Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Ilya Ilyitch Oblomov is a Russian landowner brought up to do nothing. As a child he was pampered by his parents, even to the point where a valet put on and took off his shoes and stockings for him. The elder Oblomovs lived a bovine existence. Their land, maintained by three hundred serfs, provided them with plenty of money. Their days were taken up with eating and sleeping; they did nothing until an absolute necessity arose.
The chief influence on Oblomov during his childhood came from a German, a steward on a neighboring estate, who acted also as a tutor. Young Oblomov went to school at his home and there found his only boyhood friend, the German’s son, Andrey Stolz. When the boys grew up, their lives seemed from the first destined to different ends. Stolz was sent off by his father with a few resources to make his way in the world, but among those resources was a great deal of practical experience. Within a few years, Stolz was able to amass considerable wealth for himself and to become a respected, vital businessman.
Oblomov, on the other hand, finished college after doing only enough work to get his diploma. He then became a clerk in a government office, one of the few positions considered an honorable post for a gentleman in Russia. Before three years elapsed he resigned from his post, ostensibly because of ill health but actually because he could not bring himself to accomplish all his duties; he felt that the work was simply too much trouble for a gentleman. Retiring from the government, he began to do nothing during the daytime. The indolence, spreading like a poison, finally made him extremely inactive.
By his thirtieth birthday Oblomov is no further along in life than he was at his twentieth; he is, in fact, much worse off than before. His rooms are filthy and unkempt, for he is unable to control his valet, Zakhar. Oblomov has no ambition whatever. He seldom leaves his rooms, so he has no social life. Even at home, he does nothing but lie around in a dressing gown and eat and sleep. How much money he gets from his estates in southern Russia he does not know, for it would be too much trouble to keep accounts. His bailiff, knowing his master will not stir out of Moscow, cheats Oblomov consistently, as does everyone else. Oblomov does not mind the cheating, so long as people do not disturb him.
At last two misfortunes, as Oblomov sees them, befall him. The bailiff reports by letter that only a few thousand rubles can be sent in the next year, and the landlord sends word that he needs Oblomov’s apartment for a relative. Help, in the form of a parasitical friend, Tarantyev, seems a godsend to Oblomov, for Tarantyev promises to find another apartment and to see what can be done about a new bailiff for the estates.
On the same day Stolz comes to visit his boyhood friend and is...
(The entire section is 1162 words.)
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