Ramblings From A Rednecks Diary Essay, Research Paper
Ramblings from a Rednecks Diary
Not since I was three have I been affected by a book this much. When I was a toddler The Berenstein Bears had the influence to make me cry from sadness and scream from fear. In reality I did not actually scream or cry after reading this book, but I was extremely close. In “Bezhin Lea” I was frightened for Pavlusha when he ran off after the dogs, and I felt real fear when the boys began telling fables of the surrounding areas. In “Meeting” the girl was so tearful that the urge to jump into the book and comfort her almost overcame me, and never had I wanted to see something bad happen to a person as I did to the bailiff in the “Bailiff.” My feelings regarding serfs had never been put on such a personal level.
Sketches from a Hunter’s Album changed my perspective about serfs and peasants intensely. I do not think his book would have as much impact if it was not for his intense physical and emotional projections of serfs that Turgenev conveys for the reader. Every time a new character is introduced he stops to completely acquaint the reader with the person as much as he is acquainted with the person. Since I truly learned about serfdom, peasantry, and slavery, it has been common for me to generalize them by the statement, “they suffered,” or “they were stupid.” After reading just a few sketches, I realized that the serfs are actually human. They are not stupid animals to be pushed around and taken advantage of by their “masters“.
It was evident in the first sketch, “Khor and Kalinych,” that Khor was an intelligent and industrious man, but yet he was only a serf. He had been smart enough to find a way to make money for himself and to afford a pretty heavy rent imposed by his owner. He had enough money but if he actually bought his freedom he would be a small fish in a big pond, but as long as he was serf and rented his own land he was living large. He had his family, his health, and enough to keep everyone happy.
It was also evident by this sketch and another “Lgov” that if a serf had education or intelligence he was able to maintain a certain amount of piece and happiness. Vladmir from “Lgov” was a ladies man and he had a pretty easy life with an occupation of guiding people while they hunted. He was missing his chin and a forefinger, but he still was able to maintain a happy lifestyle due to his small education and his intelligence.
I was also impressed with the deeply poetic writings about nature and his straightforward description of serfs and there life. During a conversation with a fellow Turgenev reader, I pointed out the quality of his descriptions and his poetic ability to show nature, but I was disconcerted with Turgenev’s usual nature of ending of a sketch with “I moved on the next day” or “and then I was called away.” The fellow student (Jake) remarked, “I think he does that to make a point. The whole story and life of peasants is depressing so he doesn’t want to dwell on it.” This remark impressed me immensely, because so many times Turgenev has described the undeniable beauty of nature and the peasants, but he is often disgusted with the muddy roads or the way serfs are treated. I began to wonder and think on this by myself. It took me awhile but I finally figured out the reason Turgenev hunted. His only enjoyment seemed to be in nature and in meeting new people, this is why he devoted so many years of his life to wandering the Russian countryside. His love of nature is evident in his writing because Turgenev begins almost every sketch with a description of the sky, the fields, or the trees. A good example is the beginning of his sketch “Bezhin Lea:
It was a beautiful July day, one of those days which occurs only when the weather has been unchanged for a long time. From early morning the sky is clear
and the sun does not so much flare up like a fire as spread like a mild pinkness. The sun – not fiery, not molten, as it is during a period of torrid drought, not murkily as it is before
a storm, but bright and invitingly radiant – peacefully drifts up beneath a long, thin cloud,
sends fresh gleams through it and is immersed in its lilac haze.
This beautiful paragraph shows his devotion to nature as well as his incredible creativity when it comes to writing. His solace seems to come from nature as much as from meeting people. Through his meetings I believe Turgenev further comes to know himself better. He managed to turn every person he met into an interesting character, no matter how mundane and ordinary their life, and the greatest part about it is that not a single person is the same. Turgenev’s descriptions of people are full of explorations into their character and that allows Turgenev to better know the reasons for his life and his personality.
There was a remarkable aspect of Turgenev’s morals that showed through in “Lgov” and “Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands” that was his ability to ignore people’s comments about others. He would always decide to find out what a person was like for himself. In “Lgov” he ignored Vladmir’s comments about Old Knot and he would still converse with him. In “Kasyan” he ignored his driver, and even though Kasyan managed to scare away almost every bird in the region, Turgenev still came to listen to him and to respect him.
Turgenev makes the reference several times through his collection that as a hunter he has no compunction over sleeping in a barn with a peasant or chatting it up with a serf in a cart on the way to Moscow. Its apparent that he believes every serf is worthy of conversation and that it is good to meet as many as possible, but on the contrary his opinion of nobles is often the opposite. In “Bailiff” and “Two Landowners” his dislike for the nobles or their treatment of serfs is a large part of each sketch.
Another facet of Turgenev was his abhorrence of injustice. In the “Two Landowners” he tries to convince one of the landowners to help his serfs by giving them better living conditions, but he has no luck of convincing the landowner of evil of serfdom. In the “Loner” Turgenev stops the Loner from punishing the serf he caught, because it was obvious the serf was only chopping down wood to help his family. The loner and the serf both have hard times because of their owner, and Turgenev even offered to pay for the wood the surf was taking.
Turgenev western philosophy is obvious through its lack of autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality, as well as his disdain for serfdom. Yet surprising to me in one small way was the emotion that overcame Turgenev and the tavern-dwellers in “Singers.” When Yakov the Turk sang his song I could not help but be reminded of my own patriotism. It struck me how similar Turgenev was to many liberal arts students. Those students and I almost never agree with many of the decisions and statements that are made on the national, state, or local level, many times I have argued with my father whether Bush or Clinton was the right President, but I am still in love with this country. A slightly twisted example is in the sketch “Death.” Turgenev talks about how Russian peasants and a few landowners actually decide to meet their deaths. They all meet it calmly and in the end they still try and fulfill their duties. I was astounded by the peasant Vasily Dmitrich when he went the hospital and refused treatment on finding out he was to die because he had his duties of family and business to attend. He himself said “Where to? It’s obvious where to – home, if things are that bad. If things are like that there’s a lot to be put in order.” The way Turgenev writes, it seems as if many Russians maintain this devotion, and Turgenev seems to have quite a bit of pride in his countrymen.
The most impressive part of this book is the realism. My imagination had never explored the depths of nineteenth century Russia, and I found myself imagining many of sketches being probable events in the twenty-first century. The most depressive part of this book is its futility. Although many of the educated people are happy, it also turns out that most people turn out pompous in the landowner and noble classes and in the peasant and serf classes most people turn out desperate . “Pyotr Petrovich Karataev”, “Death”, “Bailiff”, “Meeting”, “Tatyana Borisovna and Her Nephew”, “Hamlet of the Shchigrovsky District”, and “Yermolay and the Miller’s Wife” are all very good examples. All of the above end with poverty, death, love lost, or grand expectations turning into the worst possible scenario.
This collection of sketches is now ranked in my top three for favorite books. The first is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, the second is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Turgenev writings are so enjoyable, that it is one of the few books that has made me want to learn a foreign language so that I can read it in its original text.
In the end I must give my gratitude and thanks to Turgenev because he has allowed me to change my interpretation of serfdom and Russian Literature. I can now see why he was one of the original Russian Authors to be internationally recognized. It was an insightful read and an entertaining and somewhat depressing book.