A Marxist Look at "Paul's Case"

How would Karl Marx see Paul's case?



Throughout "Paul's Case," Paul is treated as the proletariat (the lower, working class) by his father, teachers, and employers. However, Paul feels that he should belong to the bourgeoisie (the upper, ruling class).

One of the basic foundations of Marxism is that the proletariat can only survive by rising against the bourgeoisie, and succeeding. Paul revolts to survive, but fails to do so. At first, Paul revolts in small measures, such as the "running commentary" on his teacher's lectures, his somewhat false daydreaming in class, his total disregard for authority (shown by the flower he wears to meet his teahcers when he is supposed to be getting disciplined), and his uncaring attitude toward school. However, his revolts get bigger, such as his boast about blowing off school to work at Carnegie Hall. This, however, gets Paul in trouble when he is found out by his principal and his father, and his father removes Paul from the school and makes him take a job.

It is this job that gives Paul the opportunity to pull off his biggest and greatest revolt. Paul steals the money from Denny and Carson's office, which signifies the proletariat removing the means of production from the bourgeoisie, and using the money to live it up in New York City. While in NYC, Paul moves into the position of the bourgeoisie, thereby creating a new proletariat, one that looks up to him, just as he looked up to the soprano at Carnegie Hall.

Unfortunately, Paul's biggest victory against the bourgeoisie is also his biggest failure. Paul runs out of money (the means of production, which is so very important to the bourgeoisie) and must return home to again become a member of the proletariat.

Of course, once the means of production have been cut off, the bourgeoisie, as a status, is dead and useless. Paul's money runs out and he begins to die inside, as symbolized by the authority (shown by the violets he wears in his buttonhole. The flowers die and he buries them, and then he begins to die and he buries himself in both the front of an oncoming train and in his thoughts. Even with his dying thoughts, Paul is concerned about the things he didn't get to do because he wasn't part of the bourgeoisie anymore, and at that point, he never would again. And he regretted his failed social revolution.

The social revolution mentioned was only in Paul's immediately surrounding life, and not on any large scale. However, the failure of his small revolution was just as critical to Paul as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's was to the underground counter-culture.





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