Despite social, political, and cultural differences, there are universal values that transcend the boundaries of education and upbringing such as humanity, fear, struggle, morality, and, above all, love. With its undeniable significance in human life, love has always been one of the most prominent themes in literature, because who is better suited to convey the complexity and versatility of love than a writer?
Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby… We are all familiar with the classics. These stories instil in their readers faith in true love and leave them with heartbreak and incredibly high expectations. Regardless of the plot, there is no denying the greatness of these literary works of art. However, take a closer look, and you will notice that all these astounding stories were created by genius minds of Western civilisation, and thus are saturated with Western mentality. Here, I would like to introduce another take on the everlasting topic – love and tragedy in Russian literature.
The Master and Margarita
The novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, to which the writer devoted 12 years of his life, is rightfully considered a real pearl of world literature. The novel became the pinnacle of Bulgakov’s work, where he touched upon the eternal themes of good and evil, love and betrayal, faith and disbelief, life and death.
The novel is based on plots well-known in world literature: the embodiment of the Devil in the human world, the selling of the soul. Bulgakov uses the text-in-text compositional technique and combines two chronotopes in the novel – Moscow and Jerusalem. Structurally, they are similar. Each chronotope is divided into three parts. The Moscow chronotope starts in Moscow square, then moves on to Arbat lanes, where the Master and Margarita live, and finally culminates at the bank of Moskva River. The three parts of the Jerusalem chronotope – Herod’s palace, the Lower City, and Kidron and Gethsemane – follow the three parts of the first chronotope respectively.
The Master and Margarita is a complex and incredibly multifaceted literary work, wherein the author presents many different topics to the reader’s judgment: love, religion, the sinful nature of man, betrayal. All of them are parts of a complex mosaic, a skilful framing of the main theme – the eternal confrontation between good and evil. Each theme is tied to certain characters and is simultaneously intertwined with other heroes in the novel. However, the central theme of The Master and Margarita is the all-consuming, all-forgiving love of the Master and Margarita that survives all difficulties and trials. By introducing these characters, Bulgakov incredibly enriched his work, giving it a completely different, more earthly, and comprehensible meaning for the reader.
Aleksandr Kuprin’s Garnet Bracelet is a story about extraordinary tragic love, filled with mysterious symbols and a mystical mood. It captivates the reader with a gripping plot, deep images, and an original interpretation of the eternal theme of love. The short novel develops the idea that sincere love exists, you just need to be able to notice and accept it. And once you do, it is impossible to erase it from the heart without a trace.
While preparing for her birthday celebration together with her family, Princess Vera Sheina receives a letter and a garnet bracelet from a secret admirer. The princess did not take the gesture seriously, however, as a loyal wife not entitled to accept gifts and declarations of love from another man, the heroine shared what happened with her husband. In a successful attempt to identify Vera’s admirer, her husband and brother found out that it was the poor official Zheltkov who sent the bracelet. During their conversation, Zheltkov admits that he has been in love with Vera for a long time. He agrees to put a stop to his courtship but asks to talk to the princess on the phone. After some time, Vera receives a letter from Zheltkov, where he informs her about his intention to commit suicide and expresses his feelings for her one last time.
Through dialogue, we see how the characters of Garnet Bracelet reflect on love. Their thoughts are like keys to a door, behind which are hidden answers to the essence of a tender, but sometimes ruthless feeling. Kuprin, however, is not trying to impose his point of view. The readers must draw a conclusion themselves.
Their passionate and tragic romance is the central point of Tolstoy’s famous work.
The author of Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, is a great realist. Showing the life of his social class, he sees its shortcomings, approaches it critically and sometimes even satirically. The critical stream in the novel is due to the conceptual and normative intention of his work – the opposition of a morally healthy local patriarchal environment to an empty and depraved secular society.
The main character of the novel, Anna Karenina, is a representative of the high Russian society of the 1870s and the wife of a major St. Petersburg dignitary. Tolstoy portrays his heroine as a beautiful and charming woman. But it is not Anna’s appearance that distinguishes her from other women, but the complexity and originality of her spirit. It is, therefore, not surprising that her soul was full of dissatisfaction with the empty social life and indifference to her husband, an insensitive and rational man, until she met Vronsky. Their passionate and tragic romance is the central point of Tolstoy’s famous work.
Anna Karenina raises a large number of topics: family, a noble way of life, marriage, respect, and love. Moreover, in the novel, Tolstoy elaborates on the struggle of finding the meaning of life. Through the dialogues of the characters, the writer conveys that some consider love the purpose of their existence, others – money, while the remainder believe it is family and raising children. Nevertheless, the underlying idea of the novel is centred around the belief that life is impossible without love.
Edited by: Sofia Neumayer