Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this sketch, Turgenev uses a combination of lyrical description (particularly in the opening paragraph, in which a day in July is related in poetic detail) and a nearly total detachment, with such minimal, brief indications of the hunter’s feelings that they go almost unnoticed. In the author’s treatment of the boys, there is no sentimentality, no romantic idealization. They are real boys, and their conversation is natural: direct, candid, and unadorned. One can see the boys and hear them talk, just as one can feel the beauty of the night and hear its sounds—the snorting of the horses, the crackling of the fire, the eerie cry of a heron, and the splash of a fish in the river. However, one can sense, more from what Turgenev does not say than from what he does, the author’s curiosity, compassion, and respect for his subjects.

The language Turgenev uses is genuine, never artificial, never overdone. The boys’ stories of ghosts and goblins are given in their own words, with almost no commentary by the hunter. Their tales are mixed with references to the night and its sounds; the result is both realistic and poetic. There is a perfection in the choice of details and the dialogue that makes it possible for the reader to identify with both the hunter and the boys, and the night spent on “Bezhin Meadow” becomes a part of the reader’s own memory.