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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 582

Vladimir Petrovich Voldemar

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Vladimir Petrovich Voldemar (vlah-DIH-mihr peh-TROH-vihch VOL-deh-mahr), the romantic sixteen-year-old protagonist and the thoughtful forty-year-old narrator. The youthful Vladimir meets Zinaida during the summer of his sixteenth year while staying with his family at their summer home. He immediately becomes infatuated with her and tries to live this first love according to the dictates of the romantic novels he has read. He dreams of winning Zinaida’s love with acts of heroism and idealizes the object of his affection. He eventually discovers that his father has become Zinaida’s domineering lover. Disillusioned and confused by this revelation, particularly by the vision of his father reprimanding Zinaida with a riding crop as though she were an unruly mount, the young Vladimir cannot comprehend the brutal passion his father and Zinaida share. As the novella’s narrator, the middle-aged Vladimir is able in retrospect to sympathize with the lawless lovers, but it is obvious that he has never experienced such love.

Piotr Vassilich Voldemar

Piotr Vassilich Voldemar (pyohtr vah-SIH-lihch), Vladimir’s dashing father and Zinaida’s lover. Known for his skill at breaking horses, Piotr Vassilich is equally adept at managing people. A complete believer in the power of will, Piotr feels constrained neither by the responsibilities of family nor by conventional codes of behavior. Without his idealistic son’s knowledge, he initiates a brutally passionate affair with Zinaida. His single-minded pursuit of passion eventually consumes him, and on his deathbed he warns Vladimir against its destructive power.

Princess Zasyekin

Princess Zasyekin (zah-SYEH-kihn), the impoverished and widowed mother of Zinaida. Ugly and vulgar, she is a materialistic and quarrelsome opposite of her daughter. Princess Zasyekin shamelessly tries to use her daughter’s beauty to repair her own diminished wealth and social standing.

Zinaida Alexandrovna Zasyekin

Zinaida Alexandrovna Zasyekin (zih-nah-IH-dah ah-lehk-SAN-drov-nah), the beautiful twenty-one-year-old daughter of the impoverished Princess Zasyekin. Part saint and part temptress, Zinaida shares characteristics with both Vladimir and his father. Like Piotr, she is a willful character. She mercilessly uses her beauty to humiliate her numerous suitors and seems to enjoy exercising her power over them. Like Vladimir, she is a romantic, and she secretly yearns to give herself completely to a domineering man. This fantasy becomes incarnate in Piotr, who establishes her as his mistress. She eventually marries a man named Dolsky and dies in childbirth just before the middle-aged Vladimir decides to see her again.

Maria Nikolaevna Voldemar

Maria Nikolaevna Voldemar (MAH-ryah nih-koh-LAH-yehv-nah), Vladimir’s long-suffering mother. Meek and passive, Maria Nikolaevna is unsuccessful in her feeble attempts to control her husband’s wanton behavior.

Victor Yegorich Byelovzorov

Victor Yegorich Byelovzorov (yeh-GOH-rihch byeh-loh-ZOH-rov), a dashing young hussar. Handsome and athletic, Byelovzorov is the most persistent of Zinaida’s suitors, repeatedly proposing marriage and announcing his willingness to sacrifice his life in her honor.

Count Malevsky

Count Malevsky (mah-LEHV-skee), a handsome, clever, and insincere nobleman who courts Zinaida. The anonymous letter he writes to Maria Nikolaevna describing Piotr’s infidelity results in the Voldemars’ early departure from their summer home. It also reveals Malevsky’s essential cowardice.


Lushin (LEW -shihn), a cynical and intellectual doctor. The least fawning of Zinaida’s admirers, Lushin tries unsuccessfully to insulate himself from the humiliations to which she subjects all her suitors. More than the others, he understands Zinaida, but like the others, he ultimately...

(The entire section contains 1238 words.)

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