Professor Furqan TanvirLIT 704
18 may 2018
Marxism in Danielle Steel’s novel Wings
“He’s going to use you until he’s squeezed you dry, or fly you till you drop, or wind yourself around a tree somewhere in a machine that’s too much for you. He cares about one thing; publicity and his goddamn aircraft company”(291).
Nick, the protagonist of this novel Wings, says these dialogues to Cassie, who is heroine of this novel and a representative of the working class who is exploited by the members of the ruling class.
In this research paper, my aim is to highlight purposes or motives of these different classes and exploitation of working class by the ruling class in Danielle Steel’s novel Wing by using a lens of Marxist literary theory. But before applying this lens of Marxist theory on the text, a little bit of understanding of Marxist theory is necessary for full understanding of this novel Wings.
Karl Marx with the collaboration of Friedrich Engels presented an economic and political theories based upon social and economic system, and are called Marxism. Karl Marx was a historian, philosopher and an economist. “After examining the society from different angles, Marx discovered the laws that govern societal and economic evolution. Just like Charles Darwin discovered the way nature adapts and changes over time, Marx discovered how societies adapt and change over time” (Bowens, et al. 7). “From a Marxist perspective, difference in socioeconomic class divides people in ways that are much more significant than differences in religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For the real battle lines are drawn between haves and haves not, between bourgeoisie those who control the world’s economic sources and the proletariat, the majority of the people who live in substandard conditions and who have always performed the manual labor” (Tyson 52).
“At the centre of Marxist doctrine is the theory of class struggle. However Marx did not systematically explain this central idea of the struggle between classes, although one might say that the entirety of his writing is an elaboration of this theme” (Edward Andrew 1).The Communist Manifesto describes the process of developing a society over time and in this book Marx roughly divides the classes into two great classes the ruling classes (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat). Each class is defined by its relationship to the major means of production. (…). The proletariat does not own anything except their own labor and Bourgeoisie class owns the means of production and distribution. Base means the means of production such as labor capital land and organization. Superstructure includes ideology, cultures, social institution. According to Marx, superstructure rests on base and reflects the interests of the ruling class.
The novel Wings is written by Daniel Steel who is one of the world’s most popular authors. Steel was born on 14 August, 1947. She was the only child of her parents. Danielle had to face many problems in her life like her parents’ divorce when she was seven or eight year old, poverty, her marriage failure, and suicide of her son at the age of nineteen. In one of her interview to Reuters, she told that
“Religion is what keeps me going; I would be utterly lost without it”.
According to marks religion plays an indispensible role in creating illusion about how power works in a society. Religion is opium of the masses.
In the novel wings Cassie is the representative of the working class who owns nothing but her labor. She is one of the best pilots and being a female is a double standard of exploitation. Desmond William, a representative of Bourgeois. He owns William Aircraft and he doubled his business in size in an incredibly short time. At the age of thirty four, he was one of the richest men in the country.
“The only thing that mattered to him was his planes and being at the very top of the aviation business” (166).
Nick who belongs to the working class knows the mentality of elites and their hidden agenda.
According to Marxism “All class society is characterized by exploitation”( ). In feudal society, serfs are exploited by lords and in capitalist society, proletariats are exploited by bourgeois and the purpose behind this exploitation is same, maximization of a profit. Marx who saw a specific pattern in a history, says that
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
The history of the society is a history of struggle between two antagonistic forces the exploited class – the workers, and the exploiting class – the bourgeoisie. Karl Marx said that capitalism came into the world
“Dripping from head to toe from every pore with blood and dirt.”
In the book “Communist Manifesto” a theory of Conflict theory is introduced by Karl Marx. According to Conflict theory, society cannot be understood as “a complex system striving for equilibrium but rather as a competition” () According to Karl Marx, The proletariats are exploited and oppressed by bourgeois .and it results in conflict of interest between these two classes. “Karl Marx believed that, economic and political analysis of capitalism is the main causes of conflict theory. This is due to forced labour, long working hours, low wages and poor working condition which under capitalism system” (Lyudmila 95).
In this novel Wings the exploitation of Cassie is shown in capitalist and patriarchic society. It is set in the time of world war; Cassie who belongs to working class is exploited by Desmond William who is representative of Bourgeois. Desmond Williams exploits her physically, emotionally and intellectually. As the employer, Desmond prosecutes the big profit from his worker. Cassie does a stunt in an air show then she is approached by Desmand William who gives her job. Her job is to do test flights of the planes that are introduced by William aviation. But she is exploited and used by Desmond Williams as a tool to sell his planes. In the workplace Desmond is not only exploit Cassie’s talent in flying a plane, but he also exploits Cassie’s beauty to get publicity and big benefit. Desmond made Cassie’s life more like an actress than a pilot. cassie always hate press conferences and the photographs. But it was necessary for publicity of his plane so
“The public ate her up, and Desmond Williams kept feeding them exactly what they wanted” (165).
In order to get more publicity and … to his business, he plays with her emotionally. He pretend to love her and marries her but Nancy know the reality that
“It was not Cassie’s heart Desmond wanted. He wanted her loyalty, and her life, her mind, her judgment about planes, and her courage” (171).
“It was all part of the pacific tour and the grander scheme of things, all to sell airplanes” (327)
It was what he wanted from everyone, from his every worker that was important for hi business…..
In order to promoting his airplanes, he does not hesitate in putting Cassie’s life in danger and sends her on world tour. He knew that world tours are not safe. Navigation could go wrong. Plane can be hit in a storm and a million unexpected things could happen. But for promoting his planes he put her and Billy life in danger. When she requests her to delay this world tour because of her father’s illness then he threatens her with bad consequences.
Problem with one of their engines and then
Her planes were crushed and she had to land on a small island where she spent more than seven week with Billy. Billy died because of some infection in his leg that was injured by coral reef and Cassie herself near to die when she was rescued by Navy.
According to Aristotle, man is a social animal. But Marx has taught us that man is an economic animal and the main reason behind the man’s animalism is economics. But the interesting thing is that society has a mechanism of covering this animalism of man.
In this novel, economics concerns and greed to earn more profit make Desmond a brute. But he pretends to be a good man.
“Desmond Williams had a brilliant mind and impeccable manners. What he did not have was a heart” (171).
He even does not hesitate for a minute for risking her life in order to sell his airplanes.
But he hides his brutality under the garb of morality.
Middle class gives importance to morality but bourgeois class they do not care about it. morality is a play thing for them. They use it to keep their outward appearance.
“There is no such thing as moral or an immoral .books is well written or badly written. (Oscar wild).This saying is implies on rich. There are middle class people who always care about morality.
When Desmond in order to make his mission successful and giving a boost to his business marries with Cassie and tells her lies but he don’t care about it.
“He didn’t care about anything except his tour, and the planes he would sell as a result. And the publicity he would derive from organizing it from start to finish.”318
Cassie does not care about anything else except that he had lied to her.
“All she cared about was that he had lied to her. He had asked her to marry him, told her he loved her, pretended he cared about her” (318).
When cassis questioned him why he had married her then He told her without embarrassment that marriage was not important for her but without it world tour
“Would not have had the same impact on the public” (319).So his marriage was just a publicity stunt. And Desmond didn’t feel any regret for this .He further says that
“This was business. But isn’t that what marriage is, Cassie?” (330).
According to Marxists, the main reason of women’s oppression is not patriarchy but economic structure. “Marxists argue that the absence of women’s oppression in pre-private-property societies proves that women’s oppression is based on the system of private property and not a natural outgrowth of male dominance over women. Consequently, the abolition of private property will lay the basis for the complete liberation of women.”( 27).
Many Marxists typically argue that feminism is at best less important than class conflict and at worst divisive of the working class.
……………… Never had humanity seen such brutality..Human labor is a commodity, a thing of value. It is also a value that, when used, creates value. It is from the labor of the worker that the owner derives profit. (7)
Desmond take so much work from her workers more than their capacity. Cassie complains about it many times.she told to Desmond that she “I’m tired of being treated like a show dog “306). She can’t not sleep properly. She tells to Nick that
“it had been so much hard work that sometimes she felt as though they owned her” (144).
Karl Marx said the following about this:
A man who has no leisure, whose whole life, outside of the simple purely physical interruptions for sleep, meals, etc., is monopolized by his labor for the capitalist, is less than a beast of burden. He is a simple machine to produce wealth for others, crushed physically and brutalized.” intellectually. And yet, the whole of modern history shows that capital, if not obstructed, works without regard for mercy to lower the whole working class to this level of extreme degradation.
In marx view, the relationship between people was determined primarily through economics.
Temperament and emotions are also shaped by economics….
In this novel Nancy want to marry Desmond who is rich man. And feel jealous when he shows his interest in Cassie. But Desmond marries Cassie. Not because he loves her but to publicity and in order to promote his business. Desmond marries Cassie just for the success of his business. For Desmond “marriage is a business”
Oh the other side Nick loves Cassie but refuse to marry her on the economic grounds and advices her that she should marry a rich man like Desmond.
“I want to give u so much but I have nothing to give you.”(191).
And he further says that
“But I’m never going to have anything but a bunch of old planes, and a shack at the end of your father’s airport” (192).
Nick predicted it right that” Desmond married me as a publicly stunt to make the tour more appealing to the public” (310).
One of the greatest weapons that workers and oppressed people possess against the bosses and capitalists is our unity.
“It is not the consciousness of men that determine their being, but on the contrary, their social
being determines their consciousness” (Seldon, 1985:23).
Nick who belongs to working class knows the mentality of elites and their hidden agenda. He says to Cassie that he is going to use her for his business and in order to promote his business of planes; he might send her on world tour in order to check the durability of his planes and booting his business. And he might marry her in order to make his mission and business of selling planes successful. But Cassie doesn’t believe on Nick’s words and assume that he is saying such things out of jealously. And same thing happens. . Desmond first propose her to send on the world tour with his one of the best planes and propose her to marry as a publicity stunt to make the tour more appealing to the public. and at the end she realizes that nicks was right she was used by Desmond and this realization comes very late and she is threatens by Desmond to prosecute her legally if she tried to cancel world tour as a result she has to lose a very good friend Billy who died at a small island .after getting class consciousness Cassie decides to prosecute Desmond legally and publically. And she also decides to get help of Nancy, who were also exploited by Desmond. This reminds us of class solidarity of social class.
This solidarity of the workers is the biggest threat threat to the Capitalists.
When Marxists speak or write about proletarian solidarity, working class solidarity and international solidarity, they mean the complete unity of interest of all the peoples oppressed and exploited by capitalism (19). In this novel when when Cassie comes to know about the truth about Desmond .she decides to take action against him. And also consider to take Nancy’s help who was also Desmond’s victim.;Theses strikes, at first skirmishes, sometimes result in weighty struggles; they decide nothing, it is true but they are the strongest proof that the decisive battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat is approaching. They are the military school of the workingmen in which they prepare themselves for the great struggle which cannot be avoided. (Engels, 1845, p. 512)
According to Marxist, the main causes behind all important conflicts and wars have been class interest or class antagonism. there is no doubt that are also non economics causes like politics, religious and ethnic conflicts behind wars but all these non economics causes are secondary.
“In time of crisis, the capitalist need new markets, cheaper access to resources and new, cheaper, easily exploitable labor. This urges to get profit and this fuels the drive to war”.
When Cassie forbids Nick to go to war and says that “we are not in it”. (188). Then nick says prophetically that “we will be eventually, whatever they say. And I’ll bet William knows it too. He’s probably counting on it”.
During the conversation with Desmond, Billy comes to know that “he was hoping to sell planes abroad.”204.
The novel Wings is set against the background of World War II. Where Hitler chose to capitalize on the racial issue……wings is set in a time of constant change, when the world was on the brink of war.
Class interest plays a very important role even during war. During war despite the religious or national difference, there was a brotherhood of the class even between enemies.
In this novel Desmond who belongs to elite class has connection with elites of the countries that were at war.
Works cited MARXS Theory of classess science and ideology
Steel, Danielle. Wings. Delacorte, 1994.Bell, Peter; and Harry, Cleaver. Marx’s Theory of Crisis as a Theory of Class Struggle. Autumn 2002.Bowens Tyneisha, et al. “What Is Marxism All About?” .Ed. LeiLani Dowell and David Hoskins. World View Forum, New York, NY 10011.Hartmann H. (2010) The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union. In: Sitton J.F. (eds) Marx Today. Palgrave Macmillan, New York
Lois,Tyson. Critical Theory Today. A Uses-Friendly Guide.Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group, New York. 1999.