Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Krasnoe koleso (The Red Wheel), the trilogy of which Oktiabr shestnadtsatogo is the second part or “knot,” is a highly thematic work. Solzhenitsyn underscores his themes by developing them in contrasting contexts and from contrasting viewpoints. A major theme is derived from the age-old folk wisdom that disorder in the family will inevitably bring about disorder in the state. Like Boris Pasternak, and his and Pasternak’s common predecessor, Leo Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn uses the capacious form of the Russian novel to bind history to the spontaneous acts of private individuals. In a sense, all three of these great Russian novelists have used the historical novel to produce “antihistory.” The academic and journalistic abstraction of history is shown to be meaningless: The organic process of events is best reflected by a complex art that is itself like a process of nature.

The process of revolution is very aptly symbolized by a wheel, which runs over people’s lives and, having reached a certain momentum, cannot be stopped. The wheel is red, not only because of the Bolshevik associations but also because it is on fire (the symbol of destruction, passion, and pain). The hesitant conspirator, Vorotyntsev, watches a patriotic fireworks display in the shape of a wheel with the national colors:The silver grew thin, then the blue, and both went out; but not the all-embracing red: It spun and spun on the rim in a solid mass. Red....

(The entire section is 412 words.)