- Coulehan, Jack
- Date of entry: Dec-09-1996
- Last revised: Sep-01-2006
This tale is subtitled, "A Provincial’s Story." The narrator is Misail Poloznev, who lives in a provincial town with his father, an uninspired architect, and his sister, Cleopatra. Misail has no interest in the standard, clerical-type employment of gentlemen, but wishes to earn his living by manual labor. This is outrageous! It is totally immoral for a gentleman to cross the line and act like a common workman. When Misail goes to work for Radish the painter and contractor, his father first has the local governor warn the young man that he had better shape up or the genteel community will make him an outcast; when Misail persists, his father disowns him.
Misail’s friend, Dr. Blagovo, is a physician who articulates the beliefs of many of Russian intellectuals: "In this land of ours cultural life hasn’t even begun. There’s that same savagery that existed five hundred years ago." Through Dr. Blagovo, Misail meets Masha Dolzhikov, the engineer’s daughter. By falling in love with the idea of working the land and helping the peasants, she falls in love with and marries Misail, who embodies her ideal. They move to the country and try to farm, but the peasants cheat them. Masha tries to start a school for peasant children, but the peasants sabotage her plan. Finally, she gives up and moves to Petersburg, eventually asking Misail for a divorce.
Meanwhile, Cleopatra has fallen in love with Dr. Blagovo, who gets her pregnant and leaves. The outcast brother and sister then live together, until Cleopatra dies of tuberculosis after having the baby. Years later, Misail continues his principled career as a workman and cares for his orphaned niece.
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