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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Ideology in The Lord of the Rings: a Marxist Analysis

Higham, Steve (2012) Ideology in The Lord of the Rings: a Marxist Analysis. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


A Marxist analysis of The Lord of the Rings reveals two major insights: firstly, Tolkien defends class division, one based on inheritance and, secondly, within the battles and courtly love themes, there is an embedded Catholicism.

Tolkien’s formative years were marked by a decline in aristocratic values and, compounded by his experience of war, he lamented the passing of Edwardian England through myth. As with some Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites before him, he yearned for a pre-industrial past: this is evident when he compares the ‘furnace’ of the Dark Tower, with the ‘woods and little rivers of the Shire’.

Fundamentally, however, Tolkien rejects the modern because its more rational approach to man’s condition presented a serious challenge to his conservative, Catholic beliefs: when social relations become more developed, they undermine and contradict religion more sharply.

Tolkien’s defence of lineage and hierarchy is expressed in his creation of Middle-earth, which is rigidly organised. Only the ‘great’ are capable of important deeds, and so it is the lords among men, the ‘high’ elves, and the wizard, Gandalf, representative of Eru, or God, who decide upon ‘the perils of the world’; the ‘lesser’ figures, such as Gaffer Gamgee in the Shire – based on rural England – engage in pub triviality in The Ivy Bush. Within the Shire itself, there is a social structure, too, with its hobbits from ‘poor families’, and those of a higher status, such as Bilbo, and Frodo, the Ringbearer.

For Tolkien, the storyteller is a ‘sub-creator’ who assists in the enrichment of the Christian creation story, and he combines the fairy-tale aspects of his fantasy to the Gospels. His story encompasses the Seven Deadly Sins, and the themes of resurrection, pity, and trust in God.

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 3552

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Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2013 09:23
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 13:34


Author: Steve Higham

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