& Solzhenitsyn And Realism Essay, Research Paper
Tanizaki and Solzhenitsyn’s works both contain an underlying philosophy of realism. This realism is a balance between optimism and pessimism, and can be seen in both authors? discussions of society and characters, and their language. Defined by Roget’s Dictionary-Thesaurus and WordNet, realism is “a tendency to see or present things as they actually are,” and “art and literature that represents events and social conditions?(without idealization).” Whether Tanizaki and Solzhenitsyn write about society or certain characters in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and “The Makioka Sisters,” this “realism” takes on a different implication: The authors’ descriptions of society are realistic while their characters subconsciously have a realistic philosophy.
Although seemingly different at first, the societies in both One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Makioka Sisters are constrictive and repressive. These two novels are powerfully honest literary commentaries on the political condition of the authors? homelands, but they are also reminiscences of cultures lost. Tanizaki and Solzhenitsyn each subtly include a type of respect for their people, and this is what brings in the realism: Tanizaki and Solzhenitsyn have the ability to see the faults of their cultures and also to recognize the good in them.
Tanizaki?s novel is not the plea for social change as is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but rather a documentary on the decline of a culture, a culture that Tanizaki admires. Reverence toward nature is one aspect of the Japanese culture that Tanizaki finds commendable. In Makioka Sisters, Tanizaki is suggesting nature is very important to the Japanese, and particularly the Osakan, citizen because they depend on it for peace of mind. Tanizaki writes about nature in a style similar to haiku, in that he paints an accurate, non-idealistic picture.
Those weeping cherries just beyond the gallery to the left as one steps inside the gate and faces the main hall?those cherries said to be famous even abroad?how would they be this year? Was it perhaps already too late? Always they stepped through the gallery with a strange rising of the heart, but the five of them cried out as one when they saw that cloud of pink spread across the late-afternoon sky.
It was the climax of the pilgrimage, the moment treasured through a whole year. All was well, they had come again to the cherries in full bloom.
Pg. 89 The Makioka Sisters>
This poetic vision of pink blossoms carried along the breeze is magnificently joyous and sad as well. Tanizaki creates this beautiful scene but with it comes the knowledge that the end of the beauty is near. Rather than over-exaggerate the joy, he allows the reader to see the scene as it is, in a delicately factual style.
While the traditional cherry viewing continues every year, it is becoming less popular because the culture around it is changing; it has lost its significance and meaning for the casual-dressed city folk. This change is greatest when comparing the cities of Osaka to Tokyo, where tall skyscrapers block the warm sunlight and a chilling breeze is always blowing. This new, fast-moving cosmopolitan life is replacing the old, rural culture; even the Tokyo dialect is infiltrating Osaka. Although Tanizaki describes certain aspects of the Japanese culture as refined and noble, he reminds the reader that it is also constrictive and stifling. This change, as written by Tanizaki, is both good and yet unfortunate. In the new society, people have more freedoms and possibilities but they are also losing their heritage at the same time. As always, progress is a double-edged sword for humanity. It is easy to look past the disadvantages of advancement, but Tanizaki depicts ?progress? as a natural occurrence that will happen, good or bad.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich does not have culture progression, but an old, unchanging, repressive culture. The Soviets have not lost their heritage because they have not changed much. In some ways this has its advantages, but an oppressive society like this overshadows them. Solzhenitsyn does not overtly criticize his society in One Day, but instead states the facts that he hopes will change society. A purely critical novel would not be nearly as effective as one where a common hero accepts his plight and takes it in stride.
Solzhenitsyn finds some good aspects of the Soviet culture; he writes with a certain pride about the common citizens. In the course of Shukhov?s day, he meets many other men with history similar to his own. They all possess a sturdy character, moral strength, and courage; characteristics that can also be applied to all Soviet people. It is ironic, though, that only the prisoners in the novel have these admirable qualities. A repressive government and hard prison life has forced Shukhov to change his attitude toward life: he can either accept his condition or rebel and be killed. This acceptance brings along a fundamental shift in a person?s view of materialism. Shukhov sees hope in his situation only because he focuses on the smaller details in his one-day-at-a-time existence.
He looked at the ration, turning it, weighing it in his hand as he moved, to see if it was the full pound due him. Shukhov had had thousands of these rations in prisons and camps, and though he?d never had a chance to weigh a single one of them on a scale and he was always too shy to stick up for his rights? So you checked every day to set your mind at rest, hoping you hadn?t been too badly treated. (?Perhaps my ration is almost full weight today.?)
?It?s about half an ounce short,? Shukhov figured, and he broke the bread in two? He thought of eating the other half, the one he hadn?t eaten at breakfast, right away, but food eaten quickly isn?t food. It does no good, doesn?t fill you.
Pg. 26-27 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich>
To Shukhov, the bread is hope, a promise of freedom. This bread is far more important than just food; it becomes the purpose of living and pushing on. If Shukhov were a pessimist, he would see no hope in his existence and would most likely become desperate to escape with suicide an easy option. Having the philosophy of realism allows Shukhov to balance out the good and bad, thus keeping his sanity in a most forbidding situation. Accepting and identifying the bad also protects Shukhov from any harm it could cause him through a false sense of optimism. Solzhenitsyn, through Shukhov, states a very important idea of realism in the last sentence. The idea of quickly eaten food is a simple image, but the message is not: rushing through things provides no satisfaction, yet not doing them provides none either. Solzhenitsyn is proposing a question I do not have the answer to?Is moderation the key to satisfaction? I think that having a realistic state of mind would help determine the level of personal moderation, as Shukhov?s did.
Yukiko, along with Shukhov, have this realistic philosophy, which allows them to see both the good and the bad in any situation. Tanizaki does not often tell the reader what the characters are actually thinking, instead allowing the emotions to show through their actions. Yukiko is withdrawn, because she knows that if she withholds her thoughts and is generally unhelpful, her marriage process will be foiled. For Yukiko, the humiliation of being unmarried is balanced by her love for Etsuko.
The fact that she had been so long in finding a husband caused Yukiko herself less anguish than others might have supposed. She rather hoped that if she could not make a match worth being really enthusiastic about, she would be left here in Ashiya helping Sachiko rear the child [Etsuko]. That would somehow make up for the loneliness.
Pg. 26 The Makioka Sisters >
Yukiko takes life as it comes, (while Shukhov cannot change his life), and tries only to make her present life pleasant. This is not much of a goal, since it does not include any long-term planning, but with the ability to make almost any situation acceptable, it does not really matter. Yukiko?s lack of long-term goals kept her from becoming married. Shukhov?s short-term goals kept him alive. Both focussed on the basic necessities of their lives and kept moving on.
Shukhov went to sleep, and he was very happy. He?d had a lot of luck today. They hadn?t put him in the cooler. The gang hadn?t been chased out to work in the Socialist Community Development. He?d finagled an extra bowl of mush at noon. The boss had gotten them good rates for their work. He?d felt good making that wall. They hadn?t found that piece of steel in the frisk. Caesar had paid him off in the evening. He?d bought some tobacco. And he?d gotten over that sickness. Nothing had spoiled the day and it had been almost happy. There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like this in his sentence, from reveille to lights out.
The three extra ones were because of the leap years?
Pg. 202-203 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich>
The last pages of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are written in a perfectly realistic view of life. Solzhenitsyn writes of the happenings of Shukhov?s day as if they are a list of the pros and cons of prison life: some days are good, some are bad, but no matter what, there will be many more. It all evens out in the end.
In the course of this paper, I have described how Tanizaki and Solzhenitsyn effectively use a style of writing that is accurate and realistic in describing the situation of their society, and how the Shukhov and Yukiko both have a philosophy of realism.