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Dr. Zhivago

Boris Pasternak


Chapter 5: Farewell to the Past


The hospital is evacuated to a small town called Melyuzeyevo. Near it rests another town, Zabushino, which became an independent republic for two weeks, partly on the strength of a story that the leader's assistant was a deaf-mute who had the gift of speech only in special circumstances. Zhivago, Antipova (Lara), and Galiullin are all stationed there. Yury and Lara find themselves working together quite often. Yury writes to his wife, Tonya, saying that he may be home any day and mentioning that he has been working with Antipova. He tells Tonya that she is the girl from the Sventitskys' Christmas party and the iodine poisoning incident. She writes back that he should leave her and marry Antipova and that she will raise their son according to sound principles. Zhivago hurriedly replies that she is crazy to think such a thing and that he has no romantic interest in Lara. He decides to speak to Lara to ensure that he is not sending any false impressions.

Yury finds out that the town mayor is planning to send a Cossack regiment to attack rebels hiding in the forest. He goes to see Lara but decides not to disturb her. He goes to a meeting in the town square and hears Ustinya, one of the servants from the estate, discussing the question of a deaf-mute who suddenly began to speak. The next evening, he sees Lara ironing. She tells him that she is going back to the Urals. He says that he wants to talk to her without being suspected of ulterior motives and tells her about his wife and son. He says that Lara's eyes show her to be wandering in an enchanted world, and he wants someone to come and tell him that he does not have to worry about her, but if that were to happen, he would knock the man down. He apologizes, sensing that he has overstepped a boundary. Lara begs him to get a drink of water and then return as the man she used to know him as. A week later, she leaves. The night before Zhivago sets out for Moscow there is a storm, and Mademoiselle Fleury, a servant, hears a knock at the door. She is afraid to answer it alone, so Zhivago goes with her. They find that it is only the storm, but they both imagine Lara coming in, soaked from the rain.

At Biryuchi Station, Comissar Gintz is attempting to defend himself against the group of Cossacks sent by the mayor. He has an accent and a foreign surname, so they accuse him of being a German spy. He climbs up onto a water-barrel to speak, and the men withdraw their rifles. He falls into the water, and the men laugh. Then, a shot is fired, killing him.

Yury takes a secret train to Moscow. On the second part of his journey, Yury sees a fair-haired youth who has been out shooting. The youth speaks strangely, although he is clearly a native Russian speaker, and Yury notices that he will not talk in the dark. The next day, he is further confused by the youth's strange conversational habits, and he does not understand immediately when the youth says he was kept out of the army by a physical defect. The youth shows him a card showing the manual alphabet and explains he was the star pupil at a school for the deaf. Zhivago asks if he had anything to do with the government of Zabushino and he answers yes.


Zhivago is clearly torn between Tonya and Lara, though he will not admit it even to himself. He has been intrigued by Lara ever since seeing her under the spell of Komarovsky, and Tonya somehow senses his secret desire when he writes a seemingly innocent letter home. At the same time, both he and Lara understand their most basic responsibilities, and they part without exchanging any genuinely romantic words.

The mystical deaf-mute in Zabushino demonstrates the chaos ensuing in the Russian villages. The villagers are willing to believe in legends and magical occurrences, and the young man takes advantage of their ignorance. Zhivago is frustrated by the haphazard managerial style of the local governments, and he is eager to leave for Moscow. He views the young deaf man with distaste, feeling him to be too arrogant and self-righteous. His own cynicism is growing. He tells Lara that they have all been reborn but with the knowledge that he cannot start completely anew. He goes back to Tonya in search of the familiar, comfortable love he enjoyed as a young man.

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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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