In the stories “The Flower of Seven Colors” or “The Tale of the Old Genie Khottabych” what are the key features of Socialist Realism. How do the stories conform to the ideological demands...

In the stories “The Flower of Seven Colors” or “The Tale of the Old Genie Khottabych” what are the key features of Socialist Realism. How do the stories conform to the ideological demands of the Soviet state? How does it conform to the structure of the Master Plot laid out by Katerina Clark?

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

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In both stories, one of the most dominant features of Socialist Realism is the rejection of individual desires or wants. Socialist Realism was rooted in the affirmation of collective notions of the good and repudiation of individually privatized goods and property. Zhenya experiences this when she realizes the folly of her self- interested wishes in "The Flower of Seven Colors." Socialist Realism is affirmed in the futility of her wishes when made from a subjective point of view. For example, when she wishes for all of the toys in all of the stories, she ends up becoming attacked by them in a type of Marxist commodity fetishism realization. When she is excluded by the community, a group of boys who are playing a game, her individual wish to go to the actual North Pole is shown as one of failure because it is so cold. In these examples, Socialist Realism is upheld because Zhenya's individual wishes, desires made from a privatized point of view, do not result in long term and "true" happiness. It is only when Zhenya wishes for the boy to be healed and for community to be formed through individual sacrifice that she finds happiness. Interestingly enough, it is at this point when her wishes are over. This establishes the Socialist Realism referential point that true happiness exists when individuals subjugate their own identity to that of their "comrade" and larger collectivity. When individual wishes "run out," happiness emerges in the story. A similar Socialist Realism repudiation of individual wishes is seen in "The Tale of the Old Genie Khottabych." The genie who grants a type of "backwards" individualized wish realizes the error of his ways when he is confronted with the new Soviet style of consciousness. Volka, the Russian schoolboy, understands the truth, something that the genie cannot "get." The genie must relearn what his role is in the new setting, and Volka is the guide on this voyage. In this construction, Socialist Realism upholds the idea that private notions of wealth accumulation are "outdated" and represent archaic thinking.  

These stories conform to the ideological demand of the Soviet state in their rejection of privatized notions of the good.  In both settings, Socialist Realism drives the plot to embrace collectivity.  Material wealth for individual benefit are deemed as fruitless in the face of something larger and more encompassing. The Marxist- Leninist construction of class based consciousness is transcended when there is an acknowledgement of a wider configuration into which individual action fits. Both stories affirm how the state's vision "knows best," and is superior to individuals like Zhenya and the Genie who initially believe in their self- interested view of reality.  

Both stories reflect the structure of the "Master Plot" that Clark articulates. The heroic journey is embraced in both the knowledge that Zhenya gains and that the genie learns to understand. The idea of the Prologue is evident in each story, as the Genie comes across a new and "advanced" world in Moscow and the girl arrives into her own world of the seven wishes. In both expositions, the protagonist must struggle to understand who they are and what they should do. The Socialist Realism "Master Plot" ensures that these characters will come around to the Marxist- Leninist notion of the good. However, like all voyages, this realization must emerge and be internalized. In the "Setting up the Task," stage, Zhenya must recognize what is to be done with her wishes and the genie is prepared to embrace his life of granting material wishes. Both characters initially set off on their quest from a privatized notion of wealth, something that will end up setting up their embrace of Socialist Realism tenets. The Transitions that each undergo are moments of futility when individual consciousness is located at the seat of subjectivity. For example, the Genie struggles mightily in this "new world" with his "backwards" materialism and Zhenya never quite understands how her wishes are actually limited in scope. The Climax stage of the Master Plot is seen in Zhenya's narrative when her wishes end up turning on her as the toys end up posing significant threat to her. This parallel is evident in the Genie's world when he is unable to function effectively in a world that has put aside individual materialism, which is the only purpose that the genie knows. The Finale stage is seen when Volka helps the genie understand what true wishes look like and when the injured boy is what triggers Zhenya's last wish to help him. When individuals recognize this collectivized notion of the good, happiness is evident, knowledge is guaranteed, and the Socialist Realism construction of reality is affirmed. Both fairy tales follow this path.

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