Red Riding Hood and Marxist Literary Theory

Once upon a time, there was a communist. And her name wasn’t Little Red Riding Hood for nothing.

Reinterpreting fairytales is an easy way to get to grips with different schools of literary criticism. Last term, every person is my English class had to analyse Little Red Riding Hood through a different literary theory, including post-colonialism, psychoanalysis, The Great Tradition, feminism and Russian formalism. Yours truly was randomly assigned Marxism – and it was the best part of my week. For anyone interested in repeating the exercise, I used this version of the fairytale:

Without further ado, here’s why Red Riding Hood is perfect Soviet propaganda…

From the title alone, the colour red symbolises communism. That’s just a given. Little Red Riding Hood therefore symbolises the proletariat on life’s journey. In the beginning of the tale, Red Riding Hood is given a basket of food to take (or redistribute) to her grandmother. The image of food is associated with sharing and prosperity, which are two key features of communism. Her sick grandmother represents the weaker, less fortunate people in society; she is oppressed by a system that allows her to suffer.

The Wolf, of course, is the embodiment of modern capitalism. He has a desire to consume the most vulnerable in society, but decides he can profit more out of consuming Red Riding Hood as she walks through the forest.

Here we come to Marxist idea of ‘false consciousness’ i.e – when those with power mislead the proletariat away from recognising their own oppression. As the Wolf speaks to Red Riding Hood, he attempts to distract her by pointing to ‘the flowers’ and ‘the sunbeams’. These are all examples of transitory beauty, symbolising the temporary happiness provided by the capitalist dream.

However ‘whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a prettier one far ahead’. The reader is presented with the idea of always wanting more; Red Riding Hood, buying into this capitalist farce, delves deeper into the into cycle of exploitation and lack of fulfilment that the Wolf brings.


close up of snowflakes on snow against sky
‘All the better to see you with, my dear!’ grinned the wolf, with a bougie glint in his eye


As soon as poor old Granny and her proletariat granddaughter are eaten, this becomes a society where capitalism reigns. Despite this unfortunate turn of events, hope still remains! It arrives in the form of the Huntsman; as he passes Granny’s house, his instinct is altruistic as he automatically thinks ‘I must see if she wants anything.’ The Huntsman, therefore, represents…the revolution!

However, he uses no more violence than what is absolutely necessary in order to achieve the liberation of the oppressed. He doesn’t go all crazy axe-murderer on us and it’s not gratuitous, he only corrects past wrongs through a few ‘snips’. Revolution is followed by prosperity; the grandmother is strengthened by the wine and the food, which is brought about by sharing. Red Riding Hood’s altruistic mission, which was to provide a weaker person in the community with nourishment and support, is finally achieved.

Hence, the ending of Little Red Riding Hood represents the realisation of a communist ideal. And they lived happily ever after…that is, before the Cold War happened.

The End.


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