Topics for Further Study

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Watch any of the televised versions or the 1965 movie adaptation of Doctor Zhivago with your class. Then lead a class discussion on how the adaptation varies from the written text. Use some of the following questions to get the discussion going. Then add some of your own questions. What themes are emphasized in the adaptation? Does the movie elicit different responses than the book? Is the characterization of Yurii different in the movie than it is in the novel? What role does the affair between Yurii and Lara play in the movie? How does that differ from the novel? At the end of the discussion, take a poll. Ask your peers which presentation they like best, the novel or the movie, and have them discuss the reasons behind their preference.

Do a historical presentation in which you compare the timeline in Pasternak’s novel, which sometimes runs counter to actual historical events, with the history of the Bolshevik Revolution. Compare a map of old Russia with one of the Soviet Union, and explain the changes in the country. Locate the major battles and explain who fought in them, so your classmates better understand such groups as the Cossacks, the Partisans, and the White and the Red Armies.

Research communism as a political theory. How is the communist economy supposed to work? Why was there widespread starvation and lack of supplies as Lenin, and then Stalin, tried to set up a communist state in the Soviet Union? Present your findings to your class.

Take what little description that Pasternak gives his readers of the main characters, Yurii, Lara, and Tonia, and draw sketches or portraits of them as you imagined them. Present your drawings to your class. Ask them how your images compare to what they imagined.

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