Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"Matryona's House" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is about a man who moves in with a woman named Matryona. They live together for a time before she is killed trying to give part of her house to the newly married woman she raised. Important quotes from "Matryona's House" focus on Matryona's life and death.
"Only the engine-drivers knew what it was all about. The engine driver's and I," says Ignatich at the beginning of the story. He's referring to the train tracks where the trains still have to slow down. It's the site where Matryona and others died the night they tried to move the top section of her house to a new place so that Kira, her adopted daughter, and her husband can live in it.
Another important quote explains how Matryona ends up giving the top room of her house to Kira and her husband. The narrator says, "Sick and suffering, and feeling that death was not far off, Matryona had made known her will: the top room, which was a separate frame joined by tie-beams to the rest of house, should go to Kira when she died." Her ex-husband, Kira's father, ends up bullying her into giving it away before she dies. Moving it to the new location is what causes the accident that kills her.
And suddenly I imagined Ilya standing there, young and black-haired, in the dark patch by the door, with his axe uplifted. 'If it wasn't my own brother I'd chop the both of you to bits.' The threat had lain around for forty years, like an old broad-sword in a corner, and in the end it had struck its blow.
This is something Ignatich remembers at the end of the story. When Matryona's sweetheart returned from the war to find that she had married his brother, he is angry and says that he might have killed them both. After she dies, the narrator thinks about the fact that even all these years later, his desire for Kira to get the house early led to Matryona's death.
We had all lived side by side with her and never understood that she was that righteous one without whom, as the proverb says, no village can stand. Nor any city. Nor our whole land.
This is how the story ends. It's a comment on the character of Matryona and speaks to how she lived her life. She was always giving to others. At one point, Ignatich says that she never turned down anyone who needed her help. She was kind and giving; she was the kind of person who made her village cohesive.