Childhood, Boyhood, Youth

by Leo Tolstoy
Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated 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.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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.

Homework Help

Latest answer posted July 12, 2020, 2:37 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

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.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 woman with a beautiful smile that stays with her son Nikolai for the rest of his life as a sign of incomparable loveliness and a source of inspiration. Her tender sensitivity is accentuated by her early death, which lends her an aura of sublime tragedy. She is “an angel from heaven” to those around her. She accepts her fate stoically as God’s holy will, although not without questioning its fairness, because she had so much love and happiness to give.

Dmitri Nekhlyudov

Dmitri Nekhlyudov (DMEE-trih nek-LYEW-dov), Nikolai’s friend, who satisfies Nikolai’s need for a companion during his young manhood. Through him, Nikolai hones and tests his own notions of moral righteousness, especially through Dmitri’s refusal to smoke, drink, play cards, or womanize. Dmitri also displays eccentricity in his attachment to an older and homely woman of unusual spiritual capacity that should help him overcome his hot temper and innate wickedness.


Grandmother, a dignified matron of the family, especially after her daughter’s death. Nikolai is attached to her and loves her like his own mother. She is especially good at upholding the family’s dignified reputation in society.

Natalya Savishna

Natalya Savishna (sa-VEE-shnah), a woman who lived with the Petrovich family for sixty years and whose entire life has been one of pure unselfish love and self-sacrifice. A simple-hearted and affectionate creature, she dies soon after Nikolai’s mother, without regrets or fear, steadfast in her faith and having fulfilled the Gospel commandments. She had a powerful and beneficial influence on Nikolai’s mind and on the development of his sensibility.

Karl Ivanych Mauer

Karl Ivanych Mauer (ee-VAH-nich MAH-ew-uhr), the tutor of Nikolai and Vladimir. A descendant of German immigrants, he uses his knowledge to instruct the Petrovich children in the basics of science and humanities. Despite his being a sad, lonely, and self-pitying figure and at times a strict disciplinarian, he was liked by Nikolai and left an early imprint on his pupil.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access