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What I like to do when studying a specific event in history, is to read some contemporary fiction in order to understand the conditions leading to that event. In the case of the Russian revolution, things can get a bit dry and confusing at first, especially when looking at Alexander II's reforms. This is why I decided to read Fathers and Sons and analyse pre-revolutionary Russia via Trugenev's characters and settings.
In Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons we witness comprehensive social transformation from the point of view of individuals. We learn that the ideologies and social engineering must be firmly rooted in the daily existence of the people who are going to be effected by them.
- After his education, Bazarov comes back to an old conservative feudal society governed by ancient traditions and superstitions. Everyone knows that change is on its way but they cannot imagine what it will mean to them.
- Bazarov has studied and tries to adapt himself to an ideology that negates the old ways and opens up to something new. But as a son of a landowner he remains an outsider to the serfs and as a progressive intellectual he is also a stranger to his class and family. He tries to live in accordance to his ideas but cannot break with the old because his own human feelings and instincts get in his way like love and respect to others. He is a sensitive person who lacks the ruthlessness and fanaticism of a true revolutionary and that is the tragedy in the novel.
- Describe all the characters. The intellectual realism of Bazarov makes him knowledgeable about the innutility to act. Society as he knows it is doomed but that the transition will be bloody and horrifying and he does not want to participate in neither of it, neither the past nor the present.
- Since people are individuals acting on the basis of their background and desires, he knows that any thorough social transformation of such an engrained and unequal society like the one in the old Russia would lead to unavoidable human suffering and even if his ideology tells him that change must take place, his personality makes it impossible for him to take an active part in such a change.
- Many Russian reformers were probably well intentioned (Alex II), they knew that status quo could not continue but they acted out their reforms too fast and in some kind of limbo. Surplus labour that was created by emancipation. There was not enough industry to support surplus labour, neither were the liberated serfs educated enough. They didn’t create the socio-economic prerequisites.
Like Bazarov they didn’t have any viable alternatives.
Want to write an essay? Think Iceberg Method ;)
Intro: creates picture of current state of Russia of his time and on the base of that he also predicts the future
- the future
Conclusion: nihilists. Nothing can be forced to change – cost for change will be too big when it comes to human suffering. Revolution needs to sacrifice everything for the cause and he’s not ready.
What the novel shows us about pre-revolutionary Russia
Alexander II's reforms were premuture in the sense that the peasants were not educated, Russia was not industrialised and therefore there was not enough work or knowledge for the peasantry to progress. Bazarov is a prime example of the westernised, educated Russian elite who could recognise the situation but were unable to do anything about it - inspiring nihilism.see more
Caliph "deputy" was the title of the spiritual and temporal leader of Islam after Prophet Muhammad's death in AD 632. The first four "rightly guided" Caliphs were based in Medina and were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali. Ali was the cousin of Muhammad and his son-in-law, married to Fatimah. Muawiya, the governor of Syria during Ali's caliphate, did not recognize Ali as caliph and rebelled. After the murder of Ali, Muawiya proclaimed himself caliph in Damascus and founded thereby the Umayyad dynasty. His caliphate was not accepted by Ali's followers, the so-called Shiat Ali, "Ali's party", who instead supported Ali's sons Hasan and Husayn and continued to fight against Muawiya. When Ali was murdered the Muslims of Medina transferred the caliphate to Hasan, who resigned the title in favor of Muawiya, in the context of a peace treaty that aimed to save Muslim lives and prevent a continued civil war. Among the conditions was that Muawiya would return the caliphate to Hasan, or his brother, when he died. THIS WAS THE END OF THE FIRST FITNAH (temptation, trial, civil strife)
THE SECOND FITNAH. Hasan dies in AD 670 (probably poisoned) and when Muawiya died in AD 680 his son Yzid was proclaimed caliph in Damascus. Husayn refused to give his oath of allegiance to Yzid and revolted. Huseyn was killed along with his little group of rebels at Kerbala.
The split was now definite between Sunnis (Sunnah meaning "habit", "usual practice", "custom", "tradition”) and Shia.
What I like to do first is to read the passage and then go line for line and interpret what the author is trying to convey. First comment on the language and then on the deeper content. This can be especially difficult when analysing a Shakespearean passage since there are so many metaphors present and connotations to other scenes within his plays.
Enter QUEEN GERTRUDE
How now, sweet queen!
One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.
Similarities between Hamlet and Laertes – come home to same mess.
Drown'd! O, where?
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
Willow slanted towards brook and he was climbing on it to get flowers.
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
Soft leaves – NATURE – she belongs there. A creature apart from culture – ROTTEN DENMARK.
Hamlet ripped her from it.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
Orchids – round roots – look like testicles that’s why shepherds give them foul names.
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
People trying to categorize flowers – makes them ugly
DEAD MAN’S FINGERS: supernatural element – nature drags her down – young girls call them dead man’s fingers – live juxtaposed to death. She does not belong to this world so nature claims her back – this is like her nunnery.
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
She is going to hung her weeds on the tree but she slipped and broke a branch.
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
The garlands and herself fall down like funeral wreaths – plunging to her death.
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Supernatural element – mermaid – beyond human nature. Just nature, no struggles, no questions. Returns to nature where she belongs. – counter image of rotten kingdom of Denmark.
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds;
At ease with everything – old lauds = hymns from church – her own funeral.
As one incapable of her own distress,
Does not feel own distress
Or like a creature native and indued
She feels at home there – familiar with that element – she goes with the flow because that’s what she’s been doing throughout the whole play, just there and be played with.
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Her clothes drag her down – her sorrow and also the things that are not part of nature.
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
sinks down into Denmark. We go back to corrupted world. Innocence is dragged down by the sorrow she feels in the place that is the muddy corrupted world of Denmark.
Alas, then, she is drown'd?
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
Too much sorrow did u have Ophelia – oyu have already cried for me – everyone’s sorrow was dumped on you and this is what dragged you down.
And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet
It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
Nature is in one way but mankind acts in another – we don’t cry we ACT. – REVENGE.
He does exactly like HAMLET. We do human nature style – kill.
Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,
When tears are gone – the woman who is connected to nature in me will disappear and then is the time to act. I will not be a woman to think (just like Hamlet) – im going to act straight away.
The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:
I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it.
He’s going to speak in FIRE – revenge. The sorrow is pressing down on my rage right now, need to get rid of it. – FORESHADOWING.
Let's follow, Gertrude:
Let’s do the same as Laeretes. He will kill Hamlet – all problems with be solved.
How much I had to do to calm his rage!
He’s acting – has been provoking him and made everything seem worse…
Now fear I this will give it start again;
Therefore let's follow.
FORESHADOWING – he’s going to take care of Hamlet – schemer – always manipulates the situation – as no true PERSONAL ACTION – no true AGENCY.
Please note how I have commented on every stanza, illustrating double meanings and interpreting metaphors and symbols. This is especially helpful when trying to find out when and where the scene takes place within the play.
Now try the Iceberg Method:
The most evident: the characters – Gertrude, Lartes and Claudius, what they are talking about – the action (Ofelia picks flowers and drowns, Lartes is sad, Claudius enters)
The less evident: Lartes is Ofelias brother, Gertude is Hamlet's mother, Claudius is Gertude's husband. Gertrude tells Lartes in the nicest way possible that his sister is dead. Lartes is so shocked that he cannot even cry. Claudius wants Lartes to kill Hamlet.
The least evident: Put all the deeper analysis made within the passage together and get to a bigger conclusion – in this case – Ofelia is a creature of nature and mermaid-like, but in a corrupted environment such as the rotten Denmark seen in Hamlet's eyes. Therefore nature has come back to claim her. At the same time Gertrude describes her death in such a way to her brother in order to avoid feelings of revenge. However, then Claudius enters and manipulates Lartes into blaming Hamlet for her death, coming back to fire and rotten curruption.see more