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Birds of A Feather Suffer Together: Social consequences of suffering in the texts of Pushkin and Avvakum

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  1. To understand how suffering functions within these works, we can start by understanding the characters' conceptions of why they are suffering.
  2. This admission suggests that the torment present in their interactions is not unilateral.
  3. If Avvakum's work correlates suffering with the sharpening of social distinctions, then we must ask whether the converse is true.
  4. Suffering has different consequences in The Life of Archpriest Avvakum and The Captain's Daughter.

Though some are quick to call Russians a patient, long-suffering folk, the idea of accepting the yoke of life's misfortunes and trudging onward is not characteristic of all Russian literature and history. Characters in Alexander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter and those in the ?Life of Archpriest Avvakum by Himself? relate to suffering in contrasting ways. Though instances of mortal peril and emotional distress are scattered throughout both works, their social consequences differ within the thematic frameworks. Analysis of the reasons why characters suffer, the ways in which they suffer, and their behavior when not suffering reveals that Avvakum's accounts of trials and tribulations serve to construct and solidify social boundaries, while Pushkin's accounts serve the contrary function of blurring social distinctions.

[...] ?Though he had the greatest respect for his wife, he would not for the world have disclosed to her a military secret,? but the dangerously growing Cossack threat later had ?increased the captain's nervousness,? which makes him desire to prevent the possible suffering of his troops and family. He holds a military meeting and says to his wife, ?we'll talk about it even with you here? (144-5). Thus, with the possibility of suffering great, Kuzmich follows Pushkin's general paradigm and blurs social boundaries and roles by including his wife in military operations. If Avvakum's work correlates suffering with the sharpening of social distinctions, then we must ask whether the converse is true. [...]


[...] In one of the few instances when Avvakum describes truly fortunate circumstances, he also claims to have lost some of his social distinction: all this [bounty] has been fashioned by our sweet Christ for man, so that, with a mind at last at rest he might give praise to God. But such is man that he is given to vanity, and his days go by like a shadow when he has eaten his fill then, like a heathen, he falls asleep, without saying his prayers; he puts off repenting till his old age and then he vanishes? (429). [...]

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