Skip over navigation

Dr. Zhivago

Boris Pasternak

Chapter 9: Varykino

Chapter 8: Arrival

Chapters 10-11: The Highway and Forest Brotherhood

Summary

Yury begins to keep a diary in which he reflects on his family's new lifestyle in Varykino. He is aware that they are stealing from the state by working the land illegally, and he believes that their relationship to Krueger is no excuse. Mikulitsin protects them, along with the revolutionary Samdevyatov. They avoid mentioning that Yury is a doctor, but people still come from miles away for treatment. They have a good potato harvest and spend time reading classics of literature, especially Pushkin's epic poem Evgeny Onegin.

In the spring, Yury comes to believe that Tonya is pregnant. Yury's health begins to worsen and he feels it is the first sign of hereditary heart disease. Yury goes to the nearby town of Yuryatin to visit the public library. In the reading room, Yury recognizes Lara Antipova. His first impulse is to speak to her, but he feels unusually timid. He goes on reading, and when he looks up she is gone. He looks at the books on Marxism she just returned and sees her address on an order slip. Walking home, he suddenly decides to visit her.

Yury finds Lara filling a bucket of water at a well. She tells him that she knows he has been in the district for more than a year and asks why he has come. She also tells him that she saw him in the reading room. He tells her about his trip from Moscow, even mentioning his meeting with Strelnikov, who is rumored to be her husband. Yury says he is destined to come to a bad end. Lara tells him that she knows Pasha is using the name Strelnikov and that he ordered an attack on Yuryatin without ever coming to investigate whether she and Katya were still alive; she conjectures also that Pasha may have somehow helped her get her apartment. He is now in Siberia fighting Galiullin. They talk further about Strelnikov, and Yury calls home to tell his family that he is spending the night in Yuryatin and staying at Samdevyatov's inn, though he really sleeps at Lara's apartment.

Two months later, Zhivago contemplates the lies he has been telling at home. He has started to call Lara by her first name and address her informally. His guilty conscience weighs heavily on him. He decides to tell Tonya everything and end his relationship with Lara. He already told Lara this and she cried but told him not to worry. He suddenly decides that there is no hurry and that, although he will confess all to Tonya eventually, for now he can go back to finish his conversation with Lara. He is eager to see her again. On his way to see her, he is halted by three horsemen and told that he is being conscripted as a medical officer in their military unit, and if he disagrees, he will be shot. One of the men works for Mikulitsin's son.

Commentary

Zhivago goes to Yuryatin innocently, and he tries to avoid speaking to Lara at first, knowing that he has some secret, lingering affection for her. He cannot resist seeing her and rationalizes his thoughts by convincing himself that he is only eager to see an old friend. He finds her at home and guiltily stays a long time and ends up spending the night. Worst of all, he lies to Tonya about where he was staying.

Lara knows that her husband has become the feared Strelnikov; her reaction is somewhat angry, yet it is tempered by her own practical nature. The relationship of Lara and Zhivago, through their conversation about Pasha, is placed against the broader historical circumstances of the civil war. In the first few years after the revolution of 1917, the conservative old regime, aided by international support, fought a war against the new communist government. The communist Soviets under Lenin were of course the Reds; the conservatives were the Whites. Strelnikov and Yury are Reds, and Galiullin a White. The way that politics and unrest infiltrates even the secret, personal affair between Lara and Zhivago is made concrete when Yury is conscripted by the Red Army while on his way to see Lara.

Zhivago admires the ease and lightness with which Lara goes about her daily tasks, and it is with this ease that she accepts Pasha's (Strelnikov's) indifference toward her and her daughter. When Yury decides to cut off contact with her, too, she accepts the proclamation as inevitable. Given the drastic societal and political changes of this period, it was necessary for Russians to relinquish their attachment to institutions of the past. Lara and Yury both accomplish this, but nonetheless they cannot abandon their affection for each other.

More Help

Previous Next
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.

0 Comments

2 out of 2 people found this helpful

Follow Us