Thursday, September 11, 2014

Melodrama in the Communist Manifesto - Revised

In his writing ‘Melodrama and Modernity’, Ben Singer identifies three different elements of melodrama; classical elements that draw a clear distinction between the good and the evil, evoke poetic justice, and a more historical element which is based on ‘anxieties of a society experiencing unprecedented moral, cultural, and socioeconomic disarray’ (Singer, 133). I believe ‘Communist Manifesto’ by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels effectively utilizes both elements to educate and incite proletariats.

Initially, Marx and Engels reveal that class conflict is part of history-and that rise of the bourgeoisie was revolutionary yet unavoidable; the bourgeoisie is credited for putting ‘an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations’ (Marx and Engels, 15). However, Marx and Engels claim changes brought on by the bourgeoisie has instead ‘pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”’ (Marx and Engels, 15). Through oversimplification of good and the evil, the bourgeoisie become the evil force that brought on many social changes. Moreover, the proletariats become the ‘good force’ that is victimized by such social and psychological trauma, who ‘lost all individual character…and becomes an appendage of the machine’ (Marx and Engels, 18).

Historical factors come into play as Marx and Engels divide the world into good and evil. The proletariats were experiencing social instability and ambiguity with the advent of modernity; for which Marx and Engels accredit the bourgeoisie with disrupting traditional values and morals, as they ‘drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism’ (Marx and Engels, 16).

In order to offer a solution, or a ‘compensatory faith that helped people cope with the vicissitudes of modern life’ (Singer, 135), Marx and Engels use another classical melodramatic element: ‘Providence, moral legibility, and poetic justice’ (Singer, 136). Marx and Engels predict a powerful force among proletariats, as they become ‘concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more’ (Marx and Engels, 19), for the bourgeoisie ‘furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie’ (Marx and Engels, 19). As Laura mentioned in her writing, by incorporating poetic justice where providence will side with the proletariats, the Manifesto provides hope and plants an idea that a reformation by the proletariats is inevitable. 

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