Characters Discussed

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Yuri Andreievich Zhivago

Yuri Andreievich Zhivago (YEW-ree ahn-DREH-yeh-vihch zhih-VAH-goh), the protagonist. When Zhivago’s mother dies at the beginning of the novel, he becomes practically an orphan because his father, a wealthy man ruined by alcohol, already has abandoned his family. Yuri Zhivago is then reared by a maternal uncle, Nikolai Vedeniapin, a liberal journalist and intellectual who is the first character to express something like Christian idealism. Later, in his school years, Yuri lives in the home of Alexander Gromeko, a chemistry professor with a wealthy, good-hearted, physically frail wife and daughter. These associations are important in the formation of Yuri Zhivago’s character and interests. The influence of his uncle impels him toward poetry, and the influence of Gromeko toward medicine. Zhivago is dark and not particularly handsome. He possesses intelligence that shows in his features. He is passive and idealistic, sustained through the chaos of Russia in the 1920’s by the women, stronger than himself, who love him. He is more convincing as a poet and idealist than as a doctor.

Antonina (Tonia) Alexandrovna Gromeko

Antonina (Tonia) Alexandrovna Gromeko (ahn-TOH-nih-nah ah-lehk-SAHN-drov-nah groh-MEH-koh), the daughter of Alexander and Anno Gromeko. Yuri Zhivago meets her when he is a schoolboy living in the Gromeko home. Relations change as Yuri and Tonia mature, and Tonia becomes Zhivago’s wife. Tonia has all the good qualities one might expect in the daughter of civilized, educated people. She is a composed, polished young woman who is nevertheless capable of strong emotion, endurance, and resourcefulness. She remains loyal to Zhivago even after the circumstances of revolutionary Russia part them for good.

Larisa (Lara) Feodrovna Guishar

Larisa (Lara) Feodrovna Guishar (lah-RIH-sah FYOH-doh-rov-nah GI-shahr), Yuri Zhivago’s great love and the leading female character in the novel. Her parents came to Russia from Western Europe (France and Belgium), but Lara is thoroughly Russianized and might be thought of as the author’s ideal Russian woman. She is quite beautiful and susceptible to passion, which compromises her when she is little more than a girl. Like Zhivago, she makes a good and sensible marriage, hers to Pavel Antipov (Pasha), but is then permanently separated from her husband by World War I and the revolution that follows. Zhivago is a doctor during the war, and Lara is a nurse who works with him. They are later reunited in Yuriatin, east of the Ural mountains, where Zhivago has fled with his family during the revolution. When both Lara and Zhivago find themselves alone through forced separations, they turn to each other and form the liaison that becomes the novel’s principal love story. After they are finally separated, again by circumstances, Lara bears Yuri’s child.

Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky

Victor Ippolitovich Komarovsky (ee-poh-LIH-toh-vihch koh-mah-ROV-skee), a complicated man who seduces Lara while she is a teenager and he is the lover of Lara’s mother. Late in the novel, it is hinted that he encourages a separation between Lara and Tanya, her daughter by Zhivago. He is a capable man, not devoid of feeling for Lara and concerned, in his way, with saving her from harm. A lawyer in czarist Russia, he is able to manage various difficulties after the revolution.

Pavel (Pasha) Pavlovich Antipov

Pavel (Pasha) Pavlovich Antipov (PAH-vyehl PAH-vloh-vihch ahn-TIH -pov), the husband of Lara, whom he admires intensely in his student days. He becomes a teacher. He is extremely bright and is idealistic about revolution and the establishment of a new order. He enters World War I and becomes involved...

(This entire section contains 711 words.)

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with the Bolsheviks after the revolution begins. In his revolutionary activities, he is single-minded and ruthless; he is known as Strelnikov (the shooter). Antipov is strong, but he commits suicide.

Marina Shchapov

Marina Shchapov (mah-REE-nah SHCHAH-pov), the daughter of the former porter at the Gromekos’ house. After Zhivago is separated from Lara and drifts back to Moscow, he enters a common-law marriage with Marina. She is devoted to him and sustains him as he fails both in health and in purpose. She is badly shaken by Zhivago’s death.

Evgraf Andreievich Zhivago

Evgraf Andreievich Zhivago (YEHV-graf), Yuri Zhivago’s half brother. He is a principled man who accommodates himself to the realities of Bolshevik power, rises to military eminence, and smoothes the way for Yuri more than once.


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As one of Russia's greatest lyric poets, Pasternak inevitably incorporated autobiographical details into Yuri Zhivago, just as Zhivago's wife Tonya and his lover Lara possess traits discernible in Pasternak's own wife Zinaida and his mistress Olga Ivinskaya, but Zhivago is far more than a mirror of his creator. Shortly before his death, Pasternak wrote that he had seen three individuals transfigured — his close friend Dmitri Samarin; surprisingly, Lenin; and the fictional hero of Tolstoy's Resurrection, Prince Nekhludov; some critics believe that Pasternak incorporated all three epiphanies, as well as his own father's personality, into Yuri Zhivago.

Just as love gave meaning to Zhivago's life and death, Tonya and Lara represent Pasternak's eternal feminine archetypes, Tonya as nurturing mother and Lara as love incarnate, whom Pasternak associates throughout Doctor Zhivago with the living water without which no life can exist. As his poem "Magdalene" and many of his other works declare, sorrowing womanhood represented for Pasternak life's greatest mystery and its greatest blessing.

Pasternak's female figures, like so many of the real-life Russian counterparts, suffer most at the hands of men who are themselves at the mercy of fate. Pasha Antipov, Lara's husband, turns into the revolutionary Strelnikov, and is hunted down by the regime he helped put into power. The reptilian Komarovsky who had debauched Lara early in her life rescues her by taking her from Zhivago, ensuring that she can return, like Zhivago's half-brother Yevgraf, when Zhivago needs her the most. Together the central figures of Doctor Zhivago weave an intricate pattern illustrating Pasternak's belief that life itself was a succession of rebirths.


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Pasha Antipov
Pasha Antipov develops a crush on Lara at a very early age. Eventually he marries her in Moscow then shortly afterward they leave for the village of Yuriatin in the Ural Mountains. After fathering a daughter, Pasha becomes restless and believes that joining the army will revive his passion for life. Rumors spread of his death or possible imprisonment. Pasha later turns up as the mysterious Strelnikov, leader of a group of extremists of the new Russian government.

Pasha has decided to completely disconnect from his former life and never sees Lara or his daughter again, although he is often stationed close to Yuriatin, where they live. At the end of the story, Pasha and Yurii meet. Pasha knows that Yurii has had an affair with Lara. But Yurii tells Pasha that Lara admitted to him that it was Pasha to whom she owed her allegiance. Shortly after this, Pasha kills himself.

Vasia Brykin
Vasia Brykin is a young man, the victim of war. He comes across Yurii as the doctor is walking back to Moscow at the end of the story. Vasia becomes disappointed in Yurii as he watches the doctor withdraw from life. Vasia represents the generation of young people who have learned to make a life for themselves in the midst of war, poverty, and stringent government regulations.

Lieutenant Galiullin
Lieutenant Galiullin appears when Lara and Yurii are working in the hospital on the frontlines. He tells Lara that Pasha was not killed but rather was taken prisoner. Galiullin works with Lara and Yurii for awhile then disappears. Later he reappears as a leader of the White Army. Whereas he had at one time considered himself a good friend of Pasha, he ends up the leader of an army that is opposed to Pasha’s group.

Misha Gordon
Misha Gordon grew up with Yurii at the Gromekos’ house. He is in and out of Yurii’s life throughout the novel, one of the few acquaintances of Yurii’s still alive at the end. Yurii was once very close to Misha, but as they mature, Yurii finds Misha artificial, willing to go along with the dictates of the government and too afraid to challenge them.

Alexander Gromeko
Alexander Gromeko is Tonia’s father. Yurii greatly admires this man, a chemistry professor, who raised him. Alexander comes to live with Yurii and Tonia after they are married. Yurii often turns to Alexander, appreciating the way his father-in-law thinks.

Anna Gromeko
Anna was Tonia’s mother and Alexander’s wife. She is very loving toward Yurii and suggests that Tonia and Yurii become engaged. Anna dies early in the novel.

Antonina Gromeko
Antonina Gromeko, called Tonia, is Alexander’s and Anna’s daughter. She is also the granddaughter of Ivan Krueger, the rich industrialist from Varykino, to whose house Tonia and Yurii escape when Moscow’s economy collapses. Tonia bears Yurii a son and persuades Yurii to escape from Moscow, fearful that because they both come from moneyed families, they will be persecuted by the new communist regime. Tonia bears up well, knowing that Yurii has fallen in love with Lara, sending notes to Lara when she needs to find out where Yurii is. Tonia spends two uninterrupted periods with Yurii, but for the rest of the novel, Yurii is often absent from her. Tonia becomes pregnant with a second child and gives birth after Yurii is kidnapped by the partisans. She escapes to Moscow but is later deported with the rest of her family, presumably ending up in Paris. She is never heard from after that.

Amalia Guishar
Amalia Guishar, the widow of a rich, French businessman, is the mother of Lara and Rodia. Amalia arrives in Moscow to begin a new life with the help of her husband’s old lawyer, Victor Komarovsky. She opens a sewing shop, but when the women in her shop go on strike and when Amalia finds out that Lara is having an affair with Komarovsky, Amalia tries to commit suicide.
Larisa Guishar

Larisa Guishar, called Lara, is sixteen years old when she first appears in this story. She begins an affair with Komarovsky and is both attracted and appalled by it. Later, after she has broken away from his control over her, she tries to kill him.

After graduating from college, Lara asks Pasha to marry her. She then suggests that they get away from Moscow and go to the village of Yuriatin in the Urals. She gives birth to Pasha’s child. When Pasha enlists in the army and goes missing, Lara goes to the frontlines to look for him. She meets Yurii there and is drawn to him. The passion she feels for Yurii is almost out of her control, despite the fact that she truly still loves Pasha.

Strong, independent, and intelligent, Lara thrives on her own. However, when Yurii turns up several years later, she cannot resist him. She helps to nurse him back to health and continues her affair with him, even though Yurii’s family lives close by. When Yurii goes missing for almost two years, Lara waits for him. She is there when he returns, a sick man, and nurses him back to health again. She lives with Yurii, but she knows that she and he are marked people and could likely be imprisoned or put to death. When Komarovsky comes to Lara and offers her a way out of her predicament, Lara refuses to go with him. Only when she believes that Yurii will follow does Lara leave to preserve her safety and that of her daughter.

Lara reappears at the story’s end. By this time Pasha is dead and so is Yurii. Then Lara disappears, supposedly accused of being an enemy of the Soviet government and taken to a concentration camp for women. Readers learn in the epilogue that she gave birth to Yurii’s daughter, Tania.
Rodia Guishar

Rodia Guishar is Lara’s younger brother. His role in this story is minimal. He gets into trouble and needs money, which forces Lara to turn to Komarovsky.

Uncle KoliaSee Nikolai Vedeniapin

Victor Komarovsky
Victor Komarovsky is portrayed as a cold-blooded businessman who takes advantage of women, especially young ones. It is suggested that he might have caused Yurii’s father to lose his fortune and commit suicide. Victor does whatever he needs to do to survive, without consideration of morals or a twinge of conscience. He has an affair with both Lara’s mother and Lara. Later he appears in the story when Lara and Yurii have been placed on a list of suspicious persons who will be arrested and imprisoned if not executed. Victor pleads with Lara to go to the farther boundaries of Siberia where he will protect her. Lara does go with him after she is tricked into believing that Yurii will follow. Victor lives with Lara for several years.

Ivan Krueger
Ivan Krueger is Anna Gromeko’s rich father and Tonia’s grandfather. Ivan made his money in iron and owned a large factory and huge family estate, to which Tonia and Yurii escape when Moscow collapses during the Bolshevik Revolution.

LivkaSee Liberius Mikulitsyn

Marina Markel
Marina Markel is the daughter of a man who used to work for Yurii. Upon returning to Moscow at the end of the story, Yurii shares a house with Markel, who treats Yurii as being beneath him. Marina takes pity of Yurii and eventually falls in love with him. They live together as man and wife and Marina bears him two children.

At one time Mikulitsyn was a manager in Ivan Krueger’s iron factory in Varykino. When Yurii and Tonia run away from Moscow, they find Mikulitsyn living in the old Krueger estate. Mikulitsyn is a small time political official in the town and agrees to shelter Yurii and his family.
Liberius Mikulitsyn

Liberius is Mikulitsyn’s son, who becomes the leader of the Partisans who kidnap Yurii.

StrelnikovSee Pasha Antipov

Tania shows up in the Epilogue, when the Soviet Union is fighting in World War II. Misha Gordon comes across her and is drawn to her because of her smile, which Misha compares to the type of smile Yurii had. Tania is interrogated by Evgraf Zhivago, Yurii’s half brother, who is now a general in the Soviet military. Upon listening to Tania’s story, he realizes that she is the daughter of Yurii and Lara. Evgraf promises to take care of the young girl. Tania remembers her mother but never knew her father.

Kuprian Tiverzin
Kuprian Tiverzin appears in the beginning of the story, one of the instigators of the strikes that sweep across Russia right before the collapse of the Russian tsar. He becomes a leader in the Red Army.

Nikolai Vedeniapin
Nikolai Vedeniapin is Yurii’s maternal uncle. In the beginning of the story, Nikolai is Yurii’s hero. Nikolai is responsible for the boy after Yurii’s father and mother die. However, by the time Yurii is a teen, Nikolai has given Yurii to the Gromekos.

After Nikolai has become a famous author, Yurii is proud of him and the way he thinks. Nikolai has taught Yurii to open his mind to new possibilities, a concept that Yurii develops. However, Nikolai is ultimately a victim of the newly established communistic government that discourages individual thought. In the end, Yurii is disappointed with his uncle.

Andrei Zhivago
Andrei Zhivago, Yurii Zhivago’s father, was, at one time, a very rich and influential industrialist. He deserted his family and lived with another woman. Yurii very rarely saw his father. In the first chapter of the story, Andrei commits suicide by throwing himself off a train.

Evgraf Zhivago
Evgraf Zhivago, Yurii’s half-brother, is the product of Yurii’s father’s affair. Evgraf appears at times when Yurii is in trouble, such as when he falls sick with typhus. He also appears at the end of the story as an influential general in the Soviet army. He promises to take care of Tania, the daughter of Yurii and Lara.

Maria Zhivago
Maria Zhivago is Yurii Zhivago’s mother. The novel begins with Maria’s funeral.

Yura ZhivagoSee Yurii Zhivago

Yurii Zhivago
Yurii Zhivago is the protagonist. The novel encompasses Yurii’s development from young boyhood to professional doctor. Yurii has high ideals and expects much from what he perceives as the changing political mode of communism, which he expects to take over the world. As the story progresses, however, Yurii sees the ravages of war and the brutal behavior of the leaders. His initial ideals and optimism do not match the reality of how practitioners of communism plan out the lives of the Russian citizens. As the story progresses, Yurii withdraws more and more into himself.

Just as Yurii is torn between the ideals of political theory and the reality of its practice, he is torn between the love for Tonia, his wife, who represents the conventional relationship in marriage, and his love of Lara, which inspires a illicit passion that Yurii likens to natural urgings. Unable to choose between the two women, Yurii eventually withdraws from both of them.

By the end of the story, Yurii has withdrawn from society, from the two women who matter most to him, and from his children and his friends. He has withdrawn from society and into his writing. In the end, he lives in a small room where he sorts through and records his thoughts. He dies on a public sidewalk away from everyone he has ever known.




Critical Essays