All terms

What is Socialist Realism?

A style of art and literature that promotes socialist values by depicting the struggles and triumphs of the working class.

Socialist Realism: Depicting the Struggles and Triumphs of the Working Class

During the Soviet era, Socialist Realism was the officially endorsed style of art and literature that aimed to promote the Communist ideology by portraying the struggles and triumphs of the working class.

The characters in Socialist Realist works were expected to embody certain Communist virtues, such as selflessness, industriousness, and loyalty to the party. The language and syntax of the works had to be simple and accessible, so that they could be easily understood and enjoyed by all.

Overall, Socialist Realism functioned as a tool for propaganda, promoting the official Communist Party line and shaping the way people saw the world around them. In contemporary times, the term is often used pejoratively to describe works that are seen as didactic, sentimental, and simplistic in their political or social messages.

Behind the Curtains of Socialist Realism: Two Literary Examples of Depicting the Communist Ideology

Here are two literary examples of how the Communist ideology was presented through the lens of Socialist Realism.

In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck

In this novel, Steinbeck portrays the struggles of a group of apple pickers who go on strike for better working conditions.

Their cause is shown to be just, but their uprising is ultimately defeated by the combined forces of the police and the Fascist-sympathizing landowners.

Steinbeck uses the story to promote Communist values such as solidarity, equality, and the righteousness of the working-class struggle against capitalist oppression.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago is a novel that explores the life of a doctor-poet, Yuri Zhivago, before and after the Russian Revolution.

The book exposes the inner workings of the Communist Party and the devastation caused by their policies, but still ultimately endorses the Communist ideals of struggle, sacrifice, and the creation of a utopian society in which all people would be equal.