Thursday, January 21, 2010

Beauty as Reality

(This is just my comment from the thread two down, but it didn't really go with the thread, and it's my thoughts on the reading, so I'm recycling it as a post.)

What struck me as I read was the descriptions of the beauty of the fields and the paths and the lake. That beauty was real -- it existed separately from the cruelty and ignorance of the travelers and the suffering of Vasily. I think that his glimpses of objective beauty gave Vasily what little strength he had to resist the encroaching horror of the trip.

It made me think of the bit in The Two Towers where Frodo and Sam are traveling through a blighted landscape toward Mordor, and they see, for a moment, a glimpse of the stars through a tear in the black clouds. That reminder of a beauty and goodness that exists outside the cruelty and ugliness that surrounded them gave them strength and reminded them of their purpose. As I read I thought of the victims of Communism, perhaps shut away for years in prisons, perhaps tortured relentlessly, who might have taken strength from a memory of real beauty that cannot be blotted out by the consuming hardness of their physical surroundings.

I don't think that this is a huge theme of the story, but as Nabokov makes specific reference more than once to these mysterious visions of beauty, I found that they were the part of the story that remained with me.

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