The Value Paradigm of Ivan Alexandrovich Goncharov's Aphoristics

Research article
Issue: № 6 (42), 2023


This article analyzes the corpus of I.A.Goncharov's aphorisms (up to 70 aphorisms and aphoristic statements), recorded in the "Dictionary of Aphorisms of Russian Writers". Aphorisms are contained in Goncharov's literary texts, in journalism, in articles on literary theory and in literary criticism, as well as scientific and popular articles related to his travels. Goncharov's aphoristics is a reflection of his conceptual picture of the world, allows us to take a different look at his artistic work, the deepest inner world, to see the consistent development of his creative and literary-critical thinking, to reveal the most important problems for the writer, standing at the center of his value paradigm. I.A.Goncharov's aphoristics is integral part of the spiritual culture of the people, reflects its value-semantic guidelines in diachrony.

1. Introduction

The work of I.A. Goncharov in Russian literature of the XIX century occupies a special place, because of the elegance of his language, combined with the depiction of typical phenomena of reality. All these allowed the writer to create a realistic picture of Russian reality, to reveal the origins of the contradictions of the Russian world of his time.

Goncharov's aphorisms, his winged expressions make it possible to see the ideological features of the individual author's picture of the world, to reveal the most important problems for the writer, standing at the center of his value paradigm. The aphorism of each writer, poet, and cultural figure reveals his personality in a special way, unveils individual contradictions, focuses on the most important aspects of personal perception of reality, but at the same time reflects the value core of the cultural code of the national mentality.

Russian aphorisms and aphorisms of I.A. Goncharov represent themes that are traditional to Russian literature and Russian aphoristics, but they allow a different interpretation of the writer's personal values.

The aphorisms extracted from the texts of I.A. Goncharov are interesting material both for the study of the problems of his works and for the study of the writer's worldview. I.A. Goncharov's aphorisms are partially presented in the “Dictionary of Aphorisms of Russian Writers” created by us as part of the creative team


Proceeding to the study of the value paradigm of Goncharov's aphorisms, let us clarify that the discussions about the nature of aphorisms are not completed

. We will point out that there is no unambiguous definition of an aphorism; therefore, we adhere to the interpretation of this phenomenon proposed by us. We consider an aphorism to be a short phraseological-type utterance with such properties as the presence of concept words in the structure; certification, reproducibility, conciseness
. An aphorism may have such optional features as modelability, subjectivity, originality, paradoxical, unexpected wording, the presence of a figurative meaning, the ability to express universal truths, etc

It is necessary to explain how aphorisms were extracted from the artistic and journalistic works of I.A. Goncharov.

All aphorisms are usually divided into separate and introductory ones (terms from the study by N.T. Fedorenko and L.I. Sokolskaya)

. I.A. Goncharov's aphorisms are introductory; they were extracted from the whole texts of his works of art and journalism. There are no separate isolated aphorisms in the creative heritage of I.A. Goncharov.

Aphorisms are extracted from works based on the method of selecting keywords in the utterance and limiting the volume (up to three sentences of different syntactic structure).

We join the concept of A.P. Skovorodnikov, in understanding the keywords, summarized in the "Stylistic Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Russian language". It is proposed to consider as the key "words expressing the main idea of the whole literary text"

. Keywords "create the internal unity of the lexical system of works, becoming an essential element of its compositional construction"

Keywords represent the main theme of the utterance, allow you to combine aphorisms into thematic groups and semantic fields, which in turn allows to explore the value paradigm of Russian literature and Russian culture as a whole.

2. Research methods and principles

Semantic analysis of the corpus of aphorisms recorded in the "Dictionary of Aphorisms of Russian Writers"

. When extracting aphorisms from the texts of A.I. Goncharov, when fixing them in the dictionary, we used the method of selecting key words-concepts as part of the utterance. When analyzing the conceptual sphere of I.A. Goncharov's sayings, we relied on the main provisions of the works of Yu.E. Prokhorov
, Karasik
, Yu.S. Stepanov

3. Main results

The axiology of I.A. Goncharov's aphoristics demonstrates not only the value dominants of his linguistic personality, but also allows us to draw conclusions about the cultural and moral orientations of the ethnos. Goncharov's aphorisms fully reflect the main themes of his work. Especially revealing are the sayings that recorded the evolution of Goncharov's views on the historical destiny of Russia. The main key words-concepts in Goncharov's aphoristics, which allow us to judge his value paradigm, are the following: Homeland, Fatherland, Russian history, people (Russian people), morality, life, struggle, knowledge, patriotism, man/people, women, wisdom (mind), cosmopolitanism, cunning, etc.

The quantitative characteristics of Goncharov's aphorisms (by keywords) in relation to the quantitative characteristics of Russian classical aphorisms of the second half of the XIX century demonstrate the originality of his creative thinking. In Goncharov's aphoristics, 60% of keywords are related to the topic of citizenship, while this figure in the aphoristics of his contemporaries does not exceed 45%.

I.A. Goncharov's sayings, on the one hand, are the quintessence of a critical understanding of Russian reality in the middle of the XIX century, on the other hand, they allow us to see the predominance of the topic of citizenship in the value paradigm of the people.

4. Discussion

It should be noted that there are no works devoted to the aphoristic heritage of I.A. Goncharov, although the subject of his sayings is especially relevant today.

In the corpus of Goncharov's aphorisms, the theme of citizenship, the people, patriotism, Russia, the Fatherland occupies a significant place.

Here are a number of examples (keywords are highlighted in bold italics):

The Russian people are fulfilling their great national and human task, all the forces of the great people are working in it smoothly and amicably, from the tsar to the plowman and the soldier! When everything is quiet, calm, everyone, like ants, lives, works, as if at random; they think, feel about themselves and for themselves; they speak, perhaps, in different languages; but as soon as a cloud appears on the horizon, war will rumble. Contagion, famine will befall Russia – see how all moral and material forces unite, how everything merges into one feeling, into one thought, into one will – and how suddenly everyone, as if under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will instantly understand each other and speak with one language and one power!

According to Goncharov, patriotism and nationality should be an integral part of the life of any society, especially the Russian one, without which it is impossible to imagine the development of the state. Goncharov reflects on the unity of the nation in difficult periods of history.

In the original work of I.A. Goncharov, the theme of love in various forms is present in all works. However, there are only few aphorisms in which he would express his own attitude to love, its essence, its spiritualizing beginning.

But there are still some examples can be given:

Great love is inseparable from a deep mind; the breadth of the mind is equal to the depth of the heart. That is why great hearts reach the extreme peaks of humanity: they are great minds


Love for Goncharov is a rather mysterious, irrational feeling that causes pleasure and at the same time suffering. Goncharov's reflections on love are invariably connected with the theme of a woman, there are much more such aphorisms. Goncharov's women are also irrational, fickle, complex, but also beautiful, as is the feeling of love.

Whatever a woman has done to you, changed, cooled down, acted, as they say in poetry, insidiously, blame nature, indulge, perhaps, in philosophical reflections on this occasion, abuse the world, life, whatever you want, but never encroach on a woman's personality by word or deed. The weapon against a woman is condescension, and finally, the cruelest – oblivion! That's the only thing a decent person is allowed to do


Goncharov's philosophical reflections are used in numerous aphorisms. This is the largest thematic group of aphoristics. The writer created aphorisms about the transience of time, about the essence of human nature, about the contradictions of life and its meaning (more often its absence!), about happiness and sorrow, about eternal human values, about good and evil. Like a great writer, Goncharov expressed his views quite fully in his sayings.

Life is all life, everything is moving a little bit, everything is going forward and forward somewhere, like everything in the world, both in heaven and on earth


In dialectical unity, there are contradictory maxims in the writer's aphorism. Goncharov himself created a wonderful aphorism about the contradictions of human nature:

The human heart only seems to live on contradictions: if they were not there, it would be as if it were not in the chest


The aphoristic heritage of Goncharov contains original sayings on the subject. Every great writer in his aphoristics contains sayings that touch on a topic that is particularly important to them. So, for example, in F.M. Dostoevsky's aphorism there are many sayings about scoundrels and meanness, in Goncharov's aphorism it is especially necessary to note the sayings about cunning. In the writer's value system, cunning is a negative and even mean phenomenon.

The trick is short-sighted: she sees well only under her nose, and not in the distance, and that's why she often falls into the same trap that she set for others


In a number of aphorisms, Goncharov talks about the qualities of a person, the focus is on the person, his inner world and emotional states.

In Goncharov's individual author's picture of the world, the antinomies stupidity/wisdom and youth/stupidity are important. Goncharov believes that in youth a person does not have enough wisdom to make the right life decisions, wisdom comes with experience.

Wisdom is a set of truths obtained by the mind, observation and experience and applied to life – it is the harmony of ideas with life


As in the aphoristic heritage of any writer or poet, there are quite a lot of sayings about writing, creativity, talent, literature and literary criticism in Goncharov's aphoristic corpus. For the writer, an important principle was the truth of life in a literary text:

To depict one good, bright, pleasing thing in human nature means to conceal the truth, i.e. to depict it incompletely and therefore incorrectly


5. Conclusion

In this study, we analyze the corpus of I.A. Goncharov's aphorisms, recorded in the "Dictionary of Aphorisms of Russian Writers".

I.A. Goncharov's aphoristics is multifaceted in terms of themes, problems, his sayings are original in syntactic structure. Various texts from letters to novels contain a lot of sayings. Some of Goncharov's sayings have turned into winged expressions, the most famous of which is "a million torments" (from the article of the same name about the comedy by A.S. Griboyedov).

I.A. Goncharov's aphoristics is an indicative part of the conceptual sphere of Russian literature, it expresses what in philosophical, moral and ethical terms is an important component of the spiritual culture of the people, in diachrony reflects its value and semantic guidelines.

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