a response to the actions of the bourgeoisie.  With this message being targeted at what has already been revealed as the least educated group of people in society, the Communist Manifesto serves to manipulate the majority into leading what has the potential of being a very successful revolt.

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