|英文摘要|| Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) more than any other Russian writer served to unite the Russian people by giving them an inclusive vision of themselves that drew upon all levels of society—from Tsar as depicted in Boris Godunov (1825) and Empress (The Captain’s Daughter, 1836) to a peasant nanny (Eugene Onegin, 1823-31), simple government functionary (“The Stationmaster” 1830) and Cossack rebel Stenka Razin (1630-1671) (various lyric poems) whom Pushkin referred to as the most poetic figure in Russian culture.|
Pushkin was fascinated by another Cossack insurrectionist, Emelyan Pugachev (1742-1771), devoting to him both a historical study (A History of Pugachev, 1835) and the novel The Captain’s Daughter (1836) written in the first-person narrative form of a memoir by the nobleman and military officer, Petr Grinev. Though remaining faithful to the historical record, Pushkin chose to be guided by artistic considerations in his portrayal of Pugachev. Ever true to the classical qualities of restraint and conciseness in his writing, Pushkin makes full use of specific details in his narrative, none more so than the “gift” of the hare-skin coat presented by the narrator as an impulsive expression of gratitude to his “guide”/ rescuer, a Cossack wanderer of the steppe who found him shelter from a raging blizzard. In presenting his gift to a leader and supporter of the peasant class, the narrator/nobleman establishes a lasting bond and the spirit of reciprocity that crosses class boundaries. When Pugachev reappears as the “Tsar” himself, the self-proclaimed leader of the Russian people in a war against government and landowners, their bond is both liberating and threatening, bound up with issues of divided allegiance, loyalty, crossing boundaries, forgiveness and magnanimity.
The present study draws upon two essays devoted to the characterization and significance of gift-giving to examine the theme of giving in Pushkin’s novel and to explore the nature and motives behind the gift and the givers. Russell Belk (“The Perfect Gift”, 1996) provides a definition of the characteristics of the perfect gift: agapic love as an expression and celebration of love for the other; giving as an act that is spontaneous, affective and celebratory rather than premeditated and calculated to obtain certain ends. Belk takes into account both the intention and the intrinsic value of the gift itself in highlighting the gift-object—sealing a friendship.
The insights of Marcel Mauss’s ground-breaking study on the gift and gift-giving in primitive societies (Essai sur le don, 1923-24) provide focus for an analysis in the novel of the unexpected repercussions of the act of giving, the spirit of reciprocity and the ethics of mutual respect embodied in the gift in the context of historical turmoil. Mauss viewed generosity as the basis of a new ethics founded on mutual respect, one that would foster principles of honor, disinterest and solidarity and create a spirit of reciprocity among givers and recipients of gifts. Such a spirit is essential to ensuring the happiness of individuals and communities. He also coined the expression “noble expenditure” referring to the joy of giving in public, of hospitality, and generosity bestowed and received at public and private feasts. More specifically, he was fascinated by the ‘force” in the thing given that lends itself to reciprocity, a circularity of giving that forms strong bonds of mutual affection and understanding and a solidarity to community, people and nation.
A second, interrelated theme of forgiveness, as embodied by the many father figures presented in the novel is also explored. Forgiveness, as the very word suggests, is fostered by the spirit of giving, and serves as a magnanimous response to various acts of insubordination, disobedience and apparent disloyalty in the highly stratified and patriarchal Russia of the 18th century at a time of bitter and often unforgiving internecine strife.