The famous film version of the novel seems to be an extravaganza of glorious landscape forming the background to a complex love relationship; however, this is a simplified reading of the novel. In Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, the focus is on life and fate, with the complexities that war, revolution, and civil war bring to it. “Zhivago,” here a surname, means “of the living,” and the novel to a slight degree could even be taken at the level of allegory in which Yuri Zhivago, a healer and a poet, nurtures the human body and spirit during these critical times.

The main character is not a typical hero. He is a weak man, the son of a profligate, and the nephew of a sentimental writer. His nature is not aggressive; he seems, therefore, a little passive, although he clearly plays the active role of the doctor and escapes his captors on his own. He is a poet, caught not only in the earthly humdrum of the poets of other generations but also in the cataclysm of a vastly sweeping change in the entire world that he inhabits.

The theme of love involves the philosophy that love is elemental in nature, not romantic, with the profanity of the seduction of Lara by Viktor Komarovsky clearly juxtaposed with the pure, fated, soulful union of Lara and Yuri Zhivago. His fascination begins with their first meeting, when she is still much under the control of Komarovsky, and he feels a natural curiosity and attraction to her. Later, when she is the nurse Antipova, he tries “not to love her,” although he is...

(The entire section is 628 words.)