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Mimetic rivalry in ‘Envy’ and ‘Safe conduct’

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  1. Introduction
  2. Character analysis of Yuri Olesha's Envy and Boris Pasternak's Safe Conduct
  3. Traditional Rationalism-Romanticism dichotomy
  4. Overview of the study
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

Mimetic desire is the desire of an object, not because of a rational choice to fulfill one's own needs, but instead because that object fulfills the needs of a rival subject. It is meta-desire, desire of someone else's desire. Mimetic desire develops out of an attempt to imitate the rival subject. The root of the desire is not in the object or in the desirer, but in ?a third party, the model or mediator,? whose desire is imitated ?in the hope that [the] two beings will be ?fused.'? Mimetic desire involves contradictory feelings of love and hate, attraction and repulsion. The Other is loved because he is a model for desire, but he is also hated because he denies fulfillment of that desire. Mimetic rivalry leads to a vicious cycle. The desirer becomes an ?obstacle addict?unable to desire in the absence of an obstacle-who-is-also-a-model.? He is in a straitjacket, of his own design. The main characters in Yuri Olesha's Envy and Boris Pasternak's Safe Conduct are both consumed by the brutal push-pull of mimetic rivalry.

[...] He represents the rational-minded utilitarian society? which no use Nikolai.[22] Andrei wants to make a sausage that is ?nourishing, pure and cheap.?[23] He seeks to increase efficiency and free women from their household chores so that they can participate in the other tasks of building socialism. Andrei embodies Rationalist belief that success and fulfillment lies in identifying specific needs and then meeting them. Olesha highlights his most basic bodily functions?going to the bathroom, sex, and eating. Andrei is associated with fulfillment of fundamental needs. [...]

[...] He says, am not writing my autobiography The history of a poet is not to be presented in such a form.?[56] Instead, he claims to have received his autobiography from Rilke.[57] Although Pasternak views his renunciation of Romanticism as occurring after his disillusionment with Mayakovsky, the truth is that the push-pull cycles of mimetic rivalry driving his behavior from childhood are a living example of the rejection of the Romantic narrative. Aside from the anti- Romanticism Pasternak explicitly voices in his theory of the artist, his life as a series of mimetic rivalries provides another refutation of Romanticism. [...]

[...] Mimetic desire results in a person who ?always reacts to the stimulus of other people in exactly the same predictable way. He behaves like an automaton.?[58] Pasternak is extremely passive. His ego is overwhelmed by the greatness of these model figures. The result is that his autobiography is more of a series of portraits of his models than of himself. He is an anti-hero, a rag doll pushed and pulled through life by the force of others. Pasternak also counters the Romantic manner with his focus on the small contingencies of life, his elevation of the trifling into the monumental. [...]

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