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Dr. Zhivago

Boris Pasternak


Chapter 12: Iced Rowanberries


The partisans' families arrive, including Pamphil's wife and children. A soldier's wife named Kubarikha also appears. She is a cattle-healer and a witch. The new camp is surrounded by dense taiga, and Yury has more time to explore their natural environment. Eleven ringleaders of a conspiracy are brought to an open space to be executed. They plead for forgiveness but are all shot.

Yury goes to see Pamphil and his family. Pamphil is very devoted to his children and carves wooden animals for them with the blade of an ax. When he hears that the families may be sent to a different camp, however, his spirits fall again. Meanwhile the Whites advance. A man with an amputated arm and leg crawls back into the camp. His amputated limbs have been tied to his back. He warns them that the Whites are planning a surprise attack. Pamphil sees the man and, fearing that his wife and children are to be tortured the same way, he kills them with his own ax. He does not kill himself, but he disappears from the camp.

Yury meets Liberius and asks him if there is any news from Varykino. He learns that Kolchak's army has been crushed and is retreating to the east. Yury asks about Yuryatin, and he is told that there are rumors that the Whites still hold the city. Yury imagines his family trying to survive without him. He walks outside into the snow and sees a rowan tree. He imagines the tree is Lara and pulls it toward him.


The atrocities of the Civil War between the Reds and the Whites grow on both sides, and Yury and the other soldiers are deeply disturbed by the bloodshed around them. The most severely affected is Pamphil, who kills his wife and children out of fear and a feeling of torment. Yury is shocked by the event but sees it in the context of the war and feels he understands it somewhat.

Yury does not take Liberius' declaration of victory as the truth, and he also does not feel very strongly about the outcome of the war. He wants to be near his family and Lara, and he feels guilty about having to be apart from them for so long. In the rowan tree he sees not only Lara's physical form but also the pristine beauty and innocence that have been denied to him since the start of the war.

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Importance of Yuri's view of communism

by chavezgt, October 27, 2013

I believe that something very important that Pasternak wanted to express is how someone's view of communism can change when he see's it from an inside perspective. When he's still a student, and lives with Tonya he supports communism for what it represents. Nonetheless, once the bolcheviks had taken Moscow, he truly lived communism, with the scarcities, and negative aspects it has, and his opinion about it changed. Because of the political context around the work, I believe that this fact must be considered while analyzing this novel.


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