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What Is Oblomov Syndrome?

Updated on October 27, 2016

Oblomov's syndrome is the unwillingness to conduct normal activity during depression or after an illness.

Ivan Goncharov was not a citizen of the 20th or 21st century in which the importance of ambition and willpower was and is a quotidian idea. He lived in 19th century Russia known for its particular, non-western ways.

Starting from this data, how accidental it appears, to a naïve reader as myself, that Oblomov (Penguin Classics), his fourth novel and one of his great ones, is contemporaneous in its psychology.

Oblomov is the story of the eponymous character, a life's tableau resembling a neglected garden, swept by desolation. The novel depicts how and perhaps why a life can bear little fruit. It is not an appealing sight. Still, it is an invitation to the readers to brace themselves, read carefully, and pay attention to their own ways.

As a reading experience, Oblomov is a pleasure: clear style, easily perceivable actions, and emotions. The author writes as if to assure that ideas break through. Only as an emotional experience, Oblomov might not be pleasant.

“When you don't know what you're living for, you don't care how you live from one day to the next."
“When you don't know what you're living for, you don't care how you live from one day to the next."

How can a perfectly peaceful day develop into an awful dream?

This is a four-part novel.

In the first part, Goncharov describes how Oblomov, the sheltered noble of 31 years spends a normal day at his house in St. Petersburg. A nightmarish slumber ensues.

How can a perfectly peaceful day develop into an awful dream? In a foggy perception of time, Oblomov wakes up and falls back asleep, plans than looses train of thought, wants yet accomplishes not, is affected yet senseless. Through all this, his mind judges. He is a judging and fantasizing machine.

His entourage is one of either blasé or ferocious characters, and his solace is in the remembrance of an idyllic, yet lazy, childhood that shaped him.

Oblomovka, his home and estate, is a character in its own right. There, when Oblomov was a child, people lived the same day in a loop, without terrible effort or investment. It was a sort of heaven on earth. Yet Oblomov shies from living there, Oblomovka remains a far away destination.

True defeat is giving up on dreams. For Oblomov, the road to that dénouement passes through keeping dreams remote and perfect. This man never summons the courage to attain them, he chooses to keep the fantasy of a blessed life as a married man, living on his estate, just that: a perfect fantasy. By not acting and pursuing this ideal, Oblomv, in reality, gives up.

"Never was he able to oppose to any event elasticity of will; never was he able to conceive, as the result of any event, a reasoned-out impulse."
"Never was he able to oppose to any event elasticity of will; never was he able to conceive, as the result of any event, a reasoned-out impulse."

Oblomov is not willing to fail, so he never acts

To this hopeless man fate provided as a friend his perfect antonym: the rich, industrious Stolz. This good friend drags him back into society, applying stimulating and energizing actions.

Goncharov presents the differences in upbringing that shaped Stolz: independence, early risk taking, and orientation toward future rather than toward the present, or the past.

To all Stolz' efforts, Oblomov opposes the voice of his inner critic. There is no utility in acting, other people live meaningless lives that he has no desire for. Also on the opposite pole, when comparing himself to Stolz, he obviously finds negative disparities.

Is this inner critic truthful? Yes, of course, Oblomov is lucid, not deluded. The danger of listening to his own reasoning, though, is that it keeps him in a state of inaction, paralyzed. Oblomov is not willing to fail, so he never acts.

What else could wake this man up? Perhaps love? Love arrives in Oblomov's life as a blossom that has no lasting power, due, again, to his own perception. Feelings flower and he right away feels they wither. Of course that he trusts his perception and pays it forward to his love interest, the inexperienced Olga. He would rather give up then live through a deception.

Love is a summer of blessings and intense, at times troublesome, emotions.

After that, in the third part of the novel, life finds Oblomov not measuring up. He can not commit, even rumors of marriage scare him, he postpones and postpones until Olga gives up on him.

Goncharov gives, in the novel's fourth part, the reply to Oblomovs model of thinking and acting. Years later, Olga and Stolz are married. She is approaching Oblomov's age when the novel started and a state of nervousness, something resembling fear, comes over her. To this, Stolz has the perfect answer, found in the quote below.

"You must not only endure, you must even love and respect, the sorrow and the doubts and the self-questionings of which you have spoken: for they constitute the excess, the luxury, of life, and show themselves most when happiness is at its zenith"
"You must not only endure, you must even love and respect, the sorrow and the doubts and the self-questionings of which you have spoken: for they constitute the excess, the luxury, of life, and show themselves most when happiness is at its zenith"

By lacking action, Oblomov's life withers away

To a degree, we all know the sweetness of complacency, of daydreaming. The diamonds that are our lives offer abounding perspectives.

Oblomov is not at fault, on the other hand, his stubbornness or inability to expand and adjust are. He suffers after losing Olga; nevertheless, he has his ways of comfort and his pleasures, lives through trials and tribulations sustained by Stolz, and leaves in the world a child. His life is brief and has its moments of sweetness; however, by not taking action, it sort of withers away.

Take away some of the incentives this novel offers:

  • Accept defeats, do not try to resist them;
  • Plan and execute;
  • Be open and vulnerable;
  • Live equally in the present and for the future.

Biopoem

Ilya Ilyich

Sheltered, lazy, good, gourmand

Friend of Andrey, father of Andrey

Who loved comfort, peace, and always questioned himself and others

Who cherished his childhood, loved his friends, and thought there is no utility in action

Who feared he would end up meaningless, feared he would prove to be unworthy, feared to be alone

Who helped many, was a good host, and never burdened others

Who wanted to change and wanted to be better

Born on Oblomovka estate and living in Sankt Petersburg

Oblomov

“When all the forces in your organism come into play, then life will begin to play around you as well. You'll see what your eyes are closed to now, and you'll hear what you've never heard."
“When all the forces in your organism come into play, then life will begin to play around you as well. You'll see what your eyes are closed to now, and you'll hear what you've never heard."

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