Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1037

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Marya Dmitrievna Kalitin

Marya Dmitrievna Kalitin (MAH-ryuh DMIHT-ree-ehv-nuh kah-LIH-tihn), a well-to-do widow, about fifty, fadingly pretty, sentimental, self-indulgent, tearful when crossed but sweet otherwise. She is easily taken in by Panshin’s blandishments, and she succumbs also to Varvara’s sly hypocrisy.

Fedor Ivanitch Lavretsky

Fedor Ivanitch Lavretsky (FYOH-dohr ih-VAH-nihch lahv-REHT-skihy), called Fedya (FEH-dyuh), her cousin, rosy-cheeked, thick-nosed, curly-haired, well-built. As a boy, he was reared according to a Rousseauistic system rigorously applied by his father. After his father’s death he attempted to get a university education to supplement his eccentric, secluded, narrow training. Following his marriage to Varvara, he gave up his formal schooling but continued to educate himself through private study. Naïvely trusting his wife to seek her own social entertainment, he was shocked to learn of her infidelity, and he immediately left her. Although he still broods bitterly on Varvara at times, he finds himself falling in love with Lisa. Having learned of Varvara’s rumored death, he longs to marry Lisa despite the age difference between them, but his happiness over Lisa’s acceptance of his suit is destroyed by Varvara’s reappearance. For Lisa’s sake and at Marya’s insistence, he agrees to live with Varvara but only on a formal basis. He stays with her only briefly. He is finally left with memories of the happy time when he thought Lisa could be his, the only happy moments in his whole life. Lavretsky symbolizes the liberal Russian of Turgenev’s day. He has attained a Westernized culture; he loves his country; and he wishes to apply democratic ideas in his relationship with the peasants who till his land according to the agricultural principles he has learned abroad. In appearance, character, and ideas, he resembles Solomin, the hero of Virgin Soil, who feels toward the factory workers as Lavretsky does toward the peasants.

Elisaveta Mihailovna Kalitin

Elisaveta Mihailovna Kalitin (eh-lih-zah-VEH-tuh mih-HAH-lov-nuh), called Lisa, Marya’s slender, dark-haired daughter. Thoughtful and deeply religious, she is troubled because Lavretsky had left Varvara and has never seen their daughter. Despite Varvara’s adultery, Lisa believes she should be forgiven and taken back. When it appears that Varvara has died, Lisa at first gently rejects Lavretsky’s attentions. Later, recognizing his goodness and deep sincerity, and feeling a spiritual kinship with him despite his indifference to religion, she accepts him. Their happiness is destroyed by Varvara’s return. Lisa says goodbye not only to Lavretsky but also to her family and the world, and she becomes a nun. As Lavretsky symbolizes one kind of Russian, Lisa represents another. Her education is limited; she has the standard learning and attainments of a girl of her class; she is traditionalist and conservative in her views. Religion, her comfort and stay from childhood on, offers a retreat in her sorrow.

Varvara Pavlovna

Varvara Pavlovna (vahr-VAH-ruh PAHV-lov-nuh), Lavretsky’s wife, a lovely, intelligent, charming, and gregarious woman who deceived her husband with a young French lover while giving Lavretsky the impression of being a devoted wife. Taking advantage of the rumor of her death, she leaves Paris and comes with her daughter to Vassilyevskoe to seek a reconciliation. Her attempts to win Lavretsky’s pity fail, but he agrees to let her stay at Lavriky, where he had taken her as a bride. Because of Lisa and Marya, he lives with her briefly. When he leaves, Panshin becomes Varvara’s lover. She soon moves to St. Petersburg and later to Paris, where she resumes her former life, somewhat subdued by age.

Vladimir Nikolaitch Panshin

Vladimir Nikolaitch Panshin (vlah-DIH-mihr nih-koh-LAH-ihch PAHN-shihn), a government official, a handsome, self-confident, socially accomplished, multilingual, dissipated, cold, and false dilettante. Marya thinks him an eligible prospective son-in-law, but Marfa sees through him, as do Lemm and Lavretsky. After Lisa rejects his offer of marriage, he begins an affair with Varvara, who is later succeeded by a number of other women. He remains a bachelor.

Marfa Timofyevna Pestov

Marfa Timofyevna Pestov (MAHR-fuh tih-moh-FYEHV-nuh pehs-TOHF), the eccentric, independent, bluntly truthful, and sharply critical sister of Marya’s father.

Sergei Petrovitch Gedeonovsky

Sergei Petrovitch Gedeonovsky (sehr-GAY peht-ROH-vihch geh-deh-on-OF-skih), a bachelor, a councilor, and an inveterate gossip and liar.

Christophor Fedoritch Lemm

Christophor Fedoritch Lemm (krihs-toh-FOHR FYOH-do-rihch lehm), an old German music teacher who detests Russia but is too poor to leave it. He idolizes Lisa and becomes a sympathetic friend of Lavretsky.

Ivan Petrovitch

Ivan Petrovitch (ih-VAHN), Lavretsky’s father. Irresponsible when young and even after his marriage, he returns to Russia from France after his father’s death with plans to bring some order and system into Russian life, starting with his own estate and his son. A combination of Anglomaniac, French liberal, and domestic despot, he dominates Fedya, even after his health breaks and he goes blind, until the son is freed by his father’s death when Fedya is twenty-three. Turgenev uses Ivan to satirize the foolish efforts of some eighteenth and early nineteenth century Russian liberals to Westernize Russia hurriedly and by force.

Malanya Sergyevna

Malanya Sergyevna (mah-LAH-nyuh sehr-GEHY-ehv-nuh), a former servant, Lavretsky’s mother. Uneducated, submissive, timid, ailing, she dies when Fedya is a child.

Pavel Petrovitch Korobyin

Pavel Petrovitch Korobyin (PAH-vehl peht-ROH-vihch koh-ROH-bihn), Varvara’s vain, greedy father, a retired general who left the army after an embezzlement scandal. He becomes the overseer of Lavretsky’s estate until he is dismissed following Lavretsky’s separation from Varvara.


Mihalevitch (mih-hah-LEH-vihch), Lavretsky’s university friend who introduced him to Varvara. During a brief visit at Vasilyevskoe, he is noisy, brusque, agrumentative, and critical of what he calls Lavretsky’s loafing, which he considers a primary Russian fault.

Glafira Petrovna

Glafira Petrovna (glah-FIH-ruh peht-ROHV-nuh), Ivan’s harsh-voiced, haughty, dictatorial sister.

Elena Mihalovna

Elena Mihalovna (eh-LEH-nuh mih-HAH-lov-nuh), called Lenotchka (leh-NOHT-chkuh), Marya’s younger daughter.

Nastasya Karpovna Ogarkov

Nastasya Karpovna Ogarkov (nahs-TAH-syuh kahr-POHV-nuh oh-GAHR-kof), an elderly, childless widow, the cheerful, devoted companion of Marfa Timofyevna.

Agafya Vlasyevna

Agafya Vlasyevna (ah-GAH-fyuh VLAH-sehv-nuh), Lisa’s nurse, a peasant who was formerly the mistress of Lisa’s maternal grandfather. She is responsible for Lisa’s early interest in religion.


Shurotchka (shew-ROHT-chkuh), a young orphan girl given to Marfa Timofyevna by the child’s drunken, brutal uncle.




Critical Essays