Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The main character, Yuri Zhivago, starts out as a young man in unremarkable times, the turn of the twentieth century in Russia. History has other plans, however, for both Zhivago and Russia. The plot of Doctor Zhivago concerns the disruption of civilization as a result of cataclysmic events in history. The first scenes take place during the period of peace preceding the first Russian revolution of 1905. Soon, however, the revolution insinuates itself into Zhivago’s experience. By the time of World War I, he is a doctor and works on the front. During the civil war, he is kidnapped by the White Army and made to serve among them. He escapes, but fate calls him back to Moscow, where he dies in a streetcar, of a bursting—broken—heart.

Much of the plot revolves around fate. The young Yuri becomes a doctor as he had planned and marries his intended bride, showing that will can be successfully exerted; but war, revolution, famine, and the Russian Civil War first displace him from his home, then send his family beyond his reach, and eventually breaks his life apart. In the warp between will and fate, he begins to understand the difference between living in a role that is made for one in life and living itself. In Siberia, he joins another woman, Lara, while still married to his wife, Tonia; he learns that here, far from the strictures of the city’s quotidian existence and polite society, he has at last a soul mate, someone, who like him, looks to...

(The entire section is 507 words.)