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The Literary Trope Of A Superfluous Man In Russian Literature And Culture

1043 words - 5 pages

Russian literature was very much influenced by the literary trope known as the superfluous man. This trope was ideal for writers to describe the shortcomings of Russian high-class society. There has been a witnessed general consistency when dealing with the superfluous man such as the exhibition of cynicism and existential angst, while indulging in vices such as affairs, gambling and duelling. These individuals are typically from noble birth yet refused to fit into society and disregard the societal norms. This trend can be witnessed through many examples such as Alexander Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin” and “Diary of a Superfluous Man” by Ivan Turgenev. The characters described by these authors reflects the lifestyles of such a man, and seems to imitate the lives of the men who wrote these stories, as the real life Pushkin and Turgenev were both to be described as superfluous men.
Alexander Pushkin can best be described as an idle aristocrat, a man whom excelled at being superfluous. As his creation, Pushkin best portrays his character in Eugene Onegin, by following his own example. Born to an ancient and noble Russian family, Pushkin plays his part expertly. “The sly baseness, fit to throttle, of entertaining the half-dead: one smoothes the pillows down in bed, and glumly serves the medicine bottle, and sighs, and asks oneself all through: ‘When will the devil come for you?’” (Pushkin, I.I) The cyncism in Onegin reflects the unsatified and morbid curiosity of those of the well educated, which in Russian culture is a natural reaction as the cynical realism of life. From early on Pushkin studies at the Lycee where he excels at French, drawing, fencing and Russian, following the model of the superfluous man, Pushkin is a talented individual with no will to use such talents for political or career advancement. Although with indulgence Onegin is noted to portray, in the age of noblemen the over indulgence made many decentcatized to its luxury seen in Eugene Onegin, “Applause. Onegin enters -- passes across the public's toes; he steers straight to his stall, then turns his glasses on unknown ladies in the tiers; he's viewed the boxes without passion, he's seen it all; with looks and fashion he's dreadfully dissatisfied.'' (I.XI) Pushkin, like many young nobles at the time pursued such vices like women, gambling and drinking champagne and by growing weary of these commonly used made him weary on the normal burdens of life and choosing to ignore such responsiblities such as governmental and military duties. Yet despite all his inherited wealth and connections he shrugs off social norms as he indulges in his sin and poetry, and because of such subversive poems in exiled. Onegin was quite entranced despite frivalities to find love, yet still cynical and poetic by such fate “He was convinced, a kindred creature would be allied to him by fate; that, meanwhile, pinched and glum of feature, from day to day she could but wait; and he believed his friends...

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