Norris and the Role of Luxury in Communism

When readers are first introduced to the character of Arthur Norris, he is offered a cigarette by William Bradshaw, a luxury reserved more or less “for the common folk”. As we see his character develop, the amount of wealth he flaunts becomes greater and greater, bragging about having a bedroom in Paris that he customized himself and worth a small fortune. Later he goes on to show this wealth with the amount of servants and the quality of decoration his house has to Bradshaw, which in turn helps characterize him for the reader.

These characterizations are important because than Isherwood goes against the stereotypes of communism. By making this rich socialite a communist, Isherwood was not only showing the rapidly changing politics of German society, but was showing the hypocrisy that the rich intellectuals were living in the Wiemar Republic. These folks truly were disconnected with the realities of Germany at the time. Even though people such as Norris were attempting to solve reform and improve living conditions, they failed to realize that this radical reform would never occur and ultimately, their attempts at change were actually hampering the working classes cries for help. While Norris thinks he is helping workers like those oppressed in China, in reality he is part of the problem, delaying any chance of democratic reform and allowing the Nazis to eventually rise to power.

One thought on “Norris and the Role of Luxury in Communism

  1. Similar to a previous post you well identify that Norris is not a stereotypical communist in Germany. I think however that the argument that communist intelligentsia attempting reform helped the Nazis into power is not entirely developed. The social and democratic reform leading towards communism that Norris attempts was not radical like many of German’s communist groups. The reactionary conservative groups and the National Socialists groups grew in power because of the public outcry against the extreme communist party. Finally the failures of the Weimar government as a whole lead to the Nazi’s eventual climb to total power. The small mischaracterized wealthy communist reformers in comparison to these larger political changes, enacted only little momentum on the Nazi’s rise to power.

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