Wednesday 07th of June 2023


La ‘giustizia poetica’ di Dmitrij Grigorovič ne Il ragazzo di guttaperca

Anna Belozorovich, Università di Roma La Sapienza pdf_icon_30x30


Abstract: [‘Poetic justice’ in Dmitry Grigorovich’s Gutta-percha Boy] This article analyzes Dmitry Grigorovich’s short novel Gutta-percha Boy (1883) with regard to its portraiture of childhood and issues of justice. The literary realism to which this novel is ascribed had developed in Russia with a special attention to specific social issues of the time and meant, in Grigorovich’s case, a particular method of work, based on an idea of ‘honesty’ that is testified to in his Memoirs, published for the first time in 1893. While several authors of the period had made children protagonists in their work, and, especially towards the end of the 19th century had concentrated on deprived childhoods, in Gutta-percha Boy, both the privileged and the poor seem to be object of author’s empathy and respect. Rather than merely denouncing the injustices of a lower-class childhood, Grigorovich seems to anticipate the modern concept of the Right to a Childhood that involves all children. Petya, the protagonist, is not only an exploited orphan; his social exclusion is also partially determined by the ethnic minority his mother belonged to. Many of the events that lead to his tragic death are connected to different aspects of such intersectionality. Although the legal system is rarely mentioned in the novel, the events are to be seen against the wider background of the justice system of late 19th century Russia. The analysis shows that, on the one hand, Petya’s destiny is not ‘fatally’ tragic but is the result of specific failures in the system and of the wrongdoings of the adults that took care of him, and, on the other, that children’s rights may have been a particular area in which Russian literature interacted with the justice system of the time. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ and the works of scholars who have explored the power of empathy and imagination that literary realism uses to interact with society may thus suggest a key for understanding this mechanism in Grigorovich’s novel.


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