Ivan Andreitch (Vanya) Laevsky
Ivan Andreitch (Vanya) Laevsky (ahn-DREH-ihch LAH-ehv-skee), a minor official of the czarist government. This slender, neurotic, twenty-eight-year-old intellectual already considers himself a failure. He is living in the Caucasus with another man’s wife and, after two years of this scandalous conduct, finds that he has grown tired of her and is going mad in this backwater community. He desperately wishes to abandon his mistress and flee to St. Petersburg, where the social and intellectual life is more compatible with his temperament. He realizes, however, that he is always thinking that a new love affair or change of surroundings will inspire him to do great things. He drinks too much, neglects his work, spends his time playing cards, and generally displays himself as a weakling, a wastrel, and a cad. His behavior eventually involves him in a pistol duel that marks a turning point in his life. Afterward, he becomes temperate, industrious, and mature; he marries his mistress (whose husband has recently died), and they settle down to a humble provincial life.
“Kolya” Von Koren
“Kolya” Von Koren, a zoologist. This broad-shouldered, swarthy, vigorous young man stands in striking contrast to Laevsky. Whereas the latter is a dreamer and romantic, the scientist is a hardheaded realist strongly affected by the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin. He hates Laevsky and believes that individuals like Laevsky...
(The entire section is 646 words.)