Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

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Turgenev categorized his fiction according to length, but these two types also differ in purpose. His major novels—Rudin (1856; Dimitri Roudine, 1873; better known as Rudin, 1947), Dvoryanskoye gnezdo (1859; Liza, 1869; also as A Nobleman’s Nest, 1869; better known as A House of Gentlefolk, 1894), Nakanune (1860; On the Eve, 1871), Ottsy i deti (1862; Fathers and Sons, 1867), Dym (1867; Smoke, 1868), and Nov (1877; Virgin Soil, 1877)—are clearly preoccupied with social issues. Turgenev’s novels effectively present the social structures and concerns of Russian society in the middle of the nineteenth century. Turgenev’s shorter novellas are more personal and universal, focusing on the timeless themes of love and maturation. They are stories of emotional incident, and, of these, First Love and Veshniye vody (1872; Spring Floods, 1874; better known as The Torrents of Spring, 1897) are Turgenev’s most enduring.

Because of its inclusion in many college-level literature anthologies, First Love is better known to American readers than any of Turgenev’s other works, with the possible exception of Fathers and Sons. While the social commentary of Turgenev’s novels has lessened their interest for some modern readers, the universality of First Love has helped maintain its popularity.