Contemporary Russian Satire: A Genre Study by Karen L. Ryan-Hayes

By Karen L. Ryan-Hayes

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Satire criticizes vices and shortcomings by exposing them; it aims at reproof through downward explication. Allegory, on the other hand, is often conceived of as elevating and uplifting. According to this point of view, it instructs through demonstration of the potential for moral improvement. Although this holds true for much of classical allegory, the directionality of modern allegorical interpretation is less uniform (Leyburn, Satiric Allegory, pp. 4-5). g. The Divine Comedy) as well as many modern allegories are concerned with examining evil more centrally than with exhorting readers to achieve goodness.

Iskander goes beyond this surface allegory to examine the psychology of paranoia, tracing the sources of the distrust that pervades the rabbits' kingdom. Following the King's reasoning at each step, he shows how the surveillance system evolved and demonstrates the complications entailed in building a society based on suspicion: After all, if you introduce a law about secret surveillance, it should apply to everyone equally, the King thought. After all, if you tried to divide all the rabbits in the service who were under surveillance into those who had to be shadowed and those who didn't, this could evoke crude and mistaken notions in the guards' minds about the possibility Iskander"s transparent allegory 37 that there were rabbits who were trusted in everything and rabbits who weren't trusted at all.

221). There is an interesting parallel treatment of allegory in his story " School Waltz, or the Energy of Shame" that sheds light on the development of this motif in Iskander's transparent allegory 27 Rabbits and Boa Constrictors. The narrator of the story, remembering his first experiences in school as a child, recalls a notebook he had with an illustration of Pushkin's The Lay of the Wise Oleg on the cover. He was told by his classmates that the illustration, properly analyzed and deciphered, contained forbidden expressions, and so he studied it laboriously to tease out the hidden illicit messages.

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