What are the points of Marxist and Feminist criticism in the story Pinocchio?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This answer format allows for only a brief discussion of these literary criticisms applied to Pinocchio (1883).

Marxist literary, or critical, theory isolates the way the text reflects the Base and Superstructure of economic structure. It particularly looks for the answer to how workers are exploited and to how a text upholds or disrupts the ideology of society, especially bourgeoisie values.

The opening three chapters provide fodder for Marxist criticism. (1) The description of Geppetto's home reveals economic exploitation derived from the economic base. (2) His relationship with Mastro Antonio reveals the ideology of their community. (3) The encounter between Pinocchio, Geppetto and the Carabineer illustrates the Superstructure they live under.

(1) In Geppetto's home, a fire for warmth and porridge for meals are painted on the walls signifying that, more often than not, these are all he has for warmth and food. The economic base, therefore, is one in which the worker is given only a menial wage that cannot keep him fed or warmed. (2) When Geppetto goes to Mastro Antonio, we see an ideology prescribing lower class reliance on itself; Geppetto doesn't hesitate to ask nor Antonio to grant a favor of something given outright.  

"Mastro Antonio, ... I have come to you to beg for a favor." ... "I want a piece of wood to make a Marionette. Will you give it to me?"

Mastro Antonio, very glad indeed, went immediately to his bench ....
Little as Geppetto's house was, it was neat and comfortable. ... A fireplace full of burning logs was painted on the wall .... Over the fire, ... a pot full of something ... boiling happily away [was] sending up clouds of what looked like real steam.

(3) The encounter with the Carabineer (law officer) reveals the Superstructure of the community, which, as Marx and Engels explain it, is the cultural system of laws, philosophies, religion, arts that rise out of the ideology, while ideology is the unquestioned beliefs that govern a community and arise from the nature of the economic base. The Carabineer's imprisonment of Geppetto based solely on by-stander's speculation reveals the legal and political power of the elite and the exploited powerlessness of the poor workers. In this brief analysis of the beginning of Pinocchio, it is clear that Marxist theory has its contentions borne out in the story.

Feminism has a long history (not just post-World War I) with, according to some, three categorical definitions. The one applied to Feminist literary theory and criticism is that it seeks to reevaluate literature from a non-patriarchal bias thus reinterpreting and revising literature and society from a feminist point-of-view seeing women as having voice, individualism, and complex psychology instead of as voiceless appendages of men with insignificant psychological facets.

Chapter 15 introduces the first female character. Analyze her interactions with Pinocchio and her independent actions, speech and thought through the Feminist lens to identify patriarchal (male) influences, male subjugation, and voicelessness. For instance, her description marks her as a typically disenfranchised, voiceless woman who is perceived as having no autonomy or psychological complexity:

She had azure hair and a face white as wax. Her eyes were closed and her hands crossed on her breast. With a voice so weak that it hardly could be heard, she whispered:

"No one lives in this house. Everyone is dead." ... "I also am dead."


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