The Interpretation of a fictional character
(according to “Host and Guest” by Vazha-Pshavela)
Abstract: The structure of an art work together with its characters results from the author’s outlook and his point of view on the surrounded world, therefore the understanding of the writer’s intentions or interpreting different types of fictional characters might lead to a number of problematic issues and invalid decisions unless we take the circumstances mentioned above into consideration. This case will be discased according to Vaja Phshavela’s “Host and Guest” ‘s character – Agaza.
Keywords : Vazha-Pshavela, fictional character, Host and Guest, Jokhola, Aghaza
The structure of an art work together with its characters results from the author’s outlook and his point of view on the surrounded world, therefore the understanding of the writer’s intentions or interpreting different types of fictional characters might lead to a number of problematic issues and invalid decisions unless we take the circumstances mentioned above into consideration. The difficulties of interpretation has long been a subject of heated discussions. We will try to discuss the matter by providing the example of Aghaza, the heroine from the poem by Vazha-Pshavela “Host and Guest”.
Jokhola, the protagonist, invites a stranger he meets in the mountains to his house, however the guest turns out to be the murderer of his own brother. Even after knowing such a terrible news Jokhola remains committed to his duties as a host and depends his fierce enemy , Zviadauri. While Jokhola wished for his death (,,he wanted a revenge for his brother”) his attitude towards Zviadauri remains the same (,,he felt sorry when he knew who his guest was” ). Jokhola’s wife, Aghaza follows the example of his husband as she cries over the dead body of the guest who showed an exceptional courage before his death. Both the readers and the critics consider Aghaza’s reaction to be controversial. On the one hand, it is natural to grief for a family friend who died in such circumstances ,hence Aghaza is expected to show sympathy towards Zviadauri . Others blame Aghaza for falling in love with the guest , and suggest that her behavior is caused by losing a loved one which means that subconsciously she cheated on her husband and proved to be faithful to a complete stranger. The opinion stated above was shared by I. Nakashidze (1998) who observed some erotic aspects in the relationship of the two. As for Kita Abashidze, he describes the picture of Aghaza falling in love with Zviadauri at the first sight (The same position is shared by researchers I. Nakashidze (1896), M. Zandukeli (1953) and partly by A. Makharadze .): ,,Jokhola’s wife is burning with passion as she sees Zviadauri..” (Abashidze 1970 : 474) ,,Aghaza is so in love that she is unable to control her emotions becoming a slave of her own feelings. Just like her husband who sacrifices for the sake of friendship, Aghaza cannot resist the power of love.” (Abashidze 1970:474).
It would be difficult to find a solid proof to K. Abashidze-s hypothesis as the episode of describing the first meeting of the heroes or giving some hints about their further relationship can’t be found in the whole poem.
According to the researcher the relationship of the characters is based on their vows to remain devoted to each other: “three different persons are united by their promise to keep their faith, stay committed to their feelings and depend their rights with courage and dignity” (Abashidze 1970:474). Such understanding of Aghaza’s behavior, in our opinion, completely contradicts with the researcher’s previous point of view. The hidden love affair between the characters means that neither Jokhola and Zviadaruri as friends or Aghaza and Jokhola as man and wife can keep their oath of allegiance which will result in treachery and hypocrisy. It is also possible that the author considers Johkola to be the major obstacle for the lovers ,however, such assumption might be groundless.
T. Chkhenkeli in his “Tragic Masks” discusses Aghaza’s character and makes emphasis on her relationship with Zviadauri. The author tries to find an answer to the question whether Aghaza’s compassion can be identified with the feeling of love. Putting the matters in consequence he differentiates conscious and subconscious parts of one’s character. On the surface, Aghaza seems to be almost perfect and complete, as she is able to feel sympathy towards her enemy, but deep inside herself ,,subconsciously,, she hides passion which causes a permanent resistance to the surrounding world and a rising protest to herself : ,,the anger is tremendous, ,,even her hair, as dark as gagate, scolded her” (225)
T. Chkhenkeli considers that Aghaza is striving to resist the temptation which is proved by her behavior and mostly by her reluctance (?). The researcher makes special emphasis on issues such moral, ethics and power of will. In any case it is obvious that Aghaza remains tangled in the net of immoral impulses.
The attempt of the critic to describe the character ,,as a person with the completeness of her senses unlike one with a rational understanding of life” (Chkhenkeli 1971:225) leads to a conclusion that Aghaza forgets about her duties and tends not to behave in a sensible way: ,,what we see against sensibility, reasonable understanding and a common sense is a fear of god and society. A beautiful woman who forgets about her responsibilities cries over a ,,stranger,, (Chkhenkeli 1971:225).
Almost the same position is stated by Iuza Evgenidze in his study ,,About the works of Vazha-Pshavela” : “Just like a real woman, Aghaza observes and evaluates Zviadauri’s heroic behavior and she appreciates it. However, this feeling has nothing to do with love, because it has no real beginning and no hope for any continuation in the future.” (I.Evgenidze, p. 151-152)
A feeling, whether it is instant or long-lasting, has its particular nature. The author himself defines Aghaza’s feeling as immoral and comments on the attempts of the character to resist her emotional state: “ It is an immediate feeling which arises from her thoughts and is opposed by more ethical senses. All these gives an impression of the critic trying to find the excuse for Aghaza’s “immoral” behavior. Furthermore, he contradicts himself while explaining the reasons of the character feeling guilty: ,,It is difficult for Aghaza to mourn for Zviadauri as on the one hand she respects the attitude of the society and on the other hand she is afraid of the god.” ‘’The fear of god” is not a reasonable excuse even if the woman is grieving because of the enemy (underline is made by the author N.M) as the importance of protecting the guest is a must and a duty granted by the god. Therefore, Aghaza’s concerns are caused by the sentimental feelings which the woman experiences towards Zviadauri. (I. Evgenidze p. 152-153)
It would be unnecessary to remind that Jokhola opposes the common sense of the society because of his position to protect his guest who at the same time is his fierce enemy. The society is unwilling to treat a foe like a guest and blames both Jokhola and Aghaza for braking the traditions. Two different point of views oppose each other in Aghaza’s mind: traditional, social understanding, which might be linked to the religion and individual perception based on compassion towards the victim and anger against the cruelty of the crowd. Thus, the hypothesis about Aghaza grieving because of having something on her conscience should be considered valid.
“Zviadauri is an embodiment of an ideal male for Aghaza…” – writes I.Evgenidze. However, Aghaza does have a wonderful man by her side and in the whole poem there is no evidence of the two being physically or mentally apart. Surely, being married to a courageous and brave man does not prevent a woman from falling in love with another person. If this is the case, while describing the character’s emotional condition the author would have made it clear for the readers and included it in Aghaza’s monologue. Why is Aghaza blaming herself? There is no one around, so nobody will be able to accuse her for anything. The only witness is Aghaza herself. The dead people, unfriendly environment are the results of her imagination which blame her for something. Why does Aghaza feel guilty? Is it for treachery? Or falling in love with a stranger? The only reason is the fact that she is crying over her enemy. (“I am a sinner, \I cried for a stranger..”) Is Aghaza’s emotional condition caused only by this? Can a death of a good person, even a enemy, bring about such depression? It is absolutely possible for the author, and we see a good proof of this in Vazha-Pshavela’s “Aluda Ketelauri.” Aluda’s emotional condition after the death of Mutsali, his thoughts and feelings are none the less than Aghaza’s. So why are we to blame Aghaza for loving Zviadauri?
The researcher I. Evgenidze points out several times that Vazha was improving and amending various parts of the poem deliberately, for example, there exists a transcript which shows that ,,according to the crossed out lines, Aghaza is hiding her feelings not due to the ”fear of god”, but because of having some particular, down-to-earth reasons and certain motivation: ,,She was embarrassed to go home and meet her husband while there was a trace of tears on her face” . What is the intention of the author when he changes this part of the text? There is only one reason – he wants to avoid misinterpretations of Aghaza’s behavior, other than his own point of view.
It is widely known, that the author was concerned about the interpretation of Aghaza’s character: ,,I was truly stuck while working on the dialogue between the couple. Mainly I was worried about how to express Jokhola’s reaction after hearing his wife saying about Zviadauri : “I cried for your friend.” A lot depends on Jokhola’s answer, firstly, the further development of the plot and secondly, declaring the author’s position. That is why this episode is of such importance for Vazha-Pshavela. For Jokhola (and for the author too) Aghaza’s behavior is based on sentimental feelings such as sympathy and instead of accusing her or being jealous Jokhola praises his wife! What should be considered as the main motivator for Aghaza? It might be the synthesis of compassion towards Zviadauri and strong protest against the society.
In order to clarify matters several aspects should be mentioned: 1. Aghaza’s attitude towards her behavior –she blames herself not for falling in love with a stranger but for feeling sorry and crying over an enemy as it is unacceptable for the society. Aghaza is so faithful to her husband that she commits suicide shortly after his death. The author is trying to underline the traits of the character of his heroine who is a devoted wife and a woman deeply in love with her husband. 2. Jokhola sees nothing wrong or shameful in Aghaza’s behavior and therefore she should not feel guilty. The relationship between the characters, evaluating their personalities and actions serves for a particular purpose: the author is eager to give a complete description of them. In addition, Jokhola’s position against the society’s position is controversial: the society has no right to accuse him or his wife, as they broke moral and ethical code themselves. 3. And the most important matter is the concept of the author, which defines the the structural type of the character. As far as Aghaza is a positive character according to Vazha-Pshavala‘s concept such characters are not allowed to do immoral actions (here: cheating on a husband) and in case they do make mistakes they should not feel guilty for that. Aghaza is not blaming herself for treachery as such thing has never crossed her mind.
Finally, in the last part of the poem the author emphasizes the fact that the characters drink toasts for hospitality traditions and friendship which is another way of showing the truth about the relationship between Aghaza and Zviadauri.
To summarize, the structure and type of characters is an embodiment of the author’s ideas and his concept. In case the idea and the embodiment differ from each other either there exists a problem of interpretation or the author himself made a mistake. And so, It would be fruitless to offer you some conclusions.
Abashidze 1970: K. Abashidze, Vazha-Pshavela : Stories about the Georgian Literature of the XIX Century, Tbilisi 1970, p. 439-483
Evgenidze 1977: I. Evgenidze, About the works of Vazha-Pshavela; Tbilisi 1977
Chkhenkeli 1971: T. Chkhenkeli, Tragic Masks, Tbilisi 1971
Tsotsonava 2009: T. Tsotsonava, Literature at Schools, Tbilisi 2009
Vazha-Pshavela 1985: Vazha-Pshavela, Stories, Tbilisi 1985
Vazha-Pshavela 1967: Vazha-Pshavela, An answer to Mr. Ip. Virtagva -,,About the Literature and Works of Vazha-Pshavela” 1967, p. 229
Volume 5, Issue 2