Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One of the main themes of the story “On the Golden Porch” is an attempt to bring back the delightful, sometimes odd, sometimes frightening, but always highly influential experiences of childhood, in this case, in a small Russian town. Reminiscences of childhood, however, serve to throw light on other basic themes of human existence, mainly love and death. Even though Veronika seems to be incapable of love, Pasha’s affair with her sister Margarita demonstrates the opposite. Also, the children’s affection for Uncle Pasha shows a different, nonphysical kind of love.

Tatyana Tolstaya wants to show that life is full of mystery, as epitomized by the “enchanted garden,” which the narrator remembers most vividly from her childhood. Another characteristic of life is its constant changeability seen in the mutation of appearances of all living things, especially of the people of the village, the world that the young woman remembers from her childhood and revisits. The most important aspect of this world, as of any other worlds, is death, with which the story abounds. Veronika departs early, despite her robustness, and Pasha succumbs to the inevitable, despite his cheerful disposition. The deaths of birds and animals also are prominent in the story, epitomized by Veronika’s boasting of killing a calf. Thus, the transience of all life accompanies the beauty of the village and the garden. The narrator realizes this truth only after she revisits the village and finds it greatly changed.

Childhood is seen in the story as a natural, uncorrupted world of innocence but also of ignorance. Through the myth of Eden and the applicable examples from folklore, Tolstaya enhances her notion of beauty and its inevitable corruption.