The novel "Lord Golovlevs". Features of realism M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin

The novel “GG” (1875-1880) reflects the writer’s valuable program on the content of literature and the relationship between literature and reality. The critical articles of the 1960s and 1970s reflected a whole program of the S-Sh, which addressed the problems of realism and popular literature that were topical for their time. In the article “Unfounded Fears” he objects to the opinion that literature lags behind life. According to the writer, literature is the organizer of social thought, its role is great in determining not only the present, but also the future physiognomy of society.

S-Sch embodied the features of the artistic method in the novel “Lords of the Golovlevs”. The idea of the novel arose from separate essays of the series “Well-meaning Speeches”. The first stories about the Golovlev family appeared there. On the advice of Turgenev, S-Sch continued this theme. This is how the novel “Lord Golovlev” came about. It manifested a different direction than journalism, the direction of the writer’s work. Not the topic of the day, but the social processes of public life. This explains the form of the monumental novel. Because it allows you to show the life of several generations and each person for a long time.

The novel was not originally conceived as a great work. The story about the Golovlyovs called “Family Court” was supposed to be included in the cycle “Well-intentioned speeches. The success of the chapter predetermined the writing of the novel. In July 1880, the first separate edition of the novel was published.

It should be noted that the central theme of the novel – the historical fate of the nobility – was raised even before S-Sch. For example, Turgenev’s novel “The Nest of Nobles” or Goncharov’s “Cliff”.

The work shows the process of economic decay and the process of spiritual degeneration of the Golovlevs. The Golovlyov estate is a state in miniature. S-Sch set the task of revealing socio-economic problems, focusing on the inner world of the family. The struggle for property shown in the novel inevitably leads to the death of the family. And all members of the Golovlev family are to blame for this.

The novel combines family and social and political plans, and there is no intrigue, which is uncharacteristic for the novel. S-Sh is simultaneously included in the classical tradition and “falls out” of it. We are talking about the theme of noble nests. This theme is one of the largest in Russian literature. Wider – the theme of the family, at home. For S-Sch, the family nest is not a way to hide from the world, not a way to merge with nature, natural life; it is an exact small copy of the outside world with its vices, problems, inhumanity. The fate of the heroes of the novel is all the more tragic because life in the nest is even more painful for them than life outside it.

S-Sh shows how the lust for power, money, the ambitions of people, the negative properties of their characters destroy family ties. The author perceives the collapse of the Golovlev family as the collapse of the feudal system, the Russian noble class.

In connection with the peculiarities of the solution of the theme of noble nests, the title of the novel acquires a symbolic meaning. Lords are both a way of naming and masters of life. Unlike the Nekrasov landowners, in post-reform Russia the Golovlevs did not lose their fortune. In accordance with his artistic method, S-Sh makes the heroes “deify” material values, not at all having in mind moral ones. These are Gogol’s “dead souls” in Shchedrin’s style. But Gogol gives the heroes hope for a spiritual rebirth. S.S. doesn’t have that.

The artistic space of the novel is built according to the type of Christian hell or the folklore world of the dead. It’s all inside out. This explains the nature of the novel’s hyperbolization: S-Sch, having caught the most characteristic tendencies, discarding everything superfluous, brings them to the limit, to the extreme. He shows the disease in its purest form. The main theme in the novel is the theme of spiritual and physical death.

The composition of the novel is slender. From head to head, a gradual exit of family members can be traced.

The whole system of artistic characters is built on the principle of 3 belts: 1) Golovlev elders (father and mother); 2) medium (Stepan, Pavel, Porfiry-Judas); 3) golovlyats (children of Anna, Aninka and Lyubenka; Porfiry – Vladimir, Peter and the younger Volodya).

The history of everyone’s life includes three stages: idleness, unsuitability for any business or idle thought, hard drinking.

The 1st chapter introduces the central figure of the family, Arina Petrovna. She subjugated all the peasants and households. This is an active and active nature. She married a spineless man, they had different views on life, and as a result Ar. Petrovna pushed her husband into the background. Thanks to his activity and energy, Ar. Petr-a multiplies his income tenfold. Wealth was given to her at the cost of hard work. But she did not disdain bribery, sometimes went to outright blackmail. In the Golovlev family, Arina Petrovna is the only person who has shown himself to be an effective nature. But throughout the story, S-Sch shows that her hoarding is a real waste: much rots, disappears. Hoarding becomes meaningless. Arina P-nu is ruined by two circumstances: the abolition of serfdom and the betrayal of Judas. Without surviving two blows, she dies. Arina Petrovna becomes a slave of the order established by her. And as soon as he changes, she becomes helpless. Forgotten by everyone, she dies.

1st story about the eldest son Stepan Vladimirovich (Stepka the Stupid). He returns with nothing to the family nest. S-Sch uses the worst method of remembering the hero. Due to this, you can get acquainted with the process of forming the character of the hero.

Stepan was like his father. The author repeatedly points out that by nature Styopka is an intelligent person. But in an environment of constant suppression of the personality, its development acquires completely different features: the ability to get out, timidity and complaisance. So, for example, at the university he becomes a hooker and a beggar for wealthy students.

Stepan enters the university and graduates thanks to his natural mind. He tries to work, but it doesn’t work. Enrolls in the militia, but nothing comes of it.

The author describes in detail the bleak return to the family estate. The whole system of artistic means suggests that the road to Golovlevo is a road to nowhere (the image of a coffin, a rural cemetery, a family crypt, etc.) Arina Petrovna settles her son in a tiny office. He is not given candles and is fed with the remnants of food from the master’s table. Stepan is isolated from outside life and gradually loses the sense of real life and the ability to think. It ends with a scale of vodka. The process of drinking for him becomes a ritual. Stepan tries to run away. After escaping, he seems to lose his mind. The death of Stepan Golovlev opens the story of the gradual dying of the Glovlev family.

The following is the story of Brother Paul. The hero is introduced from childhood. This is an apathetic and gloomy creature. His favorite pastime, huddled in a corner, dreaming of a future wonderful life. Paul becomes a person without actions. Now, as in childhood, he lives in a world of illusions. Pavel’s life path can be divided into the following stages: the army, retirement, the road to the Dubrovino estate. In a small room, he ends his life. His story repeats the story of Stepan. In this regard, we can talk about the principle of duality.

Sister Anna also dies. She tries to keep her human self and runs away with the military. Two girls are born, Anna dies.

The central figure of the novel is Judas Golovlev. It unites all heroes. Porfiry-Judas plays a key role in the fate of everyone. He stood out from childhood with humility, he liked to tinker, his favorite pastime was to caress his beloved friend, mother. Judas grew up, got married, began to serve in St. Petersburg. In order to take possession of the estate, he weaves a network of intrigues. This character is a social type (feudal lord), on the other hand, a psychological type of a liar and idle talker. Having received everything, he runs from reality. The fantasy world, the world of ghosts, becomes real for him.

The name of Yudushka Golovlev has become a household name. The nickname of this character is derived from the name of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. The nickname that brother Stepan gave him means a person who hides treachery, vice under the mask of virtue. He, like his brothers, goes through three stages of degradation: 1) binge drinking; 2) binge idle thought; 3) drunk drinking.

The moral stiffness of Judas is so great that, without the slightest shudder, he dooms each of his sons in turn to death: Vladimir, Peter and Volodya the younger. In the idle talk and hypocrisy of Judas, the author saw a special form of degeneration of the noble class.

Complements the characterization of Judas by the finale of the novel. In the finale, the main theme of the novel, the theme of escheat, takes a tragic turn. Under the influence of conversations with his niece Aninka, Judas begins to wonder what his life has led to? The tragedy is emphasized by the fact that Porfiry understands the hopelessness of his situation. At the end of the novel, the wild conscience of Judas is resurrected. He feels his involvement not only with his own, but also with the human race in general, his guilt not only before his relatives, but also before the One Who forgave everyone. In the scene of looking at the icon with the face of Christ, the traitor looks into the face of the devotee. It is noteworthy that the repentance of Judas takes place on Holy Week.

The motif of isolation or self-isolation plays a special role in organizing the composition of the novel (to a large extent, it is these motifs that determine the course of storylines, the level of space), which is enhanced by the isolation of space.

Golovlyovo is shown as the center of chaos and destruction. Both the estate and the manor house are constantly connected in the novel with the idea of death and escheat, of the disastrous effect of an evil force that is beyond human control and threatens life: it is death, always waiting for a new victim … “

If the house in literature traditionally provides a person with shelter and protection, then in the novel S-Sch. the ancestral home is associated with something inhuman, dead. The novel says: “There was something escheated both in this house and in this person ( in Judas ), something that inspires involuntary and superstitious fear.”

In the novel, the motive of the road is important, which acquires ideological and artistic richness. This is a road to nowhere. It is impossible to escape from Golovlevo. There are only two roads: to Siberia or to the garbage pit. The motive of death develops with images of darkness, cold, night.

The image of winter deadness becomes stable, carrying the idea of hostility to the living, to everything that is connected with the Golovlev family, with its very existence: “… a lonely snowy plain spread around in all directions”, there was “a neighborhood seized by a boundless snow shroud”, she “ quietly numb.” The actions described in the novel mainly take place in autumn or winter, that is, the idea of dying is also carried out at the level of time.

S-Sch showed in his novel Lord Golovlyov “dead souls” at a later stage of their historical decomposition.


Tales of Saltykov-Shchedrin are considered as the result of observation of Russian reality. S-Shchedrin made his first fairy tales in 1869. Modern researchers put forward several assumptions about the reasons for S-Shchedrin’s appeal to the fairy tale genre.

1. Some believe that the cause was an illness that prevented the writer from working on a great work.

2. In the 80s, the writer was away from children, and he wrote letters to his children in the form of letters.

3. Shchedrin turns to this genre, following the general passion for the fairy tale. In the 1970s, the second birth of the literary fairy tale was observed in Russian literature.

4. Shchedrin and other writers saw in a fairy tale an opportunity to influence a wide audience. The artistic means of the fairy tale were to serve the liberation movement. The fairy tale helped to enlarge the scale of the artistic image, to emphasize the significant and big.

5. Fairy tale fantasy to some extent served as a means of artistic disguise for the most acute ideological and political ideas.

The fairy tales of S-Shchedrin differ from literary tales and from folklore in their pronounced satire.

The fairy tale cycle was conceived by the writer as a single work. But due to the fact that the tales themselves were printed unevenly, in separate series at different times, it is difficult to understand the composition of the intended cycle. The fairy tale is one of the most popular folklore genres. This type of oral storytelling with fantastic fiction has a long history. The fairy tales of Saltykov-Shchedrin are connected, on the one hand, with the folklore tradition, on the other hand, with the satirical literary fairy tale of the 18th-19th centuries. The main part of the fairy tales was written from 1883 to 1886. S-Sch creates a collection of “Tales for children of a fair age.” They, according to the writer, are called upon to “educate” these very “children”, to open their eyes to the world around them.

Saltykov-Shchedrin turned to fairy tales not only because it was necessary to bypass censorship, which forced the writer to turn to the Aesopian language, but also in order to educate the people in a familiar and accessible form.

In the complex ideological content of fairy tales, researchers conditionally distinguish the following thematic groups of fairy tales:

1) satire on autocratic rulers (“The Tale of the Zealous Chief”); 2) tsarist autocracy and the situation of the oppressed people (“Bear in the Voivodeship”); 3) the relationship between a peasant and a master (“The Wild Landowner”, “The Tale of How One Muzhik Feed Two Generals”); 4) the tragic situation of the oppressed and robbed people, their hard labor (“Konyaga”); 5) ridicule of vile and cowardly bourgeois intellectuals, who talk about freedom and democracy, but in fact serve the ruling classes (“Liberal”); 6) ridicule of the philistine (“Karas-idealist”, “Wise gudgeon”).


1. In their literary form and style, the fairy tales of Saltykov-Shchedrin are associated with folklore traditions. In them we meet traditional fairy-tale characters: talking animals, fish, Ivanushka the Fool and many others. The writer uses the beginnings, sayings, proverbs, linguistic and compositional triple repetitions, common speech and everyday peasant vocabulary, constant epithets, words with diminutive suffixes that are characteristic of a folk tale. As in a folk tale, Saltykov-Shchedrin does not have clear time and space frames.

2. With close correspondence to folklore and literary tales, the themes and images of S-Sch. are distinguished by novelty, artistic perfection. St. Shchedrin’s tales are based on folk tales about animals. This freed the writer from additional detailed characteristics. For the allegory, S-Shchedrin used images fixed by folklore and fable tradition. Starting from them, he created his images (vobla, piskar).

3. Shchedrin widely uses the technique of switching the narrative from the realm of fantasy to realism, from zoological to human. Conditional images retain a direct, independent meaning. They keep their nature. The distance between man and animal is not violated.

4. S-Shchedrin used the principle of social contrast, for example, in The Tale of How One Man Feeded Two Generals, the images of helpless and despotic generals are contrasted with the image of a simple, submissive and skillful peasant.

5. He introduces socio-political vocabulary, clerical turns, French words into the narrative. The pages of his fairy tales include episodes of modern social life. So there is a mixture of styles, creating a comic effect, and the connection of the plot with the problems of the present.

6. S-Shchedrin used language in Aesopian fairy tales. The writer substantiated allegory based on three points: censorship; artistic value; reader level.

7. Ironic praise, sarcasm, grotesque, allegory, as well as a technique in which the author formally takes a position of solidarity with the enemy were widely used in fairy tales.

The Tale of How One Man Feeded Two Generals and The Wild Landowner were first published in Otechestvennye Zapiski in 1869.

“The Tale of How One Man Feeded Two Generals” (1869)

Topic: satirical denunciation of the privileged classes and estates; the age-old slavish obedience of the common people.

The main idea: the contradiction between the enormous potential power and the class passivity of the peasantry.

In the image of a man S-Sch. portrayed the strength and weakness of the Russian peasantry in the era of autocracy. The generals wander helplessly among the abundance of fruits, game and fish almost die of starvation on the island. The very development of the plot points to an important thought for the author: a simple peasant, the people are the key to the life of the ruling classes.

Composition is based primarily on the principle of antithesis (opposition). This is already stated in the title of the text: the number “one” is opposed to the number “two”, the peasant – to the generals.

The image of a peasant is built on the contrast of external and internal: the author emphasizes heroism in his hero (huge growth, great physical strength and dexterity), but this is opposed by a low level of self-consciousness, the eternal habit of being a slave. The latter is revealed with the help of the grotesque: he cooks soup in a handful, weaves snares from his hair to catch grouse, weaves a rope and ties himself up so that the generals do not worry about his escape.

Getting acquainted with the generals, we know nothing about their individual qualities; in fact, we have one person in front of us. Their personal qualities begin to manifest themselves on the island, when both of them awaken from their sleep.

The island, as an organic and natural living space, is opposed to St. Petersburg. It is on the island that the features that distinguish one general from another are manifested, these are not only psychological differences (one was confused; the other, on the contrary, calls for action), but also a professional plan (one of them “served as a calligraphy teacher at the school of military cantonists and, therefore, was smarter).

The island on which the generals ended up is very rich. This is essentially a piece of paradise: “trees grow, and all kinds of fruits are on the trees”, in the stream “fish … as if in a garden on the Fontanka, it teems and teems”, in the forest “grouse whistle, black grouse lek, hares run” . In this description, one can also hear echoes of the Old Testament description of Eden: “And the Lord God planted paradise in Eden in the east, and placed there the man whom He had created. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food… The Lord God formed from the earth all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air, and brought them to man…” (Gen. 2, 8–9, 19 ). The island-paradise is a special background that allows you to reveal the absolute unsuitability for the life of generals.

In the fairy tale, the author uses folklore elements, for example, the beginning, characteristic of a folk tale; reception of realistic fiction (newspaper Russkiye Vedomosti); the reception of the grotesque (a peasant wove snares from his hair, cooked soup in a handful, etc.); clericalism and the reception of allegory.

“Wild Landowner” (1869)

Theme: A satirical portrayal of the ruling classes. Using the techniques of witty fantasy S-Sch. shows that the work of a peasant is a source not only of material well-being, but also of noble culture. If in “The Tale …” the appearance of a peasant saves the generals from savagery and final brutality, then this tale shows what would have happened to them if the peasant had not appeared. The landowner went wild, covered with hair from head to toe, “walked more and more on all fours”, “lost even the ability to utter articulate sounds.”

Many fairy tales are devoted to exposing the behavior and psychology of the intelligentsia, intimidated by government persecution. The fairy tale “The Wise Scribbler” (1883), which was first published in the Geneva newspaper “Common Cause”, is devoted to this topic. In Russia, this tale was first published in the journal Otechestvennye Zapiski in 1884. In the image of a wise scribbler, the writer portrayed an intellectual-philistine who, submitting to the instinct of self-preservation, moves away from active social struggle into the narrow world of personal interests.

The significance of satirical tales is that in a small work the writer was able to combine lyrical, epic and satirical beginnings and extremely sharply express his point of view on the vices of the class of those in power and on the most important problem of the era – the problem of the fate of the Russian people.

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