Under Western Eyes: by Joseph Conrad - Summary & Analysis

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Summary

      Under Western Eyes, novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1911. The narrator is an elderly English teacher of languages. He tells the story of Razumov, using the young Russian's diary for events in St. Petersbury and his personal Knowledge of Razumov once he has moved to Geneva and its community of Russian exiles.

      Razumov's quiet student life in Russia is broken up by the arrival in his flat of Victor Haldin, a revolutionary idealist who has just assassinated a minister of state. Although Razumov agrees to shelter him, his loyalties swing towards the Tsarist state. He betrays Haldin to the police; only to find that the autocracy now regards him as a suspect. His isolation intensifies into moral solitude when he is dispatched to Geneva as a secret agent.

      Razumov has the reputation of a hero among his fellow exiles: Haldin had written to his mother and young sister, Natalia, about his fellow student. Natalia's innocent devotion to the man she thinks tried to help her brother, makes Razumov's guilt the harder to bear. He is repelled, further, by the cynical idealism of the revolutionaries, epitomized in the grotesque figure of Peter Ivanovitch. When he attempts to break free from his life of deceit, confessing both to Natalia (whom he loves) and to the revolutionaries, he brings ghastly retribution on himself. They burst his eardrums, and he is struck down and crippled by a tram he cannot hear.

Analysis

      The story of Under Western Eyes is related to an English professor at Geneva. He has intimate knowledge of the Russian community. The story is concerned with the imaginative narrator. It deals with the western people's difficulty in comprehending the Russian temperament.

      Razumov, the conspirator, who becomes an informer, is one of the well-known characters among the novel. He is not well-explained, much of his motives are not elaborately discussed, thus Conrad, in parts, gains his effect because he could not understand his character completely.

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