Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*St. Petersburg

*St. Petersburg. Capital of Russia and center of its brutally despotic government. In the opening sections of the novel the main character, Razumov, finds himself in settings which illustrate the range and variety of Russian life during the early years of the twentieth century. These range from the slovenly stables and eating-houses of the poor, drunken peasantry to the elaborately decorated, gilded palaces of the nobility. The difference between the extreme misery and poverty of the lower classes and the arrogance and wealth of the aristocracy is displayed most clearly in the contrast between their dwellings and furnishings. When Razumov becomes involved with the revolutionary Haldin, he also becomes well acquainted with the offices of the Russian secret police, that organization totally dedicated to the repression and, if possible, elimination of all expressions of freedom and individual liberty. In a sense, the Russian locations in the novel present a sort of physical argument in favor of revolution.

Razumov’s dwelling

Razumov’s dwelling. Modest set of rooms in a Russian apartment building. There is an outer room with a couch, table, and similar furnishings and an inner room with a bed. As described by Joseph Conrad, the apartment is small, sparsely furnished but functional; it is a reasonably comfortable place for a student such as Razumov to live and work. In the novel, its major importance is...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Hay, Eloise Knapp. The Political Novels of Joseph Conrad. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Studies the variety of political thought and themes in Conrad’s work. The chapter on Under Western Eyes calls it Conrad’s “last great political novel.”

Rieselbach, Helen Funk. Conrad’s Rebels: The Psychology of Revolution in the Novels from “Nostromo” to “Victory.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985. Discusses the consequences of Razumov’s speech and silence. Calls the novel “Conrad’s most extensive treatment of the theme of betrayal—the psychological motivations behind it and its consequences.”

Schwarz, Daniel R. Conrad: “Almayer’s Folly” to “Under Western Eyes.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980. Contains an excellent chapter on Under Western Eyes, focusing on the novel’s “rejection of political commitment in favor of personal relationships and private commitments.”

Smith, David R., ed. Joseph Conrad’s “Under Western Eyes”: Beginnings, Revisions, Final Forms. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1991. Five essays by Conrad specialists trace the development of the novel from manuscript to finished work and cover a variety of topics related to the novel.

Watts, Cedric. A Preface to Conrad. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1993. A good starting point for Conrad scholarship, with general biographical and cultural background on Conrad.