Last Reviewed on March 5, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 657
As Bishop Pyotr prepares for Easter Sunday and Holy Week, his health is failing him. Everything is bathed in the white moonlight as the bishop navigates his way back to the monastery where he lives; going inside the monastery, he is told that his "mamma" has arrived, a friendly and warm term which conjures up similar feelings from days of his childhood. He recalls how much he loved her as a child and how tenderly she treated him when he fell ill.
On Palm Sunday, Bishop Pyotr is finally able to break with duties and visit with his mother for a while. Instead of genuine warmth, he can tell that she is forcing her "affectionate tone." Because of his position, she feels that she cannot be herself and they cannot engage as typical mother and son. She is unsure whether she should laugh or not. She is unsure whether to interact with him as her bishop or her son. The bishop notes that she seemed to "[feel] herself more a deacon’s widow than his mother." They exchange superficial conversation, and he realizes that he no longer really knows his mother. This both saddens and vexes him.
Very ill himself, the bishop continues with his work. The sick call, and he keeps visiting them. Yet in their requests, he begins to see "the triviality of everything which they asked and for which they wept." He is tasked with completing necessary paperwork and longs for a moment of freedom for his soul, a time of peace for himself.
Bishop Pyotr begins to see how separately he has lived his entire life because of his position. People revere his position, but they also glance away in guilt in his presence. Tasked with helping people acknowledge their sin, the bishop's presence creates timidity in others. He notes that he has a calm and meek disposition himself and never wished to live so apart from common people. He also notes that sometimes people are so struck by awe when meeting him that they cannot utter a single word. No one behaves freely with him. Thus, he recalls his childhood again and thinks that somehow in life's journey, he has missed something important and that the hopes of his childhood did not look like the life he's ultimately lived.
The next day, his niece Katya, who has traveled with his mother to visit him, engages in the most authentic conversation of the story. She makes fun of his growling belly, and their conversation moves him to both laughter and tears. This conversation is cut short by his mother who asks Katya to "let his holiness sleep a little." Again, his position is used to cut off genuine relationships with those outside the church.
After attending another service for Holy Week (in spite of his deteriorating condition) at the request of his church, the bishop returns to bed in extremely poor health. He begins to hemorrhage, and doctors are unable to help him. Bishop Pyotr quickly pales and looks much thinner; the physical reality of his illness is taking a toll, but symbolically, his responsibilities are also crushing him.
In his serious state, his mother finally returns to the familiar warmth that he so longed for earlier in the story: "Now she forgot that he was a bishop, and kissed him as though he were a child very near and very dear to her." And still, the world seeks to keep him separate and apart: "'Don’t disturb his holiness,' Sisoy said angrily."
Bishop Pyotr imagines a different life, one of living as an ordinary man, walking through fields, bathing in sunshine, being free to go where he likes. And then he dies.
Within a month, a new bishop is appointed and no one even remembers Bishop Pyotr. After dedicating his entire life to living separate from most of humanity and sacrificing personal relationships along the way, he is ultimately quickly forgotten.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 969
(The entire section contains 1626 words.)
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