Prison Uniforms in A. P. Chekhov’s “Fictional Wardrobe”: Sakhalin Island

Elena Sozina

Abstract


The author regards A. P. Chekhov’s Sakhalin Island through the lens of contemporary post-colonial criticism. She focuses on the colonisation of the island, which Chekhov analysed from a variety of angles (the economic development of Sakhalin and its colonisation by means of prisoner labour). Chekhov unites a number of points of view in the text, but it is also important that Chekhov himself quite often employs the language of a supporter of the imperial idea, although his account testifies to the failure of colonisation and the inability to modernise the Russian legal system. According to Chekhov, this resulted from the problems inherent in the reforms and the fact that serfdom had not been entirely wiped out. Chekhov stops using the indirect narration he had previously employed and directly expresses his opinion on the things he witnesses, quite often omitting his own evaluations. The author emphasises the continuity between the literary tradition of the 1860s and 1870s (G. Uspensky, N. Pomyalovsky, F. Reshetnikov, etc.) and Chekhov’s works. Sakhalin Island is part of a super textual entity, since it should be read alongside Chekhov’s letters on the continuation of his journey around Southeast Asia, which give a wider perspective of the colonisation of the island. Chekhov changed his manner of narration a number of times and reconsidered his approach: the text reflects those changes. Apparently, this was connected with Chekhov’s ambiguous impression of his journey to Sakhalin, with what he saw on the island, and how he perceived what was going on there and his own role. It is impossible to describe or interpret the colonisation of the island of Sakhalin in an unambiguous way, and it was one of the writer’s tasks to learn about its results.


Keywords


19th-century Russian literature; Sakhalin Island; colonisation; narrative; multi-genre and super textual entity; author’s position.

References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.4.191

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