The Suffering Hero in Leonid Andreyev’s Novel The Yoke of War: From the Personal to the Universal
This article analyses Leonid Andreyev´s novel The Yoke of War. The authors of the study point out the gradual transition from “objective” diary records to highly subjective records that show an ambivalent attitude towards the war as a cause for damaging changes on the home front. The main character, whose thoughts are rational at the beginning, experiences a lot of personal and social catastrophes generated directly or indirectly by the war. Gradually, he comes to the conclusion that neither he as an individual (as a “cell”) nor other people of his type have any impact on the course of history; he sees that the war is killing both enemies and “our people”. Contradictory changes in the character’s inner world show his doubts about patriotism and the righteousness of the “people”, while his belief that war only benefits a small group of greedy entrepreneurs grows. Feeling that the war cannot have a happy ending, the main character is no longer able to act rationally. He accepts all losses – personal and social – and comes to a purely emotional feeling about the universal unfairness of war. The only remaining possibility is to help wounded soldiers. Andreyev depicts a broad range of issues that thematically concern the experience and destiny of an individual, his inner transformation, the fate of his family members, and the destiny of both real and abstract society. The novel touches upon certain philosophical issues concerning such notions as patriotism, Russia’s fate, the sense of belonging to the masses, and being an individual. In this way, the novel can be regarded as a philosophical and panhuman view of World War I. Following the traditions of classical Russian literature to a considerable extent, Andreyev is concerned with questions based not on narrow class or national foundations but on panhuman ones.
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