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Marxism Analysis of "The Lower Depths"

By nelli24 Mar 25, 2012 863 Words
Maxim Gorky’s “The Lower Depths” shows the struggle between classes. Unquestionably, its focus is on the lowest of the economically low class people being controlled by the bourgeoisie. It is also a representation of how cruel the society could be towards them and how, in turn, the people are affected by the society. Although the play talks of the story of low class people –the vagrant, the gambler, the ex-artist, the ex-aristocrat, the prostitute, and so many others, the thief’s character is the best to display the struggle between the classes. Thieves are likely to be wicked, troublesome, and disobedient. However, the thief in the text projects only the wickedness and troublesomeness but is not really disobedient. He is a bit subservient to the whims of their landlady. Though it is true that there are times when he doesn’t want to follow what the woman says, in the end the woman would always find a way to make him do whatever she likes. For instance, when the landlady wanted the thief to kill her husband, the thief refused. And to bring her plans into reality, she beats Natasha –whom the thief cared about. This made the thief furious and he went to confront the landlady but he incidentally killed her husband instead. Aside from this, the fact that the landlady “owned” her sister Natasha made the thief adhere to her caprice. He is always protecting his love and is willing to do everything to spare her from the landlord and the landlady’s injustice. The text embodies how the low class people resist the ideology of those in the higher classes. However, because of circumstances they are in, they end up going along with whatever those in higher classes’ demands.

The lower economic groups are ignored in this text by those higher than them. The mere title of the play is distasteful. The place where the characters live is created and tagged as the lower depths by no other than the society itself. This just means that the society is also the primary reason for the repression experienced by the people. What the society didn’t realize is that these low class people are in the lower depths because they are deprived of chances to attain their goals and they are put on circumstances that destroy their self-confidence. The system of the ruling class caused the alienation of the low class people, therefore causing them not to be able to live their lives to the fullest.

Also, the setting is where the characters tell their stories and debate on whether it is better to live without illusions on one's own capability or to embrace a romanticized view of the world in order to protect oneself from the pain of daily life. In the play, it is the character of Luka who seems to idealize everything in life and the one who demonstrate that philosophy is meant to be used as an instrument to initiate change. Precisely, it was him who played the opposing figure to the rest of the characters. He is an example of an old man whom experiences made wise. He serves as an inspiration to everyone he meets by urging each of them to start a new life. In spite of this, his extreme optimism could also be the same reason why his life failed. And although he amazed the neglected lower class people in the lower depths, his arrival in their lives was too late that their energy and will has already taken from them. No matter how those people try to ascend from the social swamp, they are always shoved back into the depths. For example, when Natasha and the thief were about to begin a new life, destiny surpass them. Natasha was terribly beaten by her sister and when the thief came to confront the landlady, he accidentally killed the landlord. The theme of the play could be about the dominance of the higher class over the lower classes. As one of the play’s characters puts it “And so for all the others.... Locksmiths then ... bootmakers and other working folk ... and all the agriculturals ... and even the gentry -- they live for the better man! Each thinks 'e's livin' fer 'imself, yet it turns out it's fer that better man”. All of them who live in the depths and all the other workers seem to believe that they are living for themselves. What they don’t realize is that they are living to work and feed the bourgeoisie. And aside from this, the fact that the characters came from different field means that the bourgeoisie could control all aspects of the culture. To sum up, the play is a depiction of how the bourgeoisie rule the society. And the fact that the society puts the label to people shows how powerful it could affect other people’s lives.


The Lower Depths. The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. pp. 55-8. Retrieved from

The Lower Depths. The Social Significance of the Modern Drama. Emma Goldman. Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1914. pp. 295-301

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