Outside of the peripheral context of "Araby," Mikhal Bahktin's theories of polyphony and heteroglossia closely correspond to Marx's theory of alienation and dialectic materialism. In fact, Marx was strongly influenced by many of Bakhtin's ideas, particularly polyphony.
To understand the connection between Marx's and Bakhtin's theories in this context, it is necessary to delve into the subtle yet important differences between heteroglossia and polyphony. Heteroglossia refers to the speech and words of another person, many of which are appropriated expressions filtered through an individual context, as demonstrated in the narrator's perception in "Araby." Polyphonic theory incorporates many speakers or voices with various styles and assumptions with a clear distinction between these voices and the speaker's. Heteroglossia is influenced by other voices and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the speaker and those outside influences. The distinction between the speaker and other styles is far more pronounced in polyphony.
Dialectical materialism, according to Karl Marx, is a method of understanding reality that serves as the foundation of Marxist thought. Dialectical materialism seeks to understand the reality of things in a concrete manner by getting to the root of their existence. In dialectical materialism, each thing has its own objective reality that can be arrived at apart from any spiritual or immaterial interpretation, but immaterial things may be obtained through material means.
The interplay between dialectical materialism, polyphony, and heteroglossia is best illustrated in Bakhtin's discussion of dialectics. Bakhtin explains that dialectics is derived from dialogue, and that there are various socio-linguistic dialects that contribute to the phenomenon of heteroglossia. In the Marxist dialectic, the voice of the oppressed triumphs over the voice of the oppressors and effectively creates a dialogue between these two competing voices.
In a sense, Bakhtin's heteroglossia supports Marx's dialectical materialism by reinforcing objective reality through a dialogue between competing voices that is eventually won or lost. Under this definition of dialectic materialism influenced by heteroglossia and polyphony, the intangible is brought about by the material. For example, the narrator in "Araby" attempts to gain something immaterial (the girl's affection) by taking a physical action (visiting "Araby" to bring her a present). In "Araby," these concepts are strongly illustrated in the competing internal voice of the narrator and the external voices of the adults he encounters.
Marx's theory of alienation can be found throughout "Araby" as well. As the story progresses, the narrator moves from youthful idealism to a kind of alienation that is found in many of Marx's writings. He is not only alienated from the adults in his life, but also from the girl whose affections he hoped to win with a present. As his alienation increases, the narration shifts from heteroglossia to polyphony. In the beginning, the narrator's own voice was heavily influenced by the adults and culture around him, but towards the end those influences begin to take on their own voices and become distinct form the narrator's own unique way of speaking.
Each of these unique theories plays a role in understanding "Araby." While the work seems simple on the surface, its simplicity is used to showcase the practical application of both Marx's and Bakhtin's theories.