Marxist Readings


Marxist readings of a story try to highlight how stories encourage children of both sexes to obey rules, respect power structures in society and not attempt to alter their position in society.


In fairytales social institutions and rules are often represented by:

  • Families and family rules
  • The Church
  • Father figures


The key feature is that breaking rules or rebelling against a power structure will result in punishment whilst obeying rules will result in reward



Some examples:


  • Cinders does not attempt to alter the power structure in her home and remains obedient to the Ugly Sisters and Wicked Stepmother despite suffering conditions which would prompt other workers to go on strike. She is eventually rewarded for obedience
  • Cinders honours the memory of her father by staying loyal to his second wife – her stepmother
  • The Ugly Sisters’ attempts to rise above their position in society by marrying the Prince is punished by eventual failure and the mutilation of their feet as they try to force on the shoes
  • Cinderella does not challenge the rule that she has to leave the Ball at midnight and is rewarded for this
  • The mice which become the horses that pull the pumpkin carriage are simply transformed from free individuals into beasts of burden without their agreement. Worse still they appear to be happy to make themselves subservient to the whims of the ruling upper classes who suddenly decide that they want to go to a Ball
  • The pumpkin, a useful food resource that could feed many, is equally abused by the upper classes who suddenly appropriate and turn it into a carriage that can only carry one person
  • Cinders does not argue with the Prince, who has high status in society, when he tells her that she is going to marry him


Snow White:

  • Snow is punished for not following the rule against opening the door to strangers that is laid down by the dwarves who are her collective father figure
  • The sickening joy with which the dwarves ‘Hi-Ho’ off to work every day in the Disney version encourages the lower classes to take a meaningless pleasure in manual work allowing them to continue to be taken advantage of by their employees.
  • Notice that the dwarves do not profit from the gold / silver / jewels / even coal that they are mining. All the wealth they produce presumably goes directly to the mine owner and yet the hard-working dwarves do not object – we never see a union meeting in which a disgruntled Sneezy complains about labour exploitation or asks for a wage increase


Little Red Riding Hood:

  • Red is punished for breaking the family rule of not taking a shortcut through the woods
  • Red, her family and grandmother are all property owners. They represent the rich upper classes and the homeless, poverty stricken, lower class wolf is brutally murdered for simply attempting to establish some form of equality by moving into the grandmother’s house
  • The woodcutter, another lower class, worker is shown as a hero for killing the wolf which demonstrates how the rich have managed to delude their poor employees into turning against each other rather than uniting to overthrow the capitalist oppressors