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The Influence Of Nikolai Chernyshevsky On Emma Goldman.

1863 words - 7 pages

Generally, Emma Goldman is referred to as an American Anarchist. However, as a young girl growing up in Russia, it was Russian socialist Nikolai Chernyshevsky (1826-1889) who first asked Emma the perspicacious question, what is to be done?Chernyshevsky was a Russian socialist during the 19th century. A notable radical journalist known for criticizing liberals, he believed liberalism only benefitted the wealthy upper-class. After his arrest in July of 1862 for criticizing Russian government, Chernyshevsky wrote the revolutionary classic novel What Is to Be Done? while in prison. The manuscript was smuggled out of jail, and the controversial novel approved by the Tsar censors to be published. It was later, that Chernyshevsky received an extended prison sentence for the publication of the novel."What Is to Be Done" is a fictional story based upon a lover's triangle, with socialist undertones. The two main characters are a man and a woman. Vera Pavlovna was a young activist "unencumbered by the restrictions of her sex" (Chernyshevsky 173). She was a strong character, and renounced the gender roles of patriarchy. Vera sought to demolish her countries politics and culture, to rebuild a better society of equality and free-love. The novel follows her around as she marries one man (Lopukhov), and leaves him for his best friend (Kirsanov). Though she stands extremely committed to politics and activism, love still serves as a personal fulfillment to her. A main part of her dialogue revolves around debating with her lovers about free-love. Vera likes the idea of being able to love who she wants, instead of limiting herself to one man her entire life. As a young woman, Vera uses a fake marriage as an escape route from her oppressive life. After escaping her former life, she wanted to get rid of the oppressed role of women. Vera considered herself socially useful. She wanted to free women of their province to be a wife and mother. Love was something Vera felt was necessary in life. Ironically, she seemed to never be completely satisfied with love, or when she did, she lost interest and moved on to another person. During the 19th century, this was not expected of women. They were supposed to stay committed, while it was mostly socially acceptable for a man to leave one woman for another.Vera's male counterpart, Rakhmetov, was seen more as the negative character. He was the more disciplined of the two, and abandoned relationships with women. Rakhmetov rejected formal manners and chauvinism, believing they were the product of a superficial society. He was seen as the hero at times, though. He was the hero who would sacrifice everything he had to fight for his cause. Rakhmetov never showed a strong romantic interest towards Vera. His only goal was political success. This made him very detached to most people. Towards the end of the novel, he just disappears and is never seen by Vera again. Chernyshevsky intentionally left his character to be a bit empty or...

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