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Women undergo a very significant journey throughout the course of the novel. They play a very major role in the development of the novel by reinforcing various themes. Also, they also usually interact with their respective protagonists and other major or minor characters. Fyodor Dostoevsky and Boris Pasternak use different roles of women as tools to reinforce the themes of love, gender roles, and poverty and suffering that reoccur throughout their novels in order to convey their messages across to their audience.
Courtly love and romance has been the focus of literature throughout history. This is also true of Russian literature, where the theme of love is used throughout the novel to paint the tragic and miserable tone of the novel with a touch of compassion. This technique is used to create a feeling of sympathy in the hearts of the readers with the circumstances in which the protagonists of the novel are placed. Fyodor Dostoevsky and Boris Pasternak employ Sonya Marmeladov and Larissa Guishar, respectively, to highlight the essential theme of love in their novels.
Sonia and Raskolnikov are two major characters in, Crime and Punishment who interact on multiple levels, sharing several characteristics. Both of these characters are at times altruistic as they both are still struggling for meaning in a dreary existence. Both are also generally unhappy people but brighten up and seem to enjoy each other's presence, even when Raskolnikov is berating Sonia's religion. Dostoevsky uses the role of Sonya to emphasize the theme of love in the novel. This illustrates the duality of Raskolnikov's character to the audience as the reader sees a strikingly different compassionate side of the violent murderer of Alyona Ivanovna, the victimized pawnbroker. "They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other" (Dostoevsky 560). This excerpt vividly illustrates their appearance and how it was affected by their new love for each other. They enjoyed each other's company because they were very similar to each other with respect to the situations in which they were placed throughout the novel. After all, misery loves company.
"Most people experience love without becoming aware of the extraordinary nature of this emotion" (Pasternak 395) reveals Zhivago's outlook on the theme of love as demonstrated in Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak reflects a compassionate ability in his protagonist, Yurii Zhivago by using the role of Larissa to accentuate the theme of love. This theme demonstrates how love and affection can still spread around the characters despite the harsh conditions in which Zhivago and Lara found themselves. This theme casts a sympathetic attitude from the reader onto the relationship between Lara and Zhivago. The pair is not driven by "the blaze of passion" (Pasternak 501), like lovers in the ordinary sense. "They loved each other because everything around them willed itâ€¦" (501).
Both Dostoevsky and Pasternak employ female characters to reemphasize the importance of the theme of evident love into the dark, gloomy lives of the respective protagonists. The Authors created these protagonists with troubled lives so that they could present important women to reintroduce the theme of love and paint the novel with some scenes of romance and compassion. They both use this to create some sympathy in the hearts of the reader for the miserable protagonists.
Gender roles have always been a topic filled with controversy since there are many different viewpoints on this notion by numerous people. Dostoevsky and Pasternak failed to miss this important aspect in Russian literature. Dostoevsky and Pasternak used Dounia Raskolnikov and Sima Tuntseva respectively to accentuate the important theme of gender roles.
Dostoevsky develops Dounia to be more thoughtful and practical for others. Her plan for testing her fiancé, Luzhin, and her willingness to leave herself stranded in St. Petersburg if he does not meet her expectations demonstrate that she is much stronger and more resourceful than Raskolnikov, her brother, believes her to be. It strikes to Raskolnikov even more when Pulcheria, his mother, tells him that "'our whole fortunes are now transformed'" (Dostoevsky 37). This disturbs Raskolnikov because he does not want Dounia to sacrifice herself to support him and his mother. He does not want her to shower them with Luzhin's fortune. It is also interesting to note that in Raskolnikov's behavior toward Dounia, Dostoevsky reverses the conventional gender roles in the nineteenth-century fiction: Dounia, a woman, symbolizes as a model of collected rationality and practicality, while Raskolnikov, a man, has gone astray in abstractions.
It is very strange and interesting to see Pasternak employ the role of Sima Tuntseva, only a minor character in the novel, to reinforce a major theme of the novel. Her role describes his point of view regarding gender roles. This is exemplified in the novel as she is "not quite normal, but that's only because she is so profound and original" (Pasternak 410). She is a very intellectual person, and "phenomenally educated" (410), something that one might not expect a woman to be. "They say Sima is a bit oddâ€¦" (410) demonstrates that it is not bizarre for her to appear odd to other male characters in the novel because she is not like the common woman of that time. Pasternak uses this technique present his outlook on the different gender roles evident in the early twentieth-century Russia.
Both Crime and Punishment and Doctor Zhivago present women who qualify to represent the apparent gender roles in Russia during their respective time periods. Dostoevsky uses Dounia to create a contrasting figure to Raskolnikov and add support to how she is a woman of rationality and practicality in her thoughts unlike Raskolnikov. Pasternak employs Tuntseva to provide a very stark contrast to the other common women of the time period. He demonstrates that she is very intelligent and quite profound in her thinking. Also, these women symbolize the positions of the authors regarding gender roles.
Poverty was a dreadfully widespread problem in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russia. This is vividly described through the dismal conditions in which Sonia and Lara were placed in their respective novels. These women reinforce the recurring theme of poverty and suffering and help to form a sympathetic attitude in the mind of the reader towards all or most of the characters in the novels.
Through Sonia, Dostoevsky describes the dreadfulness that she has to suffer in order to support her family because of the poverty in which her father has drowned them. She has to become a prostitute and suffer miserably to support her family and earn money even though she dislikes the act that she commits. Her character maintains the theme of poverty and suffering, which induces the reader to sympathize with Sonia and the deplorable conditions she must endure because of her father's alcohol addiction. Marmeladov describes her daughter's miserable situation as she returned home one night and, "'she walked straight up to Katerina Ivanovna and she laid thirty roubles on the table before her in silenceâ€¦only her little shoulders and her body kept shuddering'" (Dostoevsky 21). This quote describes the mental and emotional impact of Sonia's prostitution. It vividly describes how she did not "enjoy" being a prostitute, but she had to do it to survive in her poor situation. She was horrified by the experience, and she laid low and started to shudder and shiver in fear of what she had done.
The recurring theme of poverty and suffering is reintroduced, through Lara in Doctor Zhivago. She is born into the household of a Russianized, widowed Frenchwoman. This illustrates that she is extremely poor from the start, yet she has to carry on despite all the sufferings that she has faced, such as that rendered by the sexually abnormal Victor Komarovsky. "She was disgusted with life. She was beginning to lose her mind. She was obsessed with the idea of breaking with everything she had ever known or experienced, and starting on something new" (Pasternak 76) because she was more than displeased with herself, Komarovsky, and his indebtedness to him. She exemplifies the theme to a very great extent in the novel as she endures the suffering in the society, despite war, famine, poverty, and the loss of her husband, Pasha Antipov, her lover, Yurii Zhivago, and daughter. Her endurance and patience throughout the novel illustrates the persistence with which all of the other characters in the novel must also adapt. Hence, Lara's role in the novel is used to symbolize the very important theme of poverty and suffering.
Both Lara and Sonya exhibit extreme poverty with which comes deep suffering. This is evident in Crime and Punishment when Sonia endures great suffering for the sole purpose of supporting her family. Lara is also constantly suffering throughout the novel because she is in debt to Komarovsky and she is enraged by him. The loss of money angers her and brings her great suffering. This evokes a sympathetic impression from the reader as he or she reads about the suffering that the women had to endure throughout the course of the novel.
Looking deeper into the novels, the female characters are not ordinary at all. They have very extensive roles in the development of the various themes of the novel that highlight all of the important aspects of the Russian society and author's ideals and philosophies. Sonya and Dunya emphasize the major themes of love, gender roles, and poverty and suffering in Crime and Punishment. These characters cause the reader to sympathize with the protagonist as these women help Dostoevsky develop the evident gender roles in the Russian society and direct the readers to sympathize with the feminine characters as they face dire situations. Lara and Tuntseva provide feminine archetypes who partake in the various themes of love, gender roles, and poverty and suffering in Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak wants the reader to embrace the relationships that the protagonist, Yuri Zhivago, has throughout the course of the novel, obtain enlightenment regarding his own outlook on the gender roles of society, and feel compassionate about the suffering the feminine characters face in their poverty. Dostoevsky and Pasternak masterfully employ female characters to emphasize the different recurring themes palpable in Crime and Punishment and Doctor Zhivago.
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