Chapter 7: The Journey
Yury is against moving to Varykino, but he goes to the train station to find out about travel. He is told that trains are very rare and that to catch one he and his family must come every day to wait. The train is very uncomfortable and moves very slowly, but the Zhivagos are lucky to have a corner all to themselves. There are several army conscripts in their coach, and they hear the young men's stories. One of the boys is Vassya Brykin, a 16-year-old ironmonger's apprentice. They invite a cooperativist, Kostoyed, to dinner, and Yury exclaims to him that the countryside looks like it remains in good condition. Kostoyed tells him that 50 miles from the railroad there are peasant revolts and things are no better in the villages.
As they leave central Russia, the trains are searched by security patrols. One night, the train stops but no one enters, so Yury goes out to investigate. He is told that the driver does not want to go on because they are approaching a dangerous stretch that should first be inspected by trolley. The train moves on, but the next day they reach a station that has been burned to the ground and they are told that they will have to wait a few days for the line to be cleared. The driver volunteers the labor conscripts and other passengers to do the shoveling. The clearing takes three days, and, to Zhivago, this time is the best of the journey. They head off again. One day, Tonya tells Yury that some of the conscripts, including Vassya, have escaped.
The train reaches Yuryatin, and Zhivago is reminded of Anna and Lara. He meets Strelnikov (meaning the Shooter), a political extremist. They go to his room, and Strelnikov asks Yury why he is leaving Moscow for an out-of-the-way place. He laughs at Zhivago and speaks to him in threatening tones. Their conversation is interrupted when the phone rings. The phone conversation is about a schoolboy injured trying to rebel against the Red Army, and Strelnikov muses to himself that the boy could have been one of his students once; he also wonders whether his wife and daughter might still be waiting for him in Yuryatin somewhere.
The train journey brings many different people together, and the Zhivagos are confronted with the awareness of being thrown into a new, unordered society in which class and social standing are no longer certain or secure. Zhivago is not opposed to this in principle, but he finds himself in the position of a potential victim, as a doctor and former gentry. He meets Strelnikov (who, of course, is Pasha Antipov) with a vague wonderment, enthralled with this rebel man and his accomplishments. Zhivago is also sympathetic toward the conscripts, who are being sent to labor camps to serve sentences for supposed treason against the new Soviet government.
In the struggle for simple existence, the characters of the novel all find themselves in positions they could not have predicted. Strelnikov is a prime example of a young man who finds himself thrust into a position of power; while once he was an innocent student infatuated with a neighborhood girl, now he is a vicious leader in the new system. He is known by an alias that represents both his violence and power, and this new name allows him to cast the past aside completely. Only he is aware of his double life, and when he thinks about going back to Lara and Katya, he does so with the conviction that it can be done only when he has lived this new life out.
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