Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

At first glance, Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin’s “The Outrage” may be seen as a humorous story, a parody, or even a farce in which thieves lecture lawyers about justice and legal matters. On a second reading, however, one finds much more to it than first meets the eye.

Kuprin wrote the story immediately after the bloody demonstrations in St. Petersburg, Russia, in January, 1905, known as “Bloody Sunday”—an event considered as the start of the first of three revolutions in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the demonstrations were not prompted by pogroms, they underscored the desire of the Russian people to protest openly against injustices perpetrated on them by the insensitive authorities. The phenomenon of pogroms against the Jewish people in Russia fits into the overall picture of an unjust society.

Kuprin was a liberally minded intellectual who, along with many others, often voiced his disagreement with government policies. The utterly unjust and inhumane treatment of the Jews as ready-made scapegoats for any misfortune, be it natural or otherwise, but mostly as a transparent excuse for the government’s own mistakes, caused many writers to voice similar protests. As an artist, Kuprin believed that the most effective way to voice his displeasure was a story that could be easily and unmistakably understood. At the same time, instead of attacking frontally, he opted for allegory as a more powerful artistic...

(The entire section is 432 words.)