This research examines Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's short story "The Revolt of 'Mother'" as an exemplar of Marxist principles. The research will provide an outline of the text and then discuss how "the magic of ideology" functions as a means of developing the narrative pattern and the characters.
The action of "The Revolt of 'Mother'" is straightforward if perhaps a bit eccentric. Sarah, a farm wife whose husband Adoniram builds a new barn instead of a long-promised new house, moves the entire household into the barn when he is away on business. Upon his return he quickly accepts the situation and promises an upgrade.
How Marxist principles enrich understanding of this seemingly unambiguous plot is suggested by the very title of the story, which promises a theme of revolt as the narrative conflict. But the entire narrative can be read as a proxy for the Marxist argument for revolution as a wholesale transformation of experience. The action of moving the household, however, is not really the content of the revolt. The meaningful transformation occurs in the mind of Sarah before any physical action is undertaken. That is where ideology becomes relevant to the text.
As Rivkin and Ryan explain, an important feature of Marx's critique of ideology is that ordinary experience "is driven from within by what Marx called 'class struggle'" (231). Although class struggle is the familiar phrase, the operative word is within. What maintains conditions of material oppression, in Marx's formulation, is that the oppressed have internalized the values and objectives of the master class, at some level perceiving that they share them. But the fact that they share nothing is proved by their sense of alienation and their persistent knowledge of their powerlessness. Both the powerful and powerless--capital and labor--are alienated. " But the former feels satisfied and affirmed in this self-alienation, experiences the alienation as a sign of its own pow...