Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 700

Vadim Alexandrovich Glebov

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Vadim Alexandrovich Glebov (vah-DIHM ah-lehk-SAN-droh-vihch GLEH-bov), a literary critic whose life has been defined by envy, anger, and caution. He avoids taking firm stands on any issue until the last possible moment, avoids contradicting people, and carefully nurtures his relationships without growing too close, all of which result in his ability to fit in with practically any circle of people without actually committing himself to being a part of any one group exclusively. As a boy, he enjoyed special authority among his friends because his mother worked at a cinema to which he could take his friends without paying. That authority vanished when Lev Shulepnikov moved to the neighborhood because Lev owned a film projector. Glebov eventually enters an institute to study literature, later becoming the lover of Sonya Ganchuk, his adviser’s daughter. When an attempt is made to oust his adviser, Glebov does not rise to his defense, which in essence is an act of betrayal. Shortly thereafter, he abandons Sonya. By the end of his career, he is a well-ensconced establishment figure in literary circles, even having the uncommon privilege of being allowed to travel abroad as part of his duties.

Lev Mikhailovich Shulepnikov

Lev Mikhailovich Shulepnikov (mih-KHAH-ih-loh-vihch shew-LEHP-nih-kov), or Shulepa (shew-LEH-pah), a childhood friend of Glebov and the chief object of Glebov’s childhood envy. Arrogant and bold because of his stepfather’s influence, he owns foreign toys, wears good clothing, and is the object of his neighbors’ respect and envy. Separated from Glebov during the war, Lev again encounters him at the institute. Eventually, Lev is party to the attempt to oust Professor Ganchuk. When his second stepfather loses his influence, Lev ceases to enjoy his many privileges and ends up poor, haggard, and working in a dead-end job.

Nikolai Vasilievich Ganchuk

Nikolai Vasilievich Ganchuk (nih-koh-LAY gahn-CHEWK), a professor of literature. Although a literary scholar and intellectual, Ganchuk nevertheless idealistically and rather blindly accepts socialist ideology. A participant in the ideological and intellectual literary wars of the 1920’s, Ganchuk is fiercely interested in literature and discusses literature and literary criticism with uncommon verve. When Glebov enrolls at the institute, Ganchuk becomes his adviser and champions his cause for graduate student status. When Glebov fails to defend him some years later, Ganchuk forgives him. Within an hour after he is finally removed from the department, he is spotted thoroughly enjoying a pastry in a shop. At the age of eighty-six, after he moves into a much smaller apartment, he is still busy, subscribing to eighteen newspapers and keeping up with popular science and television, and he still longs to hold on to life.


Narrator, a childhood friend of Glebov who remains unidentified in the story. His childhood is consumed with envy of Anton Ovchinnikov, because of the latter’s intellectual brilliance, and of Glebov, because of Glebov’s ability to get along with anybody. In his old age, the narrator remembers his childhood friends and childhood happiness with scorn and bitterness.

Sonya Ganchuk

Sonya Ganchuk, Professor Ganchuk’s daughter and Glebov’s lover during his years at the institute. She is submissive, kind, and sympathetic. Sonya’s first response to all people is pity, which sometimes leads to absurdities such as pitying the victimizer almost as much as the victim. She falls in love with Glebov in sixth grade, but he does not think twice about her until he is studying at the institute. Glebov abandons her shortly after her father loses his position. She eventually dies, before her father does.

Boris Lvovich Astrug

Boris Lvovich Astrug (LVOH-vihch AH

(The entire section contains 1491 words.)

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