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Dr. Zhivago

Boris Pasternak

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Analysis

Further Reading

Study Questions

1. What are the differences between the relationship of Yury and Tonya and that of Yury and Lara?

Yury has known Tonya since his youth and he feels affection toward her and her entire family. He meets her before World War I, during a time of relative innocence and happiness in his life. He encounters Lara under vastly different circumstances, and to Yury she represents an innocence now lost, especially since he has seen her in two bizarre situations previously.

2. In the novel, many different characters encounter each other in what seem like coincidental occurrences. Does fate play a role in the story? How?

There are many coincidental encounters between the various characters. At the very beginning of the book, Misha sees Yury's father on a train. Yury encounters Lara under numerous odd circumstances, almost as though they are fated to meet one another. While it is not clear that fate controls the action of the novel, there is a sense that the characters' lives are inextricably connected.

3. Trace the development of the relationship between Lara and Komarovsky.

Lara sees herself as Komarovsky's prisoner, and he has control over both her early and later life. He has power over her because he is substantially older and wealthier, and she finds herself dependent on him when she is most vulnerable. She tries to liberate herself from him, but she repeatedly discovers that she cannot escape his control, although her relationship with Yury gives her the strength to refuse his offer to take her to the east. When Yury tricks her, however, she is under Komarovsky's control again.

4. Is Tonya correct in saying that Yury does not love her? Why or why not?

Tonya knows of Yury's relationship with Lara, but she does not resent him for it. Rather, she is saddened by the knowledge that they cannot have an equal relationship. Yury does love Tonya, but not in the way he loves Lara. While his love for Tonya is not defined by passion, he nonetheless feels a strong, affectionate loyalty toward her.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Why does Zhivago tell Strelnikov that Lara loved him more than anyone?

2. Why does Zhivago stay in Varykino instead of accompanying Lara to the east?

3. Why does Zhivago try only halfheartedly to be reunited with his family in Paris?

4. How does Yury's character develop through the course of the novel?

5. Is Yury the only protagonist of the novel? Is there an antagonist?

6. Identify one major theme in the novel and explain how it relates to the development of Yury's character.

More Help

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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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