How is Hadji Murad an excellent account of the differences between East and West?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This excellent novella is an account of the doomed mountain resistance leader, Hadji Murad, and his time in Russia associating with the Russian aristocracy. The difference in culture between the serious, dignified and committed Hadji Murad, and the rather superficial, appearance-obsessed Russian aristocracy shows a meeting of two different worlds which is classic in the way that very little understanding is shown to occur between them. One example of this is shown when Murad gives Vorontsov's stepson his dagger because he said it was a beautiful object. Explaining his act of generosity to Vorontsov's mother, he says that in his culture, "all that a friend liked must be given to the friend." Vorontsov and his wife react by having a conversation in French, which Murad could not understand, saying the following:

"It is an object of price," said Maria Vasilyevna.

"We must find an occasion to give him a present," said Vorontsov.

Here the Russians display their complete lack of understanding about how Murad views gifts and presents. To Murad, the act of giving is about the friendship and relationship between the giver and the person being given the present. To the Russian aristocracy, it is about receiving like for like, and having been given a present of great value, they must return a present of similar value. Other examples of cultural miscommunication abound in the text. Consider Murad's response to the (to him) scantily clad women at the ball. This is a text that presents the reader with two very different ways of looking at the world, and shows the tragedy that results when these two ways are not able to be reconciled to each other. 

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