Using Marxist theory in analysis the Hairstyle of the damned novel will help understand how working class upbringing can contribute to personal identity and choices. Hairstyles of the damned is a novel written by Joe Meno. This novel brings about the idea of wanting to belong. It depicts the life of American adolescence, family disintegration and changes that can be caused by a mix-tape. Brian is the narrator in this book and seeks to develop his identity. This book can be interpreted using Marxist theory. The theory suggests that economic situation is the most important determinant of all aspects of the society. According to Marx, economic situations can determine individual’s behaviors, ideas, morality and education. Thus, the theory can guide in understanding Brian’s identity and choices.
Brian describes himself as quiet and hope that he will have somebody amused by his silence. He is friends with Gretchen and Kim. Gretchen is a naughty girl who keeps on fighting and does not like school. They live in the similar neighborhood. Brian describes the neighborhoods as ok. He says the houses were mostly small, and were brick bungalows. This was the most popular style on the south side. These styles were there even in the 1940s (Meno, 33). The neighborhoods were occupied by Irish Catholic. Brian was living in the Evergreen Park while Gretchen was in Mt. Greenwood. Just as Marxist theory argues about class, Brian identity was determined by the class. Economic situation determines the behaviors and ideas of people in the society. Those who own the mean of production become leaders and exploit others in the society. The working class cannot be in the same level with the high class. They live in different neighborhoods. The life he lives contributes to the choices he makes. His parents are not caring. He says that he loves his dad because he is quiet like him. However, there is a time he is stressed that his father is sleeping in a separate room with his mother. This can be associated with Marxist theory. There are separations in families and community is no longer integrated. This happens to most families where the working class families are too busy trying to acquire the means of production. These families have loose emotional commitments and social bonds. This leads to anxiety and loneliness, family breakdown, suicide, crime and alcoholism. Children engage in drugs, sexual behaviors and others immoralities. This is also happening to Brian. Brian even tries to engage in girls as others in the neighborhoods are doing. However, this backfires because he is worried that he does not love the girl. Brian also narrates about racism that existed in the neighborhoods (Erckel, 5).
Brian describes the South Side of Chicago as a place where there was trouble. There was racism all over the neighborhood. The white kids were playing with their fellow white kids. It was clear that non-whites were not supposed to cross the Western Avenue. The Evergreen Park was known for racism. In 1919, Brian narrates that there was a race RIOT in south side. The riots led to the death of 38 people and five hundred were injured. Others were made homeless. These riots began when a black teenager in 26th Street beach was killed. There existed exploitation and dehumanization of the Pullman porters. The poor black youths were treated so badly by their railroad boss (Meno, 33). This is what Marx refers to, as class conflicts. The owners of the means of production exploit those who work for them. This is because they have economic power over them. This power makes them feel that they are superior to others. Social institutions are based on economic situation. People want to associate with people from their class. Racism exists as a result of economic system. The black are discriminated on the basis of their economic situations. Evergreen Park and Mt Greenwood had no black people. They were not wanted even in the 1990s. The white kids were growing under their parent’s racism. They considered themselves as white power. In addition to having power, class can determine the way families interact.
Classes determine the way families interact. Families that are in the same social class will interact freely. They do associate and even socialize their children to make friend with those in the same class. The relationships are determined by the economic position. This is evident in the novel as Brian and Gretchen has become friends. They come from the same neighborhood. Even when people do not like Gretchen for being fat and fighting, Brian is ready to help her. He is her friends and they share movies and films. They also spend time together. Even in the nuclear family, class can determine the way a family interacts. The emotional connection that a family has can be destroyed by class. The working class tends to be busy working for the rich. They leave early in the morning and come back late. The slowly weakens the bonds among the members of families. Brian is not happy with his family. He is happy when he goes to have dinner at Gretchen. He wishes to be in Gretchen family than his. He says that his family did not ever eat together (Meno, 44). Brian’s dad was not around and his mother was always working. Tim his brother was always somewhere dong jock stuff while Alice the little sister spent her time in the mirror. This made Brian to always go to Gretchen’s house whenever he was invited. He wanted to feel a sense of belonging. He was lonely and desperately needed to feel a part of a family. He could even pretend to have a family that is integrated. Brian hardly talks with his family. This is the idea of class as Marx says. People are busy working and their social bonds are weakened (Lareau, 163).
In conclusion, Marxist theory can be used in the analysis of Hairstyles of the damned novel. This helps understand the way Brian’s working class upbringing contributes to his identity and choices he make. Brian comes from a working class family. His family is in trouble as there is no family unity. His mother is always working, and his father is also not always around. Brian is desperate of having a family that does thing together like having dinner. However, this does not happen to him. He feels a sense of belonging when he visits Gretchen’s house. His family eats dinner together. Brian makes choices as a result of the life he has lived. He is shy and quite. He watches movies and songs that Gretchen gives him. This is the only source of happiness since his family it living in separate ways. His identity is determined by the way he is brought up.
Erckel, Sebastian. Marxist and Neo-Marxist Theories of Class. Germany: GRIN Verlag. 2008
Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. London: University of
California Press. 2011
Meno, Joe. Hairstyles of the Damned. Canada: Akashic Books. 2004