Suicide Motives in Russian and European Literary Tradition

  •  Nikolai I. Nikolaev    
  •  Tatiana V. Shvetsova    


The purpose of this article is to identify the underlying implications and motives of suicide of Russian literarycharacters of the classical era against the backdrop of Western European literary tradition. After analyzing theissue concerning the diversity of the suicide motives of heroines in Turgenev’s novelettes ("L'Antchar", "AnUnhappy Girl", and "Klara Milich"), we came to the conclusion that the principles of artistic interpretation ofheroine’s action, committing suicide, were found in Russian literature as early as in the late ?VIII century.These principles were developed and established in the kind of debate of that era. The article describes thedifference between the suicide motives of heroes by J.-W.Goethe and N. M. Karamzin, allowing us to talk aboutthe diversity of the Russian and Western characters conduct in similar situations. For Goethe's characters, thedeath is a transition to a state, in which personal communication of characters becomes impossible. Therefore,their near-death communication transforms into "farewell forever". Russian heroines (novelettes of Karamzin &Turgenev) are rapid in their decision to terminate their terrestrial life in order to accelerate their appointmentwith beloved after crossing over, outside of socially conditioned context. They are driven by belief in theinevitability of such appointment. Their suicide becomes not so much a way to interrupt their contacts with animperfect world, but to speed up the appointment with their sweethearts in the other, more favorablecircumstances. The authors believe that the diversity of suicide motives of Russian literary characters (Karamzin& Turgenev) as compared with the European tradition is associated with the diversity of world perceptionconcept, world architectonics, in which their characters commit an act. Traditional perception of this subject inthe novelettes of N. M. Karamzin and I. S. Turgenev met the religious and ethical principles, predominant inRussian cultural space.

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