Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The Poems of Doctor Zhivago have several meanings that parallel closely those of the novel proper. In fact, almost all the poems can be traced to events in the novel. Questions arise, however, as to whether these poems are necessary and whether they provide something that the novel does not. The poems are not concerned with the plot, and they do not refer openly to the characters of the novel. What they do provide is additional emphasis on important aspects of the novel. Moreover, they offer a deeper insight into the psyche of Yuri Zhivago in a condensed poetic form.

The central theme of Doctor Zhivago is the struggle of a Russian intellectual to preserve his individuality amid revolutionary changes and to fulfill his artistic destiny in service to truth, goodness, and beauty. By representing a window into Zhivago’s soul, the poems allow the reader to follow his heroic struggle to preserve his self, which eventually leads to a triumph of individualism over collectivism.

Another important theme of the novel is the idea of the immortality of the human spirit, and the poems express this idea much more effectively than the prose. As well-constructed, compact works of art, they celebrate a constant renewal of life through the regular change of seasons, thus crystallizing the triumph of life over death.

The novel shows that humans are spiritual beings in a constant struggle with forces attempting to rob them of their...

(The entire section is 492 words.)