Friday, May 11, 2012

Psychology and Reliability

 I’ve been trying to express in words how Russian novels elicit a certain feeling and impression. I can’t help but be extremely aware of how the authors and characters share a particular history and culture. Russian literature classes constantly ask what a Russian novel is, or what makes a Russian novel. I don’t think anyone has ever been able to fully answer the question in a satisfying manner. However, I feel as if I can point out a piece of the puzzle. Russian novels revolve around strong characters in general, and delve into the psychology of these characters in a way that attempts to reflect a larger scene or an aspect of Russian culture at the time, such as ideas of family, relationships, and the effects of poverty or other harsh situations on individuals, to name a few.

This psychological delving is so interesting and I believe relates to our questions about reliable narrators. We do not come across reliable narrators because humans cannot be reliable in their narration. Memory is constantly being restructured and rewritten. Furthermore, I was surprised to see so many representations of mental illness throughout our book lists. Most recently, Anna’s mother in The Time: Night but also, arguably, many of our main characters and narrators. These issues of mental illness seem to be much more candidly addressed in the books we’ve read in this course compared to non-Russian fiction I’ve read. How might have issues of poverty, imprisonment, guilt, and personal angst have affected emotional and psychological states of the characters and how does that result in a certain type of narration?


  1. I think if we look at these novels too realistically, then yes, we can conclude that poverty, imprisonment, etc. are the generators of the emotional/psychological states in the characters, but why not let that simply be a Russian element? I think I agree with you, but I just worry about implying that if we "corrected" for our characters' mental illnesses, then we might find a truer narration. Personally, I found it to be the best part and most real part of all the novels we read.

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