Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The novice

The novice, a novice monk in a monastery near the Caucasus mountains, Georgia, Russia. He was brought there as a prisoner of war at the age of six, after being captured in his native mountain village by the occupying Russian forces. On the journey to the Russian town of Tiflis, the boy, who was of a delicate constitution, fell ill. He was taken to the monastery and placed in the care of the monks. Having inherited his father’s proud and free disposition, he never complained. He stubbornly refused food and drink but was saved from death by the ministrations of one monk, his father-confessor, who tended and healed him. The boy did not indulge in childish play; instead, he stayed aloof and alone, pining for his native mountains. In time, he was baptized (he would have been born a Muslim) and became a novice monk. In effect, he was still a prisoner of war in the monastery, living in a bare, dark cell. He cherishes one desire in his heart: to see his homeland, and the people who live there, once more. The poem tells of the novice’s attempt to accomplish this. One day, during a storm, he escapes and flees into the surrounding countryside. There, his romantic soul enables him to commune with nature, as he observes and delights in every aspect of the landscape. He encounters danger in the form of a hungry panther. During a prolonged and bloody battle with the panther, the novice feels that he takes on the spirit of the panther; within him is...

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