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kira argounova's unexplained actions

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i just began reading we the living for the 2nd time, and i have i few  queries

 

1. (pg 36, 75th anniversary edition)

"when galina petrovna took her children to see a sad play depicting the sorrow of the serfs that czar Alexander had magnanimously freed, lydia sobbed over the plight of the humble, kindly peasants cringing under a whip, while kira sat tense, erect, eyes dark in ecstasy  watching the whip crack expertly in the hand of a tall, young overseer. 

"how beautiful!" said lydia, looking at the stage setting. "its almost real."

"how beautiful!" said kira. "its almost artificial."

 

i fail to understand how kira derived pleasure and felt ecstatic at the sight of the the peasants being whipped. 

moreover, why does kira say that the stage setting looks beautiful because it looks 'almost artificial'? 

 

 

 

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... why does kira say that the stage setting looks beautiful because it looks 'almost artificial'?

I don't have the book here, but it sounds like the performance was stylized. Sometimes the "stylization" in a work of art is captivating. One might see the expertise of the artist, even while rejecting his theme and content.
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Ecstasy doesn't necessarily mean pleasure. In this context, it doesn't mean pleasure. She might not have been happy, but at least her eyes expressed a deep emotion, which would be ecstatic emotion. Lydia likes the realism and seems to be crying at their pain. Kira may be feeling all kinds of emotions, perhaps seeing a strange beauty in the peasants not merely falling in submission to evil. I picture Kira paying close attention to every detail, while Lydia is merely reacting.
 

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Madhavi,

I just recently read WTL for the third time, same edition as yours, Kira Arguonova is still my favorite female character of Rands. I think that whole imagery with the whipping... it's either be sacrificed, or sacrifice. That's the two sides of altruism. Altruism is sado-masochism in practice. Anyways, Kira would not want to be among those sacrificed. No way. She wouldn't want the few the best sacrificed to the many. She spoke to Andre about that. You can also read what she said before Rand edited Kira in this thread:

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24819

Her only hero was a Viking:

The only hero she had known was a Viking whose story she had read as a child; a Viking whose eyes never looked farther than the point of his sword, but there was no boundary for the point of his sword; a Viking who walked through life, breaking barriers and reaping victoies, who walked through ruins while the sun made a crown over his head, but he walked, light and straight, without noticing it’s weight; a Viking who laughed at kings, who laughed at priests, who looked at heaven only when he bent for a drink over a mountain brook and there, over-shadowing the sky, he saw his own picture; a Viking who lived but for the joy and the wonder and the glory of the god that was himself.

Such had been Kira’s entrance into life....Some enter it with a heart like a pavement - trampled by many feet, and with a cold skin crying for the warmth of the herd. Kira

Argounova entered it with the sword of a Viking pointing the way and an operetta tune for a battle march.

And when she first saw Leo, she described him thusly:

His mouth, calm, severe, contemptuous, was that of an acient chieftain who could order men to die, and his eyes were such as could watch it.

Now what she said about its almost artificial, is beyond me, I don't understand that. Edited by intellectualammo
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WTL is a sort of divorce story but from two former loves. Kira loved Leo, symbol of the rotten-to-the-core aristocratic regime, and she loved Andrea, but more as a means of survival. She is willing to prostitute herself to both. The story is almost an act of violence against both the Whites and the Reds. Rand illustrates the sickness of each side.

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. Altruism is sado-masochism in practice

i fail to understand this statement. how can altruism or selflessness be equated with sado masochism? kira wasnt sado masochistic as she did not derive pleasure from self infliction of pain. but she was , to a certain extent, altruistic, evident through these incidents:

a. kira, without bothering about her deplorable financial condition, sent eatables to her family when irina informed her that they were starving. moreover, she spent all of her money to purchase milk and other neccessities for irinas family, when maria pertovna was dying.

 

now, i am not saying that kira was self sacrificing in the above incidents, she was merely selfless and wished to help her family, without caring about the possible repurcussions of her actions on her own sustenance. 

 

b.) she gave leo the bread she got from the university, even if it meant that she she would have to go to bed on an empty stomach. she even lied to leo and told him that she had already taken her meal. 

again, she was not self sacrificing. her love for leo and her desire to see him satiated was more than her desire to eat and satisfy herself. and she did not complain. leo's health and happiness would make her happy.  if this is not altruism ie. selflessness , what is? 

and in the light of the above points, altruism is not sadomasochism in practice. 

 

but there is another para in the book: 

pg 262, 

"there had been nights when she buried her head under the blanket and her face in the pillow, as if trying to escape from her own body, a body burning with the touch of a strangers hands" 

"there had been moments when she saw..., just what she was doing to her own body."

clearly, kira derived no pleasure in sleeping with andrei. she had even begun to hate her body. she wanted to 'escape' from her situation.

she was evidently doing something, for leos sake, due to which she was actually suffering. now, ayn rand believes in the virtue of selfishness. this act on kiras part is not only selfless, but even self sacrificing. she sacrificed her own pleasure for leo's sake. 

help me out! kira is one enigma of a person!

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how can someone love another as 'a means of survival'?  what does this even mean?

kira loved andrei. yes she did. not like she loved leo, not sexually. she loved him as he was her friend, her confidant, a person with whom she could share her deepest thoughts and as someone who understood her. 

and she loved Andrea, but more as a means of survival.

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...she was evidently doing something, for leos sake, due to which she was actually suffering. now, ayn rand believes in the virtue of selfishness. this act on kiras part is not only selfless, but even self sacrificing. she sacrificed her own pleasure for leo's sake. 

 

Kira would have suffered more if she had not tried everything she could to keep Leo alive. Notice she exhausted all other options before she began the affair with Andrei. She waited in lines all day, talked to multiple officials, begged them to help Leo, etc.. and they all rejected her pleas because he was 'one man' - and why should the state care about one man? Who was he? No one cared about how much Leo meant to Kira, or about how much she was suffering because Leo was on his death bed. The only option available to Kira was to sleep with Andrei, or to let Leo die- and she couldn't bear the latter. Sleeping with Andrei was the price she had to pay for Leo's life. On the surface, it can appear that Kira sacrified everything (her own body, and eventually her relationship with Leo) to keep Leo alive- but she did all of it for selfish reasons.

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Madhavi,

When you get later in the novel and Andrei knows about Kira and Leo, pay close attention to what Kira says. I can't remember exactly, but it had to do with who she was thinking about during the sex with Andrei. Also I think her first time with him she hoped it would be quick. She was doing him for Leo. She was doing him out of love for Leo.

In Craig Biddles book, Loving Life, he mentioned sadism and masochism in altruism. Sacrificing others to you, or you sacrificing yourself to others. I will look for the specific remark.

This is more along the lines of what I meant:

Edited by intellectualammo
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Well, the "almost artificial" thing should be pretty obvious, if you read from a little earlier in the text. The lead in to this paragraph explains that Kira prefers artificial things over natural beauty. The part where she says "it's almost artificial" is just a joke about that.

As for the first question, the edited version tries to make it better, but actually ruins things (makes it much harder to understand this part). Here's what Rand wrote (second quote block is where it's different):
 

When Galina Petrovna took her children to see a sad play depicting the sorrow of the serfs whom Czar Alexander II had magnanimously freed, Lydia sobbed over the plight of the humble, kindly peasants cringing under a whip, while Kira sat tense, erect, eyes dark in ecstasy, watching the whip cracking expertly in the hand of a tall, young overseer.

Kira isn't watching the peasants. She doesn't just ignore ugliness, she doesn't even notice it. She doesn't notice the peasants, because there is no beauty in the depiction of peasants cringing under a whip. There is beauty in what Kira is watching. 
 

“How beautiful!” said Lydia, looking at a stage setting. “It’s almost real.”

“How beautiful!” said Kira, looking at a landscape. “It’s almost artificial.”

Get it now? Saying that Kira is looking at a landscape creates a second instance of her ignoring what is there, and seeing what she prefers to see, out of an esthetic preference. Same way, she ignores the peasants, and chooses to just look at the isolated image of a man's expert movements. The editor didn't get what purpose saying "looking at a landscape" served here, they just figured that the joke would be better without it (the editor just followed the "jokes should always be as short as possible" edict).

A little later on in the text, she also picks sides in favor of a girl she knows nothing about, simply because it is "in better taste" to go against a mob of 28 on the other side.

P.S. I think the important thing to take away from all this is that, much like the author, Kira is very young (in her age and her methods of thinking). But, in later novels, as Ayn Rand grows older and more deliberate in her thinking and philosophy, so do her characters.

Edited by Nicky
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A little later on in the text, she also picks sides in favor of a girl she knows nothing about, simply because it is "in better taste" to go against a mob of 28 on the other side.

 

 

pg 37

"i think when in doubt about the truth of an issue, its safer and in better taste to select the least numerous of the adversaries"

why did Kira say this? isn't it safer to remain neutral when one is in doubt? or make an effort to acquire actual facts to reach a conclusion about the two opposing parties? why did Kira support the girl who had been boycotted, without making an effort to understand what the girl had done?

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If you read over that passage, note that Kira always sat alone at a table in the corner, but one day it just so happens that little freckled girl was there at that table in the corner because she was boycotted. So we find the two of them sitting at the same table, doesn't mean they are sitting together so to speak. It's safer for Kira and in better taste to sit there with the little freckled girl, than with 28 adversaries where it could be problematical.

1 adversary, or 28... can you see why it'd be safer and in better taste picking the less numerous?

Edited by intellectualammo
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thanks a lot @intellectualammo
 

i read this para today and again a query cropped up in my mind
 

"kira had made a date with andrei. but when she left the tramway and walked through the dark streets to the palace garden, she noticed her feet slowing down of their own will, her body tense, unyielding, fighting her, as if she was walking forward against a strong wind. it was as if her body remembered that which she was trying to forget: the night before, a night such as her first one in the gray and silver room she had shared with leo for over 3 years. her body felt pure and hallowed; her feet were slowing down to retard her progress toward that which seemed a sacrilege because she did desire it and did not wish to desire it tonight."

initially , kira felt pure and hallowed because she remembered the previous night, which she had spent in leo's bed. 
as she was approaching the palace garden, why did her feet slow down? what does sacrilege refer to? does it mean that kira considered spending time/sleeping with andrei a sacrilege, because she herself felt sacred, pure? what is her "desire" in this paragraph? 

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i just began reading we the living for the 2nd time, and i have i few  queries

 

1. (pg 36, 75th anniversary edition)

"when galina petrovna took her children to see a sad play depicting the sorrow of the serfs that czar Alexander had magnanimously freed, lydia sobbed over the plight of the humble, kindly peasants cringing under a whip, while kira sat tense, erect, eyes dark in ecstasy  watching the whip crack expertly in the hand of a tall, young overseer. 

"how beautiful!" said lydia, looking at the stage setting. "its almost real."

"how beautiful!" said kira. "its almost artificial."

 

i fail to understand how kira derived pleasure and felt ecstatic at the sight of the the peasants being whipped. 

moreover, why does kira say that the stage setting looks beautiful because it looks 'almost artificial'? 

 

Since Kira was experiencing ecstasy--and since the man with the whip was described as tall and young--there may well be a sexual component to this passage.  Remember that Rand described the character Kira as largely autobiographical.   

 

Note this quote from Ayn Rand, which I found quite fascinating:

 

“Like most women, and to a greater degree than most, [Dominique] is a masochist and she wishes for the happiness of suffering at Roark’s hands. Sexually, Roark has a great deal of the sadist, and he finds pleasure in breaking her will and her defiance…”

 

from The Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 231

 

So when Rand liked to use the words dominance and submission to describe sex, she wasn't kidding around.

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wow. this is something new @dennis hardin

 

i have just begun to read the fountainhead, so i cant comment on Dominique's character. But Kira wasn't a sado masochist. But then it has been mentioned in the book that 'Leo held her as if he was a slave trader' and she was a slave' . 

 

i have put up another query post #16. Could you perhaps help me?

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thanks a lot @intellectualammo

 

i read this para today and again a query cropped up in my mind

 

initially , kira felt pure and hallowed because she remembered the previous night, which she had spent in leo's bed. 

as she was approaching the palace garden, why did her feet slow down? what does sacrilege refer to? does it mean that kira considered spending time/sleeping with andrei a sacrilege, because she herself felt sacred, pure? what is her "desire" in this paragraph? 

 

This passage reflects Kira's inner conflicts and mixed feelings about Andrei.  Rand makes clear that Kira does have strong feelings for Andrei despite the fact that he's a communist.  As an indivldual, Andrei does have some heroic and admirable qualities, so sleeping with him was not totally repugnant for her.  At the same time, any enjoyment she experienced in Andrei's bed would amount to a "sacrilege" because of her intense love for Leo.  Her pleasure would be clouded by feelings comparable to the guilt of infidelity.  She does not want to enjoy sex with Andrei--but Rand the novelist is also a woman, and she knows she could not help but enjoy it (and even desire it, to some extent).

 

I think that, in some respects, We, The Living offers a more realistic depiction of such inner conflicts than Rand's later novels, which portrayed their central characters (with the exception of Hank Rearden) as mostly devoid of such conflicts. 

Edited by Dennis Hardin
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