Going off of certain ideas such as Marx belief that the economic base of a society would determine its cultural superstructure: What would a  Marxist analysis of the folk fairy tale “The...

Going off of certain ideas such as Marx belief that the economic base of a society would determine its cultural superstructure: What would a  Marxist analysis of the folk fairy tale “The Goldfish” be , pp. 528 in Afanas’ev.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Goldfish" contains several marxist elements. The exposition of the fairy tale establishes that the man and wife live "in great poverty." This is reflective of the economic base of society that Marx feels is problematic in capitalism. It reduces individuals to solely their net economic value. Marx believes that the proliferation of wealth under capitalism reduces the complex and intricate nature of human identity to either "poor" or "rich." For Marx, this economic base is what drives human alienation and helps to substantiate how economics ends up determining the superstructure of culture.

Marx would suggest that such a reality can be best seen in the demands of the wife.  All of her demands reflect an economic reality of accumulating more wealth.  When the goldfish grants one wish, it perpetuates an endless cycle of wealth accumulation.  Marx would argue that this is reflective of capitalism's curse.  It creates a regressive desire for wealth and economic power that filters into cultural superstructures and personal identity.  The old woman becomes increasingly abusive and mean as the fish grants her more wishes rooted in materialism. Marx's analysis of the fairy tale would suggest that economics becomes the cultural superstructure that guides individual wishes and temperament.  

Marx feels that the economic base of society, particularly so in capitalism, creates a "runaway train" in both cultural structure and individual identity. Individuals become so subsumed with material accumulation that all else is lost within such a structure. This is pointed in the case of the wife. Her wishes increase in material scope and nature, alienating her from personal happiness and the emotions of her husband. She becomes subsumed with greed and coveting wealth in each of her demands. The "runaway train" of capital accumulation that Marx projects is evident in what she asks for and how she continues to demand for more.  The ending of the fairy tale where all wealth is removed and the only element that remains is the inability to capture fish is Marxist in scope.  It depicts how capitalism and private wealth accumulation is fundamentally flawed and doomed to its own failure.  

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