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Marxist Critique in Sweeney Todd

Business and Mrs. Lovett's connection to capitalism

In your outlines please have your thesis statements, what you plan to write about in your body paragraphs, and reference at least two outside academic sources. You must create thesis statements that relate directly to your section (character) above and economics for your paper. That is, while there will be a pervasive theme of Marxist criticism throughout your papers, each of you must create your own individual thesis in which you examine the prompt of your specific section below. SELECT ONE FROM BELOW: 1. Business: Mrs. Lovett, the business partner of Sweeney Todd, often sings of the difficulty of being a business owner in Victorian England. Prior to going into business with Todd, Mrs. Lovett is on the verge of poverty, struggling to make it from day to day due to the lack of resources (meat) to sustain her business. She decides to murder people, throwing ethical caution to the wind, to grow her business. Questions to think about: What does Lovett signify regarding capitalism and ethical decisions? What can be done to prevent unethical decisions in a capitalist economy? Can morality and capitalism co-exist? How can consumers be protects against exploitative, unethical business practices? Is there a link between unethical business behavior and capitalism? What does Lovett connect to greed and economics? 2. Politics: Judge Turpin personifies political corruption by abusing his power over anyone who defies him through false incrimination and exploitation. He blatantly takes advantage of Beadle, Todd, and various other characters and yet feels no remorse or challenge to his authority. Questions to think about: How was authority able to be challenged in Victorian England? Was there an abuse of power from the upper class? How does Judge Turpin indicate a power struggle throughout the text in relation to the economy? Were the powerful/wealthy above the law? How are class structure and political power connected? Does capitalism promote a top down power and economic system? Is this good or bad? Why? 3. Feminism: The romance that flourishes between Johanna and Anthony would have caused a stir in Victorian society. Marriage and courtship was carefully contrived and the financial aspects of both families was highly important and therefore most were not able to marry outside of their social class. When a woman got married all of her property became her husbands. Questions to think about: How does the relationship between Johanna and Anthony connect to ideas about power struggle with money/power? Can Capitalism and feminism co-exist? How is Johanna objectified and commodified by the men in the play? What does this mean economically speaking? What can be changed for women to benefit economically speaking in this economic system? How is Joanna treated like a commodity/object? 4. Welfare: Toby Ragg (some name!) draws attention to the challenges of unfair labor and wages. As an apprentice to the abusive Pirelli, Toby is at the mercy of his boss because he does not have the ability to get another job. Variations of Toby depict him as an orphaned child. Questions to think about: What were working conditions like for child laborers in Victorian England? How did the upbringing of impoverished children and wealthy children differ? What was life like for children like Toby Ragg? Is there a cycle of poverty if impoverished people’s children cannot be educated? What does this mean about school reforms and access to education? What can be done to benefit these children? What does this indicate about social mobility? 5. Criminal Justice: Sweeney Todd – Todd is a revolutionary figure throughout the text seeking to avenge the wrongs he and his family have experienced. Because justice was not possible in the time of Judge Turpin, Todd had to take matters into his own hands and start a revolution of sorts. Questions to think about: What are the intersections of justice and capitalism in relation to class and power? How does class structure implicate power dynamics? Is the criminal justice system fair to those who lack capital or political power? What should be changed if anything? Are underclass revolutions necessary to enact societal changes?

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