Under Western Eyes

Major characters

  • Kyrilo Sidorovitch Razumov: Razumov is a student in the University of St. Petersburg, a hotbed of revolutionary activity at the time. He is described as a serious young man, studious and hard working. He survives on a modest allowance provided by Prince K., his sponsor. Having known no family, he considers all of Russia his family. Handsome and aristocratic in appearance, he inspires trust in people by his obliging manner and attentive listening. His ultimate ambition before de P—'s assassination was to become a professor or a Privy Councillor. Deeply aware of the fact that he has no meaningful connections to anyone, he relies on his hard work as a means of advancement. Razumov is held in high esteem by the Geneva revolutionaries because they think he was a collaborator of Haldin. In fact, after Haldin's arrest, Razumov is nerve-wracked and paranoid. He holds the revolutionaries in contempt and often makes sarcastic sneers, something that confuses them. He falls in love with Natalia Haldin but having never known neither love nor family, his identity crumbles, and he finally confesses to her that he betrayed her brother.
  • Victor Victorovich Haldin: A fellow student of Razumov, he assassinates Mr de P., but several innocent bystanders are killed as well. With his escape plan compromised, he breaks into Razumov's rooms and asks for his help. Haldin is highly idealistic but has mistaken Razumov's studiousness and thoughtfulness for trustworthiness. He does not realise that placing Razumov into an impossible situation can have unpredictable consequences for him. Haldin mentions an uncle who was executed under Nicholas I.
  • Natalia Victorovich Haldin: The independent-minded and sincere sister of Victor Haldin, she is not impressed by Peter Ivanovitch. She is described as "full-figured" with "trustful eyes". She has a confident manner and a reputation for liberalism. She was educated in an institute for women (women were not easily allowed to study at university) where she was looked upon unfavourably because of her views. Both mother and daughter were later placed under surveillance in their country place. Natalia thinks that by befriending Razumov, she will stay faithful to the spirit of her brother, as he had described Razumov in his letters as possessing a "lofty, unstained and solitary" existence. She is suspicious of the circumstances of Haldin's capture, as she thinks he would have had an escape plan.
  • Peter Ivanovitch: The bombastic leader of the revolutionaries, Ivanovitch served in the Guards when he was young. He is very popular in Russia but lives in Geneva sponsored by Madame de S— and constantly flatters her. In his autobiography, he recounts how he was imprisoned in Russia and made a dramatic escape to the Pacific coast with the help of a woman. He is considered a revolutionary feminist but regularly mistreats Tekla and is a profligate author of numerous books. In the end, Peter Ivanovitch is portrayed as ineffectual, having allowed not one but two informers in his circle. When Madame de S— dies, she leaves none of her fortune to Peter Ivanovitch, who marries a peasant girl and moves back to Russia, but he is still deeply admired by his believers. Peter Ivanovitch is mainly based on Mikhail Bakunin, while his feminist theories seem inspired from Fyodor Dostoevsky (in his "Notes from the Underground" (1864), part 2, chapter 1, there is a reference to this name). Also in Tolstoi´s "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" (1886) there is a character with the same name, referred since the first page. Actually there was a Russian ambassador for the US, from 1817 to 1822, named Pyotr Ivanovich Poletika (1778–1849).
  • Sophia Antononva: The right hand of Peter Ivanovitch, Antonovna is an old revolutionary who is held in high regard because she is being trusted by Peter Ivanovitch with carrying out "certain most important things". She is the daughter of a clever but unlucky artisan, who was brutally exploited by his masters and died at fifty. She, therefore, became a revolutionary despite her youth. She is quick to see that Razumov is not particularly impressed with them. Razumov views her as "the true spirit of destructive revolution" because she is devoid of the mysticism and rhetoric of Ivanovitch. He makes serious efforts in deceiving her and takes pleasure when he succeeds. In the end, Antonovna admits to the narrator that she bears a grudging respect for Razumov because he confessed of his own volition and from a position of safety.
  • Tekla: The dame de compagnie of Madame de S—, Tekla was the daughter of a clerk in the Finance Ministry. Distressed by seeing her family living on a government salary when half of Russia was starving, she left them at a young age to live with revolutionaries where she went through great hardship. As a result, she has sustained a hatred of Finance Ministries and has done odd jobs for revolutionaries. She takes dictation from the psychologically abusive Ivanovitch. Razumov notes that Tekla is perpetually terrified in the presence of Madame de S— and Peter Ivanovitch. At the end of the novel, she takes a crippled Razumov back to Russia and looks after him. It has been suggested that Conrad was influenced by the legend of Saint Thecla to create Tekla.[5]

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