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Aristotle & Media

In: English and Literature

Submitted By natasha95
Words 2788
Pages 12
Natasha Javeri
ARLT100g: Love and Death in Russian Novel
Professor Seifrid
December 5, 2014

Role of Reading and Literature In the World of Characters from Eugene Onegin, Fathers and Children, and Anna Karenina

Though it may not seem so at first glance, the theme of reading and literature is of great significance. This theme and its significance, though it can be seen in many novels, can be specifically analyzed in the Russian novels Eugene Onegin, Fathers and Children, and Anna Karenina. Reading has a way of influencing people, although, these characters may not even realize or change intentionally. Characters such as Tatyana, Onegin, Oblonsky, Anna, Nikolai, Pavel, and more all read, though to different extents and different types of literature, and in some way are influenced by the literature that they read. This influence can be in the way the act, the opinions they form, social trends they follow, the way they perceive the world, and much more. Basically, reading and the role of literature shape their lives; this can be in the social values they believe and hold to be true, the way the look at people, and the emotions they develop (or don’t develop). This is also significant within the time period of Russia or world of these characters set by the author.
From a young age, Tatyana was not like others girls her age. She was not interested in dolls and talks of fashion and clothes or playing girlish games, but rather, she preferred to spend her time reading. Specifically, she favored romances and this caused her to be a romantic. After overhearing a group of women gossiping at the ball, Tatyana glances at Onegin and is reminded of the heroes from her romance novels. “She wanders with her borrowed lovers, Through silent woods and so discovers, Within a book her heart’s extremes, Her secret passions, and her dreams” (Pushkin, pg. 61). She starts to fall in love with him instantly and even writes him a letter in which she proclaims her love for him. The letter itself was not written in her native language of Russian, but rather French, the language of love, inspired once again from the novels she read. In her case, she has read and admired romance novels so much that she falls in love, or so she thinks, with a man that reminds her of the characters from her novels. The example from the novel itself shows that her heart’s extremes, passions, dreams and such are from a book. So, the question remains whether she is actually in love with him, or in love with the idea of him based on her novels. In other words, was she in love with the actual Onegin, or in love with the idea that he represents in a sense the heroes she has grown up reading about and admired. Would she have even fallen in love with Onegin, and written him a letter if she did not have a preconceived notion of what love or a lover should be. So for Tatyana, because of her fondness of romance novels, she had a set idea of what she wanted in a lover and thus fell for Onegin, who seemed to fit her description perfectly. Though it is not mentioned directly by Onegin himself, Onegin also reads, however it is Tatyana that discovers his choice of literature. What she finds in his choice is a complete shock to her. Initially, she is confused whether to enter his home, but after some hesitation, she decides to enter, “And Tanya sees with trepidation, The kind of thought or observation To which Eugene paid special heed, or where he’d tacitly agreed. And in the margins she inspected His pencil marks with special care; And on those pages everywhere She found Onegin’s soul reflected…” (Pushkin, pg. 167) Tatyana discovers that Onegin’s ideals, way of life, and such were not of his own doing, but rather were inspired by other novels he read. Going through his books, she notices that he even marks down and notes certain ideas with special care or emphasis. Once again, reading and books have given Onegin a way of life, or rather a model of a life he wants to follow. For him, it was his way to become a Byronic character and follow the traits of this character he admires. Based on these books, he made his decisions and shaped his goals. The portrait of Lord Byron and bust of Napoleon also in his room further prove this obsession with Byronism. In fact, to the readers, it seems as though his life his right out of the books as he does not just read the novels, but rather makes his own notes on them. As Tatyana questions, it seems as though he is almost “An imitation” (Pushkin, pg. 167) of this Byronic character that he seems to worship. For Onegin, we can see that he based his personality and way of living on a character that he was obsessed with becoming and idolized, from the literature he read. Based on the characters of Onegin and Tatyana, we can see the significance of literature in the world of Eugene Onegin. The narrator, who is also like the author of the novel (as he is described as having a Pushkin-like mind), actually considers Tatyana a fool for falling for Onegin. Several times throughout the novel, he mentions that her love for Onegin will ultimately destroy her. Because of her obsession with romance novels, the author may feel that she is not falling in love for the right reasons, but falling in love because she wants the perfect guy that she has grown up reading about. She falls in love not with the person, but with the idea of a person. For this reason, she falls for a man who seems to fit the role of the heroes form her novels, yet the man himself, Onegin, is not someone she should have fallen for. The author does not criticize Onegin, but rather is constantly reminding the readers that he is the model of a Byronic character. He does not settle down and cannot be domesticated and married. When Tatyana sees his literature, it may not be intended to shock the readers, as they are aware that Byronic characters exist in this time period, and Onegin is considered one, so, it is more of a shock for Tatyana.
Oblonksy is a prime example of a man completely shaped by society. He values what society wants and does what society expects. “Oblonksy subscribed to and read a Liberal paper- not an extreme Liberal paper but one that expressed the opinions of the majority. And although neither science, art, nor politics particularly interested him, he firmly held on to the opinions of the majority and of his paper on those subjects, changing his views when the majority changed theirs…” (Tolstoy, pg. 6). He does exactly what society expects him to do and what others do. Clearly, his opinions are not his own but what the majority holds, as this example itself states that he ‘firmly held on to the opinions of society’. Though the literature he reads is different from other characters and other novels, (as they read novels and he reads newspapers), he also lets literature control his life. If society respects one thing, he will do the same, and if they do not respect something, he will not either. He will not make up his mind for himself and do what he himself thinks is right or not, but rather he will rely on his newspaper, or reading, to tell him what to do, and based on that, his morals or idea of what is right and wrong is made up for him. Thus, it is as if he is sleepwalking through life, allowing society to dictate it based on what he reads in the morning newspaper. Oblonksy is similar to Oengin in this aspect, as both take what they should do from what they read. They base their ideals and form their opinions based on what they have read, however for Onegin he follows a model of Byronism while Oblonsky follows the majority of society. Anna is a married woman with a child of her own, yet in this novel, she starts an extramarital affair with Vronsky, who she meets when visiting her brother. At one point in the novel, Anna decides to return to the city by train and the readers are then informed on her choice of literature. Anna chooses to read an English novel with a hero and from this she starts to recollect memories of Vronksy and the ball. In fact this causes her to feel ashamed, probably because she was not even reminded of her husband but rather of another man. Once she arrives home, she starts to notice things differently about her husband and child due to from she read. She thinks to herself “But why do his ears stick out so? O has he had his hair cut?” (Tolstoy, pg. 103). Though he may look exactly the same as he did before, Anna’s perception of him has changed due to what she has read and the images and ideas they have stirred up in her head. She starts to become more poetic and romantic, and these notions are triggered by Vronsky. So when she is goes home, she realizes that her reality and life before is not as romantic as she wants or hopes for and imagines with Vronsky. In this sense, Anna is similar to Tatyana from Eugene Onegin. Both develop romantic notions based on novels and the heroes that they read about. Based on this, they start to fall in love with men that they should not. For Tatyana, Onegin is supposed to be incapable of reversing her love, thus she would be heartbroken. However, for Anna, Vronksy can actually fall in love with her, and does, however she is already married and has a child, thus this affair goes against many morals and diminishes her reputation in society as well. For Anna, once again, reading causes her to have wants and needs outside of her marriage. In the world of Anna Karenina, one can now see the significance of literature based on Oblonsky and Anna. In the case of Oblonksy, it is actually implied that following social trends and majority opinions is a bad thing in Tolstoy’s mind. This is because, though Oblonsky is still very much liked in society, content, happy, and even healthy, there is no self-awareness. He does not stop to think about what he has done and caused, and does only what he wants for himself, such as the affair with the French governess, and does not even feel bad, but only feels bad that he got caught. In Tolstoy’s mind, this, and sleepwalking through life, is considered a flaw. In the case of Anna, due to the romantic notions stirred up by her novels, she starts to indulge in an affair. At this time, and even now, this is considered immoral, as she is a married woman with a family. However, even if she wants to separate from her husband, it is harder to do at this time is Russia and is not even very common.
Nikolai Petrovich is Arkady’s father. He lives with his brother Pavel , and recently his son Arkady, and Arkady’s friend Bazarov, have come to visit. Nikolai is extremely excited about Arkady’s visit, and they do seem close, however, he feels as though there is a barrier between his son and himself. Talking to Pavel, Nikolai says that “…here’s what I don’t understand. I seem to do all I can to keep up with the times; I’ve made arrangements for my peasants, established a farm, with the result that I’m called a “Red” throughout the province; I read, study and try to respond in general to the requirements of our day…” (Turgenev, pg. 37) Nikolai Petrovich reads to keep up with the current generation so that he may not seem like an outsider unaware of current circumstances. However, it is mentioned that he reads Pushkin poems such as Eugene Onegin, which he is actually judged for. In fact, Arkady, due to Bazarov’s suggestion, literally takes the book away from his dad and replaces it with another book. This offends Nikolai, because he can see how much his son is influenced by another person, that he feels as though Arkady is somehow ashamed of him. Not only this, but he also feels like in a way, he is disappointing his son. In general though, Arkady reads to keep up with the younger generation to avoid feeling out of place. The last character to be explored is Pavel Petrovich, who is Nikolai Petrovich’s brother or Arkady’s uncle, and does not get along with Bazarov very well at all. Pavel is a very proud man and used to work for the Russian military. Pavel Petrovich fell extremely in love with Princess R and from then could not follow his Russian routine anymore. After her death though, he realized that he was still a bachelor and since there was so much in his life that he missed on, was filled with regrets. After this “he began reading, more and more in English; in general he arranged his entire life on the English model… Both the former and the latter considered him ‘arrogant’; both groups respected him for his superb aristocratic manners… for the fact that he dressed so elegantly… that he always smelled of some extraordinary, astonishingly ‘genteel’ scent…”. (Turgenev, pg. 26). Based on the literature that he read, Pavel completely changed his way of life, and based it on English mannerisms and such over Russian ones. He started to dress more fashionably, although some considered him a dandy, and even started to wear perfume. He is constantly judged or criticized for this by Bazarov due to Bazarov’s nihilist mentality, and due to their contrasting ideas, they did not get along at all. Pavel is also similar to Onegin, as both based their own lifestyles on models from literature. From the world of Father’s and Children, one of the most important concepts shown through the literature is the gap between the older and newer generation at this time. This was the reason that Nikolai chose to read. He wanted to be able to stay updated with the newer generation, yet he feels he still disappointed his son who is of the younger generation, as his son actually took his book away and replaced it with another one. In the case of Pavel, reading was a way for him to cope with all the loss and regret he had experienced in his life. He chose to adapt to another way of living, the English model, and was actually praised and appreciated for this by some. However, at the same time, men life Bazarov actually criticized him for his way of life. Through the novels Eugene Onegin, Anna Karenina, and Fathers and Children, the importance of reading and literature on the lives of people can be seen. All the characters mentioned, such as Tatyana, Onegin, Oblonsky, Anna, Nikolai, and Pavel read and this reading has shaped their lives or mentality. For Tatyana, it has given her a romantic mindset where she has the idea of the person man. Onegin reads to follow his obsession with a Byronic character. Oblonsky reads the newspaper to follow the opinions of the majority. Anna is similar to Tatyana as reading has also changed her perception of romance and what she wants. Nikolai reads to stay up to date with the current generation. Finally, Pavel read due to circumstances of his past that have now caused him to follow an English model, similar to Onegin who follows a Byronic model. All the characters are influenced by reading and it is clear that this plays a crucial role is shaping or influencing their lives. The setting of the novel, and Russia during this time is also significant. These are only a few characters from three novels read in class, yet this concept appears in many other novels and real life as well. We may not realize it ourselves, but we are also influenced by what we read, regardless of what shape or form it takes, and intentionally or unintentionally form opinions or take actions due to this.

Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeevich, and James E. Falen. Eugene Onegin a Novel in Verse.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. Print.
Tolstoy, Leo, and George Gibian. Anna Karenina. Second ed. Norton Critical Edition.
Print.
Turgenev, Ivan Sergeevich, and Michael R. Katz. Fathers and Children. 2nd ed. New
York: W.W. Norton, 2009. Print.…...

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Aristotle

...ARISTOTLE According to Aristotle, there is nothing beyond happiness that we could ever want. Our ultimate purpose in life is to strive for happiness. Aristotle’s way to happiness is a very good guideline to follow for people to bring happiness in their life. In this paper I am going to discuss why pleasure can’t amount to happiness alone, what Aristotle says we need to attain happiness, and my thoughts on happiness and why I agree with Aristotle. For my first point, pleasure can’t amount to happiness alone because pleasure isn’t the goal of life according to Aristotle. The goal of life is to strive for happiness. While striving for happiness, pleasure is just something that is included while attaining happiness. I totally agree with Aristotle because for me personally, if I just aim for pleasure for myself, my actions may bring misfortune upon others, be it eating certain types of foods that are very dangerous for people to attain, like The Deadliest Catch crabs for example. Not saying that I will stop eating crab, but if I, and everyone else in the world wanted crab all the time, many lives would be lost for our sake. Happiness isn’t gained from any one thing, but from a combination of things according to Aristotle. There are 5 main things that Aristotle states that we need to obtain happiness. They are bodily goods, which include a healthy lifestyle, external goods, which are money, food, shelter and clothes. Then there are psychological goods, these are......

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