The Lower Depths

by Maxim Gorki

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The Lower Depths was made into a French film in 1936, a Chinese film in 1948, and a Japanese film in 1957. What social, political, and economic factors in France, China and Japan might have contributed to the play’s appeal at those respective times?

The Lower Depths is considered a prime example of Socialist Realism. Research Socialist Realism and explain how and to what ends the play embodies this literary device.

Research both Romanticism and Realism in literature. How did they evolve, and how are both manifested in The Lower Depths?

Research the period preceding the Bolshevik Revolution. What social and political influences do you think the characters Luka and Sahtin represent?

Consider social and economic conditions in the United States today. How might a contemporary American version of The Lower Depths look?

Consider the central theme in The Lower Depths. Discuss the merits and problems of the ‘‘truth ’’ and the ‘‘consoling lie,’’ and argue your own moral stance on the issue.

Very few props and stage instructions are provided by Gorki for The Lower Depths. If you could direct the play, how would you make the set support the thematic material of the text? Use plenty of detail and back up your reasoning.

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