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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 208

There are many characters in Childhood, Boyhood, Youth by Leo Tolstoy. Childhood, Boyhood, Youth contains three parts, and it is the first written work of Tolstoy. The main characters are as follows: Nikolai Petrovich Irtenev, Vladimir Petrovich, Piotr Alek Sandrovich, Natalya Nikolayevna, and Dmitri Nekhlyudov.

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Nikolai Petrovich Irtenev is a ten-year-old Russian boy. The entire story is about Nikolai and his growth from childhood to adolescence. Nikolai is very insecure and self-centered. These qualities limit the relationships he engages in and cause him to struggle with finding a moral balance.

Vladimir Petrovich is Nikolai's older brother. As in many sibling relationships, Vladimir tolerates his younger brother rather than forming a true emotional bond with him (which often comes later in life for siblings). Vladimir is a happy person and is more understanding than his brother.

Piotr Alek Sandrovich is the father of Nikolai and Vladimir. Piotr is a gentleman who enjoys playing cards.

Natalya Nikolayevna is Piotr's wife and Nikolai's mother. Unfortunately, Natalya dies early in her life. Nikolai often remembers his mother's kind smile and the love she had for him.

Dmitri Nekhlyudov is Nikolai's best friend. Dmitri is very morally sound and refuses to engage in activities that he considers inappropriate, such as smoking and drinking.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 671

Characters Discussed

Nikolai Petrovich Irtenev

Nikolai Petrovich Irtenev (nee-koh-LAY peh-TROH-vich eer-TEH-nev), a ten-year-old child of a well-to-do Russian family. In this semiautobiographical novel in three parts, he grows into an adolescent and a student at Moscow University. In his formative years, he shows some constant traits: He is self-centered, insecure, sensitive, capricious, and outspoken, with a tendency to philosophize. He also displays some contradictions, depending on circumstances: He is often devious, yet strives for forthrightness; he is stubborn, yet submissive; loving, yet sometimes fickle or even cruel; ambitious, yet at times irresponsible; shy, yet capable of resolute acts; and both confident and self-pitying. His obsessive self-doubts concerning his looks often prevent him from engaging in normal relationships. He is given to daydreaming, and his artistic talent is expressed through his sharp observations as the narrator of the novel. Nikolai’s most important character trait is his burning desire to achieve a moral equilibrium that would allow him to orient himself properly in the bewildering period of growing up. He reflects the author’s lifelong struggle for moral perfection.

Vladimir Petrovich

Vladimir Petrovich (vlad-DEE-mihr), Nikolai’s older brother, who often is his exact opposite. He has a happy, big-hearted disposition. He is more sensible and practical, much more decisive, less emotional, conscious of his rights, and understanding and forgiving of his brother’s youthful outbursts. His relationship to Nikolai is more akin to tolerance than a close emotional tie, and he makes sure that his brother always understands his subordinate position.

Piotr Aleksandrovich

Piotr Aleksandrovich (PYOH-tr a-lek-SAN-droh-vich), the boys’ father, a Russian country gentleman. He loves his family while remaining aloof from it. He loves his wife but accepts her early death with a remarkable resignation that allows him to remarry soon thereafter. His two chief passions are cards and women. It is questionable whether he has any moral convictions or even whether he needs them. He bears his privileged status as a birthright and always uses connections to get ahead.

Natalya Nikolayevna

Natalya Nikolayevna (nah-TAH-lyah nee-koh-LAH -ehv-nah), Piotr’s wife, an exceptionally good-hearted...

(The entire section contains 879 words.)

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