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Communism is the idea of a classless society; a society in which there are no distinctions between social classes and where all government systems are abolished. A communist society normally aims to allow individuals to obtain a common political status. Communism, in general, disagrees with old traditions of social classes (What is Communism? ). When communism develops in a society, social classes become affected as demonstrated in the novels of Paradise of the Blind and House of the Spirits.
In these novels, communism affects the social classes in such a way that the distinction of the rich and the poor is lessened, and an unequal distribution of wealth between the social classes leads to a rebellion.
In these two novels, the wealthy class is threatened of being eliminated when the poor begins to rebel. In this case, the wealthy class is considered the landowning class and the peasants are considered to be the poor. Paradise of the Blind, written by Duong Thu Huong, is the story of the struggles of a young girl and her family who are torn apart by communism.
The young girl is known as Hang and she lives in poverty with her mother. All Que, Hang’s mother, has in life is her daughter; her sister-in-law, Tam; and her brother, Chinh. Chinh forbids her to speak to Hang’s father because he is a member of the landlord class. He believes that “The entire family is landlords, the mortal enemies of the peasantry” (Huong 22). After fighting along with the communist government, he returns to Hanoi (their hometown) with the belief that the land owning class should be denounced, and the peasants shall rise.
The House of Spirits, written by Isabel Allende, is the story of the del Valle family. The novel traces the romance, the triumphs, and the tragedies of the family. The House of Spirits also discusses the political upheavals of the family. A main theme of the book is the distinction of the social classes due to communism. As in Paradise of the Blind, the communism in this novel affects the landowning class and the peasantry class. Esteban Trueba, one of the main characters in the book, owns the land of Tres Marias.
Unlike Chinh, who is a member of the peasantry class, Trueba is a member of the landowning class; therefore he has different views than Chinh. Since Chinh is a member of the peasantry class, the unequal distribution of wealth among the classes leads him to believe that the peasantry class is a strong and hardworking class who deserves more than what they have. He acts as if it is an honor to be a member of this class. He states,” The Do family [their family] never owned rice paddy, not even the tiniest patch.
That is why today, I have been promoted to chief of the village Land Reform Section “ (Huong 31). The Land Reform Section is an organization of the peasantry class that strives to eliminate the wealthy class (the landowning class). Their goal is to denounce those who own land in front of the entire community so that the landowners can witness the feeling of shame and embarrassment. He states “They [the landowning class] belong to the exploiting class. These are precisely the people we must denounce and punish” (Huong 22).
By observing the atmosphere of Tres Marias, it is effortless to see the communism that takes place. In Tres Marias, the upper class [Esteban Trueba and his family] controls the infrastructure of the environment. He rules as a dictator would, and disapproves of the peasantry class holding any political importance. However, he differs from Chinh, because he believes by him being a landowner, he is actually helping the peasants. He states, “What they don’t realize is that poor people are completely ignorant and uneducated. They’re like children, they can’t handle responsibility.
How could they know what’s best for them? Without me they’d be lost – if you don’t believe me, just look what happens every time I turn my back. Everything goes to pieces and they start acting like a bunch of donkeys” (Allende, ch 2). Esteban justifies his communist behavior by comparing the peasants to creatures who are unable to care for themselves and by providing the belief that he must be in control so that order is maintained in the community. By controlling and manipulating the peasants, he is able to maintain his political power for a period of time.
Esteban Trueba does not consider the peasantry class as being a hardworking class as Chinh does; instead, he sees the peasantry class as being the weak and the landowning class being strong. The following quote demonstrates his beliefs. “Charity, like Socialism, is an invention of the weak to exploit the strong and bring them to their knees” (Allende ch10). The character, Tam, in Paradise of the Blind demonstrates how the distinction of the poor and the wealthy are lessened in the sense of the loss of wealth of the landowning class. Tam, once a wealthy landowner, becomes a victim of the Land Reform Section.
She worked hard her whole life in order to obtain her wealth which ended up being taken away by the Land Reform Section. She states, “During the land reform, they cut this house into two. Bich [the pillar of the land reform] took possession of one half, the other went to Nan [the other pillar of the land reform]. They evicted me. I had to take refuge in a hut next to the temple. They left me only a few acres of wasteland: no buffalo, no cow, and no wagon” (Huong 76). Because of this, Tam, who was once considered wealthy, is now poor. Afterwards, she had to start all over.
Since Chinh was a part of this corruption, she despises him for his actions towards the landowners. Her feelings towards Chinh represent the feelings of hatred that the landowning class possesses towards the peasantry class. She does not approve of Que having relations with her brother Chinh, due to his beliefs and the damage caused to the landowning class. This also demonstrates the disagreements between the classes. In House of the Spirits, the distinctions between the peasantry class and the wealthy class is not lessened in the sense of each classes’ wealth, but more in the since of power.
The landowning class [Esteban Trueba and his family] was in possession of political power over the peasants, which later resulted in the peasants [Esteban Garcia and his followers] obtaining power over the landowning class. However, the conditions of the peasants in this novel are similar to the peasants in The Paradise of the Blind; whom also live in poverty. The evidence is demonstrated by the following quote. “Hungry tribes of unemployed workers and their families wandered the streets begging for a chance to work, but there were no jobs.
The city filled with beggars, and then with thieves. There was not enough charity for so many poor, defenseless people” (Allende ch4). Rebellion of the peasants soon begins after the communist views become obvious to society. Since Que is the sister of Chinh, the landowning villagers grow hostile to her and harass her. Such actions demonstrates rebellion between the social classes. Tam serves as her protector. When the mob of villagers rebel and harass Que, Tam shouts, “Have you all gone mad? Taking out your rage on this innocent woman?
Does my sinter-in-law deserve this? You lost your rice paddies. She lost her husband. You’ve gotten your rice paddies back. But who’s going to return her husband” (Huong 35)? When the peasants in House of the Spirits feel threatened due to the unequal distribution of wealth and unequal treatment, they also begin to rebel and go on strike. Unlike Tam, they do not work diligently in the sense to re-obtain their wealth; instead they rebel to overthrow the wealthy class. Esteban Garcia, Esteban Trueba’s grandson, becomes the idol and the leader of the peasantry class.
His goal is not the same as Tam’s; instead he seeks revenge for not being acknowledged by the landowning class. Once Esteban Garcia obtains power, he seeks revenge on Alba, Esteban Trueba’s Granddaughter. This symbolizes the harsh effects of the wealthy class that is caused by the rebellion of the peasants. The communism that takes in the House of the Spirits and Paradise of the Blind, are similar in the way that communism results in a rebellion between the wealthy, landowning class and the poor, peasantry class, who seek revenge towards the landowners.
Even though the peasants seek revenge for different reasons, each social class is drastically affected. However, the novel House of the Spirits provides more of a communistic view from the landowning class and the novel Paradise of the Blind provides more of a communistic view from the underprivileged class. Communism, as demonstrated in both novels affects the social classes because it arouses the different beliefs of each class, which leads to a rebellion between the social classes.
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