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«Yiğit SÜMBÜL* Abstract: The aim of this article is to display the problem of identity and the search for self-consciousness, in Hegelian terms, ...»

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Abstract: The aim of this article is to display the problem of identity and the

search for self-consciousness, in Hegelian terms, intensively experienced by Razumov in Under Western Eyes by the famous Polish-born English novelist Joseph Conrad. In the novel, written in the light of Conrad‟s own experiences in the past, the process of identity acquisition is examined in terms of Hegel‟s theories of self-consciousness, dialectics and master-slave relationship. This process begins with Razumov Sidorovitch‟s, an ordinary, reserved and passive university student in autocratic Russia, opening up to the external world and the occurrence of changes in his personality.

Razumov‟s relationships first with his friend Victor Haldin, later with the government officers and lastly with the revolutionary circle and Victor‟s family members in Geneva shape his identity and lead him to self-consciousness. The constant struggle between two opposite ideas or groups generates a dialectical process of development in the society, especially in the personality of Razumov.

Key Words: Razumov, identity, personality, self-consciousness, dialectic, autocracy, revolution.

Conrad’ın Under Western Eyes (Batılı Gözler Altında) Adlı Eserindeki Razumov Karakterinde Görülen Kimlik Problemi, Özbilinç Arayışı ve Hegel Felsefesinin Yansımaları Özet:Bu yazının amacı ünlü Polonya asıllı İngiliz yazar Joseph Conrad‟ın Under Western Eyes (Batılı Gözler Altında) adlı romanındaki başkarakteri Razumov‟un yoğun olarak yaşadığı kimlik problemi ve ünlü Alman filozof Hegel‟in deyimiyle özbilinç arayışını gözler önüne sermektir. Conrad‟ın kendi * Erciyes Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi İngiliz Dili ve Edebiyatı Bölümü, Kayseri.

yigitsumbul@erciyes.edu.tr CÜ Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, Haziran 2013, Cilt: 37, Sayı: 1, Yigit SÜMBÜL

-128geçmişindeki tecrübelerinden etkilenerek yazmış olduğu bu romanda, Rus otokratik hükümeti döneminde sıradan, içine kapanık ve pasif bir üniversite öğrencisi olan Razumov Sidorovitch‟in dış dünyaya açılması ile başlayan kimlik edinme süreci, bu sürecin getirdiği kişilik değişiklikleri Hegel‟in özbilinç, diyalektik ve efendi-köle ilişkisi bağlamlarında değerlendirilebilir.

Razumov‟un önce arkadaşı Victor Haldin, daha sonra hükümet yetkilileri, son olarak da Cenevre‟de bulunan devrimci kesim yandaşları ve Victor‟un ailesi ile girdiği ikili ilişkiler onun kimliğinin şekillenmesi ve özbilince ulaşmasını sağlamıştır. Birbirine zıt görüşler ya da kişilerin sürekli olarak çatışması toplumda, özellikle de Razumov‟un kişiliğinde diyalektik bir gelişme süreci meydana getirmektedir.

Anahtar Sözcükler: Razumov, kimlik, kişilik, özbilinç, diyalektik, otokrasi, devrim.

The Problem of Identity, the Search for the Self-Consciousness and the Reflections of Hegelian Philosophy on Razumov in Conrad’s Under Western Eyes Born in Russian-occupied Ukraine to Polish parents in 1857, Joseph Conrad lived an active life swaying from side to side and travelled a lot until he settled down and began writing in English in the last decade of the 19th century after long years of labour as a seaman. His collection of experiences during his voyages all around the world led to the production of his major novels and stories such as Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Nostromo and Typhoon, and his prolific career as a writer placed him among the prominent figures of Modernist English literature. Characteristically, an air of anti-heroism, the search for the individual moral fulfilment and the personal struggle of the characters with the macrocosm are the dominant themes and shaping motives in Conrad‟s literary career.

Throughout his writing career, Conrad based his major writings largely on his personal experiences and observations he made in the voyages at sea all around the world, but Conrad never broke his connection with his past and attachment to his Polish origin due to the troublesome past years under the despotic Russian regime and political activities or beliefs of his father and uncle, torn between revolutionary and conservative ideals. Obviously, Conrad still felt the responsibility in his heart to write something critical of his past and the Russian regime; and towards the end of his writing career, he came up with his famous novel, Under Western Eyes, to pay his debt to his origin. The necessity or rather the obligation of such a production was expressed by Conrad

in one of his letters to J.B. Pinker in 1908:

The Problem of İdentity the Search for the Self-Consciousness and the Reflections… -129Here is given the very essence of things Russian. Not the mere outward manners and customs but the Russian feeling and thought. You may safely say that. And, I think, the story is effective. It is also characteristic of the present time. Nothing of the sort had been done in English. The subject has long haunted me. Now it must come out (Conrad, 1990:14).

Thus, in one of his latest novels, Conrad touches upon the autocratic regime in Russia, with a closer look at St. Petersburg society, and the revolutionary movement against this regime with the eyes of an English citizen, himself, like the English narrator of the story. Under Western Eyes tells the story of Kirylo Razumov Sidorovitch, a philosophy student at St. Petersburg University, who lives in total isolation and detachment from both the social and political circles of the city with no parents alive to shape his identity and no ambitions than winning “the silver medal” in a writing contest (Conrad, 2008:11). However, the plain life of Razumov is challenged by the appearance of Victor Haldin, one of his friends from the university and a revolutionary activist who has just assassinated the minister-president of the autocratic government in a bomb attack. Haldin asks for some help from Razumov whom he defines as “a man of few words” with a “generosity of... sentiments”, thus trustable (Conrad, 2008:12). After a conflict in his mind between moral responsibilities as a Russian citizen and fidelity for his friend, Razumov decides to turn Haldin in and gets him arrested. After Haldin‟s execution as a warning to the other revolutionary people, Razumov gets engaged with the government officials who send him to Geneva as a spy on the affairs of the revolutionary circle there.

Razumov‟s meeting with Haldin‟s sister and mother in Geneva and his gradual questioning of his own values and principles lead him to the reassessment of his identity.

Razumov‟s constant struggle between opposing forces, like self and society or revolution and autocracy, leaves his identity and selfconsciousness in question. In such a “world of mutually exclusive binaries, of either-or choices that allow for no third way, that insist that he take sides”, Razumov moves towards a catastrophic end, but fully self-conscious eventually (Hawthorne, 2008). The struggle for defining his own identity and placing himself under the title of an ideal manifests itself in terms of a battle with the others‟ identities in the case of Razumov. In Hegelian terms, identity must bear the opposites or the contradictions in itself to be definable and to progress. In his Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel elaborates on the formation process of the self-consciousness and identity as the coming together of two opposite beings to form a more unified and definable outcome. Human CÜ Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, Haziran 2013, Cilt: 37, Sayı: 1, Yigit SÜMBÜL

-130beings, in order to define themselves as an independent „I‟, need the presence of a non-I which they have to enter in as a dependent consciousness and they have to get their difference from. In Hegel‟s

own words:

Consciousness does not stand for a particular excluding self, nor does the substance mean for it an existence shut out from it, with which it would have to establish its identity only through estranging itself, and yet at the same time have to produce that estrangement. But that mind, whose self is absolutely insular, absolutely discrete, finds its content over against itself in the form of a reality that is just as impenetrable as itself, and the world here gets the characteristic of being something external, negative to self-consciousness (1910:488).

In Razumov‟s case, the problem of defining his self-consciousness and identity lies in the centre of all his actions. From the very beginning of the novel to the end, Razumov is always seen in a struggle between two poles looking for a way out, searching for his own self in his interactions with the others like Victor Haldin, the government officers or Natalia Haldin. Thus, in this paper, it will be argued that Razumov‟s quest for the self-knowledge and consciousness can be traced in his shuttling between contradictory circles and the structure of the whole novel can be analysed in terms of dialectical method.

At this point, it seems necessary to take a more detailed view of Hegel‟s description of the creation of self-consciousness. According to him, the subject can only obtain its actual reality in a paradoxical process of negation of contradictions. The subject needs to come out of itself and get into the consciousness of another subject in order to trace the similarities and differences the latter has and thus to define itself.

The desire for the establishment of an independent self-consciousness indicates the necessity of a dependence on the recognition of the other self-consciousness for full self-recognition. “The two consciousnesses know they need the other‟s desire and recognition but believe that they can forgo or force it through the exclusion, marginalization or subjugation of the other” (Douzinas, 2002:384). Such a struggle between two consciousnesses is resembled to the relationship between a master and a slave by Hegel and their interdependence on each other functions according to the principle of dominance. The presence of two opposites is always required for Hegel for the creation of a unified third.

In the light of this theory, Razumov‟s character and his environment can be analyzed more clearly. In the very beginning of the novel, Razumov appears only as a neutral character whose mere instinct in life The Problem of İdentity the Search for the Self-Consciousness and the Reflections… -131is the protection of his presence with no further struggle to shoulder.

Very much like the slave figure in Hegel‟s dialectics, he accepts the present situation with all the burdens and impositions from the outside with no questioning in order to protect its being from possible threats.

Such a dependent consciousness is always involuntarily and easily dispersed like Razumov by the external forces.

The main struggle that shapes the whole structure of the novel is the political turmoil in Russia during the clash between the autocratic rule and the revolutionary movement. The progress in the society, whether for better or worse, stems from the reciprocal movements by these two opposing wings and this chaotic atmosphere leads to the first spark of change in Razumov‟s identity. His character “easily swayed by argument and authority” undergoes a change with the unexpected appearance of Victor Haldin in his apartment and his middle-of-theroad existence is disturbed for the first time (Conrad, 2008:4). The moment of dilemma between betrayal and help forces Razumov into “irreversible political and moral choice” (Hawthorne, 2008). His instability of mind in this business can easily be observed in that he first decides to help him and goes to find Ziemianitch, the drunken revolutionary activist, but after an unsatisfactory meeting with the old man, he suddenly changes his mind and puts his friend at risk by sharing the news with Prince K. With this betrayal, Razumov begins to move from the midway to the margins of ideologically operative minds.

With the death of Haldin, an intense feeling of guilty-conscience begins to dominate Razumov‟s consciousness and the road to the fulfilment of self-definition seems to be blocked, because according to Hegel the process of recognition and identification ends in the event that one of the consciousnesses vanishes. “Once the conscious decision to betray takes place, all action in the novel is subordinated to the main condition...the punishing power of conscience and its effects on its victim.” (Panichas, 1998:360) The dialectical process of contradictions between the two political groups leads to the death of Haldin and activation of Razumov‟s consciousness through his conscience, thus to progression.

In Hegel‟s dialectics, the spirit represents the thesis, and when this spirit wants to manifest itself in nature, it comes across with material anti-thesis leading to a completeness of identity. In other words, the


spirit demonstrates itself in the concrete nature in order to be defined and recognized. The final product coming out of this contradiction is the self-sufficient and self-knowledgeable

consciousness as Hegel mentions in his Phenomenology:

CÜ Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, Haziran 2013, Cilt: 37, Sayı: 1, Yigit SÜMBÜL

-132The substance appears in the shape of a universal inner nature and purpose standing in contrast to itself qua particularised reality. The middle or mediating term, infinite in character, is self-consciousness, which, being implicitly the unity of itself and that substance, becomes so, now, explicitly, unites the universal inner nature and its particular realisation, raises the latter to the former and becomes ethical action: and, on the other hand, brings the former down to the latter and carries out the purpose, the substance presented merely in thought. In this way it brings to light the unity of its self and the substance, and produces this unity in the form of a "work" done, and thus as actual concrete fact (1910:436).

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