Themes and Meanings

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The reminiscent mode has many advantages for Turgenev. With the immediacy of first-person narration, he can evoke the nuances of feeling, the stirrings, the hesitations, the sudden shifts and gushes of feeling in the early stages of a romantic relationship. He prefers, however, to present these experiences as “recollected in tranquillity,” seen with the perspective of wisdom gained later and imbued with an aura of nostalgia and regret. Turgenev’s “first loves” almost invariably end in rupture, and he never depicts married love, or its usual consequences of family life.

Lyric regret for lost love is fused with general regret for lost youth, and Asya concludes with a “philosophical” reflection on the ravages of time and the ephemeral nature of human life. The narrator, twenty years later, still has, pressed in a book, the geranium Asya had once thrown to him from a window. The flower still exudes a faint aroma, and he morbidly imagines that the hand that threw it may already be moldering in the grave, while for him the hopes and ambitions of youth have faded into nothing. “Thus,” he concludes, “does an airy emanation from an insignificant blade of grass outlive all the joys and sorrows of man—outlive man himself.”

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