Mityagina S.S.
Khmelnitsky Institute of Inter-Regional Academy of Personnel Management
senior lecturer in general scientific and general subjects

Category: 10.00.00 Philology

Article reference:
The Novel “The Gadfly” by E. L. Voynich as an Expression of Revolutionary-Religious Modernism // Modern scientific researches and innovations. 2011. № 4 [Electronic journal]. URL:

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Political and cultural integration of European countries demands strengthening connections between the countries in many spheres, scientific and cultural in particular. From this point of view a very important meaning belongs to studying the biography and creative heritage of an outstanding figure of the XIX-XX centuries Ethel Lilian Voynich – the talented British writer, translator, composer, whose life was closely connected with Great Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Poland and other countries [2; 12].
There are too few literary sources devoted to E. Voynich. As I. Katarskiy once said, a strange plot of silence was created about the name of the writer [3; 3]. More than that, it is necessary to emphasize that most of the Russian and Ukrainian investigators’ articles represent the data borrowed from the works by the leading researcher of Voynich’s life and novels E. Taratuta. In the Soviet period some aspects of the biography and literary works by E. Voynich were studied by I. Nusinov, Ya. Kirpichev, S. Marvich, T. Shumakova, V. Polek and others. Unfortunately, most of these authors’ researches were restricted by definite ideological stamps that were characteristic to the social science of that time. Recently, interest in literary creations by E. Voynich has been shown mainly by Russian investigators, such as N. Ignatieva, T. Dudina, A. Mironov and others. The scientific studies by the authors mentioned are focused on pointing out literary peculiarities of the novels almost leaving analysis of the contents aspects without attention.
For many years, novels by E. Voynich, and first of all her “The Gadfly”, were called an outstanding example of antireligious literature. Research publications of the Soviet period contain mentioning the fact that the writer knew the Bible well, but at the same time the authors emphasized that she occupied the position of atheism. E. Taratuta, even drawing a quotation from E. Voynich’s letter in which she says that she does not object to believing God, still writes the following: “Though the writer states that even at the time of composing “The Gadfly” she quitted being an atheist the analysis of all her literary works convinces us of dominating atheistic ideas in her outlook” [5; 253].
Researches of the latest years show that another interpretation of the religious theme in E. Voynich’s novels has appeared. The religious-mythological basis of creating the image of the Gadfly is studied by N. Borovskaya who standing on the purely religious position considers the novel “The Gadfly” to be an appeal of God to E. Voynich [1], and A. Mironov who proves that the novel contains an archetypical plot “teacher – student” that is present, for example, in the Gospels [4]. The peculiarity and novelty of our research is the attempt of investigating the parallel “the Gadfly – Christ” in the novel “The Gadfly” and defining its role in expressing the author’s revolutionary views. Though the very presence of the parallel in the composition is evident, substantial researches of it have never been conducted before.
The central parallel that serves as a basis for building up the whole novel – comparing and opposing biographies and outlooks of Christ and the Gadfly – is a key for adequate understanding the ideas of the book. E. Voynich proclaims national freedom and independence to be the biggest value and makes an attempt to create an image of a revolutionary leader of a new type. She grounds on the fact that religious feelings of the people are a mighty moving power and they must be used in the revolutionary sphere. At the same time she understands that this usage of religious beliefs needs leading and correcting. E. Voynich says that it is necessary for the people to see in the leader of the movement for national independence those features that Christians have seen in Christ for centuries. It is necessary, from her point of view, for the people to follow the revolutionary leader with the same irrational faith that Christians have when following Christ.
The novel “The Gadfly” is a certain kind of secular Gospel. The writer creates an image of so to say Neochrist whose advantage lies in the fact that for the majority of people he is more understandable and closer than the Christianity founder. Unlike Christ that has always been and will always be an unreachable ideal, the Gadfly does not differ from ordinary people greatly. Like Christ the Gadfly suffers but unlike Jesus he suffers not occasionally but constantly, day to day for many years like very many people do. Like all other people he experiences those things that Christ did not experience, such as severe diseases, hardest labour, fear of tomorrow and so on. Unlike Christ the Gadfly has earthly, simple, familiar to all people desires – he wants to live in comfort and prosperity. Unlike Jesus he has weaknesses and thus is able to understand weaknesses of others. He is not sinless and does not ask his followers to live a pure life. He does not demand constant self-restrictions and self-control. Unlike Jesus the Gadfly does not call people to forgiveness and humility that are very alien to the human nature. He demands faithfulness to the motherland and to the comrades but lets everyone choose his way in other aspects. Unlike Christ that walked to death knowing that he would resurrect, the Gadfly gives his life away without any hope for continuing his life and this makes his feat even more significant. Jesus was a martyr while the Gadfly combines two ideals – a martyr for an idea and a desperate hero-struggler. And eventually he does not call people to sacrifice in the sake of future life, he leads people in the struggle for the things that are actual an important for every person today.
So, the results of the conducted research let us make the following conclusions:
– While working on the novel “The Gadfly” E. Voynich based on the experience of outstanding researchers and writers who made attempts of revising the traditional doctrines and modernizing the Christian teaching according to the needs of the modern society and who used the image of Christ for stimulating social changes.
– In the novel “The Gadfly” E. Voynich conveys the idea that Christianity as a religion of humility did not justify itself and that Christ must be changed by a new superpersonality – a person that possesses the same mighty charisma, is able to lead people but rejects humility and is ready to use any methods of struggle for national freedom.
– E. Voynich stands for using religious feelings of the people as a mighty moving power. She suggests not to oppose religion to revolution but to use for the benefit of the struggle for national independence the inherent need of worshiping and the ground prepared by Christianity.

  1. Боровская Н. Этель Лилиан Войнич и ее роман «Овод» // «Свет Евангелия» (Российская еженедельная католическая газета). – № 26 (423). – 2003. – 22 июля.
  2. Етель-Ліліан Войнич і Україна. Бібліографічний покажчик / Уклад. Полєк В. Т. – Львів, 1970. – 55 с.
  3. Катарский И. М. Этель Лилиан Войнич (К 60-летию со дня выхода романа «Овод»). – М.: Издательство «Знание», 1957. – 31 с.
  4. Миронов А. В. «Девяносто третий год» В. Гюго и «Овод» Э. Л. Войнич (к вопросу о мифологических параллелях) // Материалы международной конференции студентов и аспирантов по фундаментальным наукам «Ломоносов», Выпуск 4. – Москва: Изд-во МГУ, 2000. – 556 с. – С. 390 – 391.
  5. Таратута Е. А. Этель Лилиан Войнич. Судьба писателя и судьба книги. – Издание второе, дополненное. – М.: Издательство «Художественная литература», 1964. – 320 с.

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