The Palette of Dostoevskij’s Works and Zamjatin’s We

Vera Aginsky, Iowa State University

In this paper I am going to compare the use of colors and their meanings in some works of Dostoevskij and in We by Zamjatin. Some critics (N. Čirkov, L. Grossman) consider that the palette of Dostoevskij is not rich, that he uses mostly gray, dark gray, brown and black colors. The analysis of Dostoevskij’s works shows that his palette is not as dark and monotonous as it is perceived by some of the critics.

Colors in Russian as well as in world culture are assigned certain functions and meanings. Dostoevskij as a masterful artist goes far beyond them, thus contributing greatly to the characteristics of his characters and the circumstances.

Zamjatin makes a very expressive use of colors in his novel We, which was given tribute to by many critics of Zamjatin’s works (A. Shane, C. Collins, S. Hoisington and others). As well as Dostoevskij’s, his colors never have absolute meanings, thus making the descriptions of the situations and characters more colorful and meaningful. In the paper I’ll follow the use of the pink (rozovyj), light blue (goluboj) and yellow colors mainly in Dostoevskij’s Notes from the Underground and Brothers Karamazov and Zamjatin’s We and compare their meanings in the works of these two writers. Several references of the novel We to the works of Dostoevskij were remarked by the critics (Collins, Gregg). The comparison of their use of colors done in this paper will make another parallel between the creative work of Dostoevskij and Zamjatin, who had similar approaches to the coloring effects being subject to the same psycho-aesthetic forces.