Subject Marxism Journal
Posted by Mulder
Posted on Mon May 29 18:45:00 2000
From IP  

Marx argues that all mental systems are actually the products of our social class and economic situation. The predominance of material possessions ¡§legitimate¡¨ the power of the ruling class to dominate the social relations and structures. That¡¦s where the ideology is originated. It is the imaginary relation created by the ruling class to impose on the inferior and lower classes, so that we live by certain rules naturally and seldom doubt them. Through all our life, we were instilled by all kinds of unconscious forceful consents, which reinforce the relations between classes. David Mamet¡¦s Oleanna is a perfect example not only to portray the ambivalence between the two social positions and but also subvert the traditional and undoubted ideology we were instilled about ¡§being totally obedient and respectful to the teachers¡¨. In the view of Marxism, the teacher-student relationship in the play is depicted both as the struggle for the position of dominance and the product of a series of economic behavior. However, the journal will discuss how the play uses only two characters, John (the professor) and Carol (the student), to examine and even broke the myth of the teacher-student, man-women, and predominant-weak, multiple relations labelled on these two. And it will also discuss in what way the professor¡¦s room in the school and even the language they uses serve as the control device in the mode of production, and also how the title of the play associate with the basic theory of Marxism.
John as the teacher position is given the absolute primary of testing, disciplinary, and questioning. In the beginning of the plays, John controls the whole process of communication: he starts the line, interrupts it, and terminates it. And Carol is acting a role with passive acceptance, imposed by his dominance of language violence, and even by his control of the silence. Carol¡¦s elliptical language shows her physical and psychological fear confronting the superior power. Yet, the power of initiating the conversation has a turning change in the middle of the play. Carol starts to take charge of the position, challenge the superiority of professor¡¦s position, and question the meaning of education. And we can see that John starts to be alert to Carol¡¦s aggressiveness and threaten by her sudden ability in language, which shows his fear of losing the power over Carol. The traditional teacher-student relationship has been overthrown. However, at the end of the few scenes, John tries to take back the control by showing his masculinity over Carol. The seesaw battle between teacher and student is switching to the struggle between two genders. At the end, Carol seems to surrender to John¡¦s physical violence, and tremble at the corner. The mysterious ending happens to lead more possibility for the gender issues, and leave a question to me as a reader.
Besides the characters¡¦ relationship, the school also can represents a self-close institution, which is open to certain people, who are officially qualified to ¡§learn¡¨ things within the school. Applying Foucault¡¦s idea of "Panopticon¡¨, the school is another kind of apparatus, a control device, in which people are institutionalized and unaware of it. Also ¡§learning¡¨ become the privilege to some people, which separate people with another social label, ¡§inside the school¡¨, and ¡§out of the school¡¨. It¡¦s also what Carol has been questioning about the truth of education. Is going through the institutional training the only way to achieve the purpose of education? Moreover, the epigraph Mamet adopts from a folk song can offer some hints of the mystery of ¡§Oleanna¡¨, which is never mentioned throughout the whole play, and also respond to the Marxism view about the struggle among the social classes.
¡§Oh, to be in Oleanna,
That¡¦s where I would rather be.
That be bound in Norway
And drag the chain of slavery.¡¨
The Oleanna is an illusionary utopia, and also the name of a community in Norway, which is in some way similar to Marx¡¦s utopia ideal. And an another verse of this song(Thanks for a senior student's reference) is as following, ¡§the poorest man from the old country becomes a king in a year or so.¡¨ I think this missing part of the song that Mamet didn¡¦t use can even bring out the tension and the power struggle between these two social positions in the play. What ¡§Oleanna¡¨ does Mamet has in mind? Will ¡§political correctness¡¨ be the weapon for Carol to fight back in the future? What¡¦s the connection between ¡§political correctness¡¨ and Marxism? I think the analyzing of this play in the sense of Marxism criticism could open more possible interpretations in the characters¡¦ relation and the relation between characters and its surrounding.

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