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19th Century Russian Literature

In: English and Literature

Submitted By kyleewestlake23
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Every culture has their own values and beliefs. They have different views on religion, political systems, and even style. In 19th Century Russia two things that were important were serfdom and social status. The significance of these things can be demonstrated through pieces of literature from 19th Century Russia.
Serfdom was extremely popular in 19th century Russia. Serfs and peasants were 82% of Russia’s society, since farming was major during this time. Peasants were not educated, nor did they have the opportunity. They could not make any decisions for themselves. Since the peasants were not allowed to have their own property, they lived with their master and mistress. In 1861, serfdom was finally banned by Alexander II, but they had to go back to their master and mistress and work for money. (Snider) Foolishness in 19th Century Russian literature is well demonstrated through “Sleepy”. In “Sleepy”, Varka is a 13 year old serf that lacks sleep due to her master and mistress working her too hard. Her master and mistress forced her to stay up all night with the baby while it bawled. The baby just kept crying through all of Varka’s efforts to get it to sleep. Eventually, Varka fell asleep, but was awaken by her master smacking her in the back of the head, calling her a scabby slut. She started rocking the baby back to sleep, but fell back asleep. As soon as her mistress saw her she yelled at her, and asked for the baby so she could feed it. Varka realized that the baby was her enemy and was keeping her from sleeping. She figured the only resolution was to kill the baby. The fact that the master and mistress did nothing while she did everything and cut off her sleep completely proves that serfs were treated very poorly. Also, the fact that she kills the baby to get sleep shows the foolishness of literature in 19th Century Russia. (Sleepy)
Another crucial attribute in 19th century Russia was social status. In Russia, the nobility was portrayed as the mentality of a class of service. There are rare exceptions to connect to nobility was out of the question even though it slowed down the development of the country. Social status was so important that even patronage and political power was ignored. To become high up in the social status you had to have a good estate structure, but this was regarded in Russia. (Dubina) In the 19th century Russia social status, the highest class was the monarch which would grant land to the nobility for work. The middle class during the 19th century consisted of doctors,lawyers, and civil servants which developed primarily in the cities. The only reason the middle class grew was because of the rise of the industrialism. The class before the peasants and serfs was the working class which was made up of merchants, farmers, soldiers, factory workers and craftsmen that produced goods for the monarch. Social status is so important that they have them divided into specific classes. (Gordon) The importance of social status in this period can be proven in “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding”. The narrator of the story is recalling a children's ball he attended on New Year's Eve. Julian Matakovich caught the narrator's attention. Julian was watching two children play. One of the children was a little girl whose father was wealthy, the other was a little boy who was not and had a widowed mother. Since the little boy was not wealthy and Julian aspired to marry the little girl, Julian tried to keep him away from the girl. The little boy did not stand a chance with the little girl due to the fact that his mother was a widow. The little girl’s father forced her to marry Julian at the age 16. He thought it was good for the little girl because it would ensure that she would be high in social status, also bringing him up in the social status as well. “The Christmas Tree and The Wedding” proves that people in the 19th would do anything to be high on the social ladder. (Dostoevsky)
“The Lottery Ticket” also shows how important social status was. Ivan Dmitritch was “a middle class man, who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year…” (Chekhov, The Lottery Ticket) His wife Masha bought a lottery ticket and got the winning series, which was 9,499. Before looking at the number to see if they won, they started thinking about how they were going to spend their money. Ivan kept thinking how high he would be in the social status when he got the money. His wife also thought about her social status, but wanted to spend the money on other things. They were so caught up in their fantasies of winning and their future social status that nothing mattered to them. When they finally looked at the number, they found that they lost and were devastated. Ivan decided that he should hang himself, rather than living in the middle class any longer. This proved how important social status was in the 19th Century. (Lottery Ticket)
Social status and serfdom were exceptionally important in Russia in the 19th Century. This is shown throughout the short stories ”Sleepy”, “The Christmas Tree and The Wedding”, and “The Lottery Ticket.” Russian literature helps us to better understand not only the importance of serfdom and social status, but the importance of the culture in whole.

Work Cited

Chekhov, Anton. "The Lottery Ticket--Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904)." The Lottery
Ticket--Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904). Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
Chekhov, Anton. "Sleepy." Sleepy. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. "The Christmas Tree and the Wedding." By Fyodor Dostoevsky. Web.
10 Mar. 2016. Dubina, Vera. "The 'Distinction': Russian Nobility and Russian Elites in the European Context
(18th – 19th Century)." The 'Distinction': Russian Nobility and Russian Elites in the European Context (18th – 19th Century). Web. 14 Mar. 2016.…...

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