Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Just as Rajka is the primary character of the novel, so her avarice is its primary theme. Greed is one of the basic elements of human character, and as such it is a timeless subject. Although milder variations can be found in many other works, avarice is the exclusive focus of only a few works of literature. Andri approaches his theme from a purely psychological angle, as a character trait of only one person and not of a social class, race, or nationality. Indeed, while she is in many ways a typical miser, Rajka is not an easily recognizable cliche, as is Moliere’s miser or William Shakespeare’s Shylock. Hers is an individual aberration and, as such, is all the more convincing. It is also interesting that she is the only woman among the group of prototypical misers. Finally, Rajka has a few more redeeming qualities than do other archetypal misers; thus she is developed more fully as an individual. The use of a novel for this purpose allows Andri more room for a direct psychological illumination.

This is not to say that there are no other themes or subthemes in the novel. There is, for example, the concern with the father-daughter relationship, with all the psychological implications worthy of Freudian analysis; also of interest is the novel’s depiction of social conditions in the Balkans in the first third of the twentieth century, especially the relationship between business partners and the way in which business was conducted at this time and place. Yet these subthemes are left in an embryonic stage, confirming the fact that the author’s primary intention was to create an unforgettable character, subjecting everything else to that intent. As a result, the reader sees a somewhat single-minded work, with the satisfying compensation of having a fully developed and richly layered character study.