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Rachel-K
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Conformity and idealism?

As the novel opens, Leo is a man who believes in his work, believes in "the party line" as it stands. Is he idealistic, or foolish, or brutally indifferent to what he is doing? Have you ever found yourself saying or doing something you would ordinarily question, in order to not "rock the boat?" Can you see how daily life might ever come to be as extreme as it is in this novel?
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Simple1
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Re: Conformity and idealism?

After reading the first few chapters I believe that Leo is both idealistic and somewhat indifferent. Like many things that we are taught to believe from something as simple as family rituals or values to rules and regulations, over time we begin to do those things often without thinking about them. There is a certain conformity that exists and we continue to foster those things. For Leo, he allegiance has always been to his country. The belief that his actions and the actions of the MGB are for 'The Greater Good' has become a part of his personal philosophy. I believe it is very easy to unconsciously commit to a ritual or keep quite about things or situations to maintain 'peace' or as our moderator suggests to not 'rock the boat'.
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TRS_Old
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Re: Conformity and idealism?



Simple1 wrote:
After reading the first few chapters I believe that Leo is both idealistic and somewhat indifferent. Like many things that we are taught to believe from something as simple as family rituals or values to rules and regulations, over time we begin to do those things often without thinking about them. There is a certain conformity that exists and we continue to foster those things. For Leo, he allegiance has always been to his country. The belief that his actions and the actions of the MGB are for 'The Greater Good' has become a part of his personal philosophy. I believe it is very easy to unconsciously commit to a ritual or keep quite about things or situations to maintain 'peace' or as our moderator suggests to not 'rock the boat'.





I don't think I've read a book at the same time as engaging the author in a conversation about it. It must be kind of like watching a movie at the same time as flipping to the director's commentary on a DVD. I've become sort of addicted to those, by the way.

In answer to your post, I think you're exactly right... to be crude, Leo = idealism + time. There is nothing cynical about him. He genuinely believes in the dream. He is a believer. He's building a better society, etc. Over time, the reality is that he's arresting innocent people, lots of them. The dream becomes more remote, more abstract, harder to sustain.

I don't think it's about conformity with Leo though. He doesn't worry about fitting in. His greatest fear is having nothing to believe in. For Leo, it doesn't have to be a popular ideology. In the novel, he ceases to believe in the regime and starts to believe in Raisa, he swaps love of the State, for loving her. He doesn't see it as a decision to no longer conform, he sees it as a straight swap - one love for another, one passion for another. The fact that the first is an act of conformity, the second an act of rebellion, is incidental to him.


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IBIS
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Re: Conformity and idealism?

Leo's ultimate need to believe passionately in something, whether its to love for State, or to love his wife.. this heightened state of feeling is one facet of Leo's personality that I found so intriguing... On page 184, the author does a fine job clearly explaining Leo's emotional mindset...

"Out of the rubble of his moral certainties one fact remained. He'd laid down his life for Raisa only to try and kill her. That was insanity. At this rate he'd have nothing, not even the woman he'd married..."

I recognized this national tendency... the Russian soul... I had previously read about it... Fydor Dostoyevski in Crime and Punishment... Boris Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago...a characteristic trait with which Russians identify themselves.... to feel deeply, passionately, irresolutely... even in the face of oppression... especially under duress.

It clearly shaped the character of Leo Demidov. Whether its a "national" trait, or whether its a personal one forged by Leo's childhood history... remains to be seen.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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TRS_Old
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Re: Conformity and idealism?



IBIS wrote:
Leo's ultimate need to believe passionately in something, whether its to love for State, or to love his wife.. this heightened state of feeling is one facet of Leo's personality that I found so intriguing... On page 184, the author does a fine job clearly explaining Leo's emotional mindset...

"Out of the rubble of his moral certainties one fact remained. He'd laid down his life for Raisa only to try and kill her. That was insanity. At this rate he'd have nothing, not even the woman he'd married..."

I recognized this national tendency... the Russian soul... I had previously read about it... Fydor Dostoyevski in Crime and Punishment... Boris Pasternak in Doctor Zhivago...a characteristic trait with which Russians identify themselves.... to feel deeply, passionately, irresolutely... even in the face of oppression... especially under duress.

It clearly shaped the character of Leo Demidov. Whether its a "national" trait, or whether its a personal one forged by Leo's childhood history... remains to be seen.

IBIS




I find the concept of "national" traits very difficult to talk about.... sometimes they have an element of truth but even so they kind of make me slightly uneasy as an idea.

Certainly when the Germans were fighting the Russians in WWII they frequently pointed out that Russian soldiers were able to tolerate extreme conditions to a degree they'd never experienced before.


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IBIS
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Re: Conformity and idealism?

[ Edited ]
I agree totally with you that "national" traits, as a generality, are very uncomfortable ideas... I share your discomfort.

The reason I mentioned it is because Leo's characterization reminded me so much of the characters of the earlier Russian novelists I mentioned...

Authors sometimes are amazed by the associations that their readers bring to the table... some are much more welcome than others.

Leo is his own very unique character... you've succeeded marvelously in creating a fresh, totally believable man whose transformation was a wonder to witness.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 06-06-2008 11:34 AM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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TRS_Old
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Re: Conformity and idealism?



IBIS wrote:
I agree totally with you that "national" traits, as a generality, are very uncomfortable ideas... I share your discomfort.

The reason I mentioned it is because Leo's characterization reminded me so much of the characters of the earlier Russian novelists I mentioned...

Authors sometimes are amazed by the associations that their readers bring to the table... some are much more welcome than others.

Leo is his own very unique character... you've succeeded marvelously in creating a fresh, totally believable man whose transformation was a wonder to witness.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 06-06-2008 11:34 AM




I have read a lot of Russian fiction so it's possible / inevitable that they seeped in.

I was conscious of Leo being quite like a character from a Conrad novel, which is to say an idealist who has been compromised, a dreamer whose dream has turned sour. I don't think Leo is as melancholic as some of the characters in Conrad. But melancholy is certainly creeping up on him at the beginning of the novel.


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