fairy story, a moral fable, a farce…? If
a farce entertains through exaggerated (and improbable)
situations, then the novel probably should not be called a farce; nor
is it pure satire, where shortcomings are pinpointed and ridiculed
with the purpose of shaming specific people and/or groups into
improvement. Although Oblomov
mixture of a fable, a fairy story and a farce, in essence it is a very real observation of the process of change and
how change collects
both victims and victors.
well written and, in spite of its 586 pages, is easy to read. On
it is about a man – Oblomov, a
– who does not want to do anything else but sleep. Backward
glimpses give the reader some idea of why Oblomov, in his early
the beginning of the book,
is quite content to remain tucked
up in his bed for the better part of the day. He is lazy, but he also
cannot see any reason for doing anything: he is not interested in
social activities; he is not interested in reading; he is not
travelling. He has a friend Stolz, who is the complete opposite and
who does all in his power to rouse Oblomov from his inactive and
could well argue that Oblomov is a depressive, and yet he seems happy
doing what he is doing, that is to say, nothing.
one chooses to regard it as a satire of the Russian ruling class,
then Oblomov probably represents the laziness of people used to
having everything done for them – people without any particular
ambition beyond holding on to the status quo. They are unable to make
active, important decisions, because there has always been someone to
make such decisions for them, but as society changes it becomes
obvious that they are no longer needed: they are superfluous. Life
around them is waking up; there are new ideas and new opportunities.
The ordinary person is beginning to see the possibility of a very
different kind of life for himself, and there is a very big danger
that the aristocracy will be left behind.
are two women in the novel, Olga and Agafya: Olga symbolizes the
possible, exciting – yet somewhat daunting – future, while Agafya
embodies the security of the past. Oblomov wants to be able to
embrace everything that Olga is promising him, but he is too securely
tied to the past. He has never learnt how to take a step into the
unknown, and now when he needs to he is hesitant and indecisive.
servant, Zahar, epitomizes the peasant class. In the same way that
Oblomov has spent his life being waited upon, Zahar has spent his
life doing the waiting (not always without complaint). In spite of
the indications of change, neither of them is prepared to take such a
step - not even Agafya is able to embrace change - however, with her
woman's intuition, she knows that change will happen and that it will
be a reality if not for her generation then for the generations that
come after her.
the book is read – as a satire, a fairy tale or simply as a novel
about a man who did not want to do anything – it gives many
interesting glimpses of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. A small
gem that provokes thought, sadness and, occasionally, humour.