Knowledge is fatal.

I found “Russalka” by Joanna Russ very interesting. I forgot that we read other stories by Joanna Russ, so I also forgot about the story of the “Little Mermaid” and thought that “Russalka” was a story of its own. Race and ethnicity seems to be a big theme in both stories. In the beginning, we read about Russalka discovering her race. She feels trap in the sea. Rather than this being a story of love or simply wanting something/one you can’t have, I saw it as a story of recognition of oppression. For some reason, it reminded me a lot of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou (in the poem, the caged bird is not being heard, similar to the way Russalka keeps speaking, but not one understands her) and in the essay we read by Gloria Anzaldua (“Then she began to read books, and that was fatal,” (Russ 88) is similar to entering into the serpent – discovery). In a way, all three authors say that knowledge becomes fatal. That fatality, in a way, being good rather than something being bad. I feel that this story can be interpreted in so many ways (as seen in the many blog posts about this story). It is more than just a story about love. It’s a story about the struggles breaking away from institutions and entering separate spheres.

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2 Responses to Knowledge is fatal.

  1. cawatson94 says:

    I completely agree that this story, “Russalka” by Joanna Russ, represents oppression. Russalka just expresses her desires by studying humans, and Russ described her as catching the “human disease.” Obviously this was not the norm of this sea-society. Russalka was actually acting on her oppression which seemed to be unheard of in this society. Unfortunately, by her acting on this oppression, she ends up dying. Her knowledge that she is actually capable of becoming a human and fulfilling her desires literally was fatal. I think you made a really nice connection with Gloria Anzaldua’s ideas, and I agree that these two stories are completely relatable.

  2. rimiller11 says:

    I normally have to face-palm myself when I read other people’s interpretations simply because it’s like, “How did I not see that?!” I love your interpretation of this story. I didn’t even think of Russalka and the prince as being of different races, but instead species, even when she becomes “human.” And after reading your post, I must ask: Was this a valuable lesson for Russalka? (ignore the fact that she’s dead because then the question is kind of pointless)

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