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International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences
ILSHS Volume 66

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Peculiarities of Russian Context in O. Wilde’s Play “Vera”

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At the end of the XIX century the interest of British intellectual circles to the Russian Empire was intensified due to the latest events – the appearance of Nihilists on the Russian political arena. British intellectuals, especially those contradicting Victorian social and moral norms, were inspired by the new type of hero-nihilist – a romantic highly-spiritual revolutionary, struggling for freedom, which was created in their imagination mostly due to Turgenev’s works and the lawsuit of Vera Zasulich, widely discussed in European press.This study concentrates on the analysis of the first play by Oscar Wilde Vera, dedicated to the Russian topic, which seems at first sight a naïve melodrama with confusion of historical events and features of the Russian social life. The peculiarities of Wilde’s perception of Russian reality, as well as literary devices used for creating Russian background, are analyzed. Special attention is paid to the tradition of depicting a mysterious and exotic Russia in English literature since the XVI century, followed by Wilde. The writer uses a number of standard clichés presenting his “Russia” as a far-away country with eternal frost, tyrannical government, poor and savage people, fully obedient to the cruel ruler.However, as the researcher concludes, Wilde didn’t aim at making a narration about real struggle between czarist regime and the Nihilists in Russia. The future leader of the aestheticism turns to Russian environment as an “another” place – a location, being unusual for an Englishmen, where the writer expects to find high feelings and lofty ideals, spiritual aims and moral values which couldn’t exist in pragmatic Victorian society. Wilde’s “Russia” is presented as an exotic, half-fictional reality, created mostly by the author’s imagination as proper surroundings for evolution of the romantic conflict between the tyrannical Czar and the Nihilists. However, this conflict becomes a spiritual battle of cynical and pragmatic worldview with high spiritual and moral ideals, the aesthetic embodiment of the eternal struggle between the good and the evil, soul chastity and sin.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 66)
O. Posudiyevska, "Peculiarities of Russian Context in O. Wilde’s Play “Vera”", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 66, pp. 67-72, 2016
Online since:
February 2016

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