What does the author want to symbolize by the two main characters, the narrator and his girfriend, in "Autumn in the Oak Woods"?
Since the narrator and his girlfriend in "Autumn in the Oak Woods" are unnamed, they symbolize in one sense the men and women of Russia in the 1950s (publication, 1961). It is also possible that they also represent the "Russian soul"; all Russian and post-Revolution Soviet writers were in quest of defining, or of "finding," the Russian soul.
The girlfriend is a city girl from a harbor town. She discovers that she values the gifts and opportunities afforded by life among the realities of a natural world, a natural world that is not idealized in a Romantic period sense. The harsh realities of life in the wild meet her at every instance, such as is demonstrated by the dark of night that she comes to shore in, the chicken feather, and the snow. She thus symbolizes the connection of the female Russian soul to the land of Russia. This connection stands in contrast to the denaturalizing urbanization of Russian/Soviet city life.
The narrator is a Russian man who feels the call of carving a life out of the beautiful though realistically harsh essence of the Russian soil. He symbolizes the psychological benefits derived that accrue (are naturally added to/from) from the Russian soil even when it is covered by harsh, killing winter snows.
Yuri Pavlovich Kazakov was among the writers who were affected by what is called the thaw period in Soviet literature that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s during which time censorship and government control of writers slackened its pace. During the the thaw, two primary groups of writers developed.
One group was comprised of authors devoted to revealing the social, cultural, political, and technology realities of Soviet cities in the most realistic terms, something akin to 19th century English writers. The other group presented the struggle of peasants as they sought to preserve their moral beliefs, which Tolstoy lauded in his stories, against urbanites who aimed at urbanizing the peasantry. Kazakov took an independent route and depicted individuals who resist denouncing the city but nonetheless choose the rural, country life, with a similarity to the English writers of the Romantic period, only most decidedly without their idealism of nature and the pastoral life.