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Application of Symbolism in The Petty Demon by Fyodor Sologub

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Throughout the history, many authors used symbols to represent certain ideas or qualities. And even today symbolism remains one of the main parts and techniques of novelists. Fyodor Sologub is considered to be of the main representatives of this “mystical” artistic movement called Russian symbolism. It is not accidental, that this artistic movement was first born from the Russian poetry, because compared to audiences from the world, in Russian poetry it was the readers’ job to understand and find the hidden “keystones” in the novel. Indeed, Sologub was the master of plotting his line around the key symbols and making every reader find some kind of Sherlock Holmes in himself. In this essay I want to show one of the examples of Sologub’s master usage of symbols using his novel The Petty Demon.

Sologub uses different representations of the smoke and dust as a symbol in his novel The Petty Demon. Throughout the novel readers can identify the different forms of smoke and Sologub’s usage of it in many images of the novel (“nedotykomka” also the main symbol of the novel, Vershina, Sasha Pylnikov), helping readers to build the bigger picture and the hidden motives behind those characters. One of the early examples of the symbolism of smoke is associated with the representation of Vershina, the “black witch”, who constantly smokes and hangs around a curtain of smoke. This character of The Petty Demon is dual: first of all, it contains the symbolism of death, as well as the concept of reality. The representation of smoke underlines the illusoriness, the “appearance” of the material world, and one of its many false shells.

The Vershina’s garden is a place where characters of the novel mostly talk about the possibilities of marriage and where conversations about the interrelations of opposite sexes are almost devoid of erotic connotations. In this respect, Vershina’s garden is opposed to the house of the Rutilov sisters, the “heathens” in understanding love. It has already been noted in the literature that Vershina is a demonic character and that the “smoke”, constantly surrounding her, has a symbolic meaning: smoke turns into fire, destroying the seeming world of illusory provincial reality. Going further Sologub makes yet another use of symbols to show the connection between main characters: of the most complex and contradictory images-symbols on the pages of The Petty Demon is the image of “nedotykomka”. The image of “nedotykomka” may cause confusion, surprise, and controversy among many readers of Sologub’s work. And it is described as follows: “In clouds of dust, the gray “nedotykomka” sometimes flashed in the wind. It was dirty and dusty. ” Note again: clouds of dust, in the wind, gray “nedotykomka”, dirty and dusty. So we can clearly see, how Sologub identifies the image of “nedotykomka” with the symbol of dust. This is important because “nedotykomka” in the Sologub’s novel is the main symbol of the beginning of everything bad. This is Sologub’s invented character that appears when the hero, goes crazy throughout the novel more and more and ends up killing a friend. And the first sign of Peredonov going crazy is the appearance of this “nedotykomka”. It is interesting how Sologub after establishing the connection between “x” and “y” uses “y” to connect “x” and “z”.

Though the usage of symbols Sologub helps us to build the plot and identify the hidden motives, even between the opposing, at first glance, characters “nedotykomka” and Sasha Pylnikov, also symbols in this novel, making them appear in the same chapter and through their characteristics. Let’s take a look at how Sasha Pylynikov is described. Well, starting with his last name, it is not for nothing that Sasha is provided with such a meaningful last name – Pylnikov from the Russian word “пыль” which means dust. We already see that clouds of dust – this is what accompanies this “nedotykomka”, and the Sasha’s last name of Pylnikov have the same meaning which connects these figures. Going further “dim golden sparks, then bloody, fiery” – this is how “nedotykomka” is described, and in this very chapter Sasha is portrayed as follows: “Sasha began to shine, he stood all red. ” We see that the angles that hide the most terrible character of this novel, “nedotykomka”, and characteristics that are associated with the opposing it character, Sasha, are also similar. So now that we have the connection between “x” and “y” Sologub goes for “z”. Showing us that “nedotykomka” is some kind of representation of Peredonov. In fact, we should note that Peredonov himself experiences not quite pure interest in Sasha, he thinks that the boy is a disguised girl all the time.

We can assume from the fact how disgusted becomes Peredonov from the first signs of “nedotykomka” and the how he thinks about the boy Sasha that “nedotykomka” is a representation of Sasha in Peredonov’s eyes. It appears that we have the evidence for the fact that “nedotykomka”, on the one hand, and on the other hand Sasha Pylnikov are the two sides of one Evil. Further, the new plot line also starts from the dust: the symbol of the beginning is the storyline associated with the images of Sasha Pylnikova and Lyudmila Rutilova.

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Application Of Symbolism In The Petty Demon By Fyodor Sologub. (2020, April 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 25, 2023, from
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