Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Islaev estate

Islaev estate (ees-LA-ev). Country estate of a rich landowner, Arkady Islaev, located in an unspecified part of Russia. Ivan Turgenev uses a tranquil country setting because he is familiar with it, despite his frequent world travels, and also because he wants to contrast it with the emotional turmoil within practically all the characters. Although the play is subtitled a comedy, it depicts serious conflicts of several love relationships, mostly unrequited, that belie the quiet and beautiful settings of nature. Drawing rooms, a card table, the ballroom, the gardens, a shady pavilion—all point to a leisurely life in the country.

It is ironic that, when love’s passions reach a boiling point, “like a sudden storm on a fine day,” several characters leave for Moscow, as if fleeing from rustic country life. This seems to confirm the critic Georg Brandes’s seeing nature in Turgenev’s works as la grande indifférente. After several characters leave the estate, the quiet life returns. Those that remain, especially Islaev’s wife Natalia Petrovna, who had caused most of the turmoil with her infatuation with the young student Belaev, her jealousy and her desire to break the monotony of her life, are forced to find a rapport with nature again. With its lyrical mood and scarcity of action, A Month in the Country is a forerunner of Anton Chekhov’s plays.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The hope for reform and the tensions of revolution serve as the political backdrop against which much of Turgenev's work was created. From...

(The entire section is 653 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

A Month in the Country is set in Russia during the mid-1800s on the estate of a wealthy landowner. The entire play...

(The entire section is 740 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

Mid-1800s: During Nicholas I's reign, there are many restrictions placed on education. In particular, there are restrictions on the...

(The entire section is 488 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Climax is a literary term that refers to the turning point in a story during which the most important part of the action occurs. Identify the...

(The entire section is 164 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

A Month in the Country was made into a film for Mastervision's arts series on drama. Produced in the 1980s, this ninety-minute version...

(The entire section is 127 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

In his time, Nikolai Gogol was known for his unabashed criticism of Russia's bureaucracy. Today he is known as the Father of Russian realism....

(The entire section is 223 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Harcave, Sidney. Russia: A History, J. B. Lippincott, 1968, pp. 248-74.

Schechner, Richard....

(The entire section is 218 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Fitzlyon, April. A Month in the Country: An Exhibition Presented by the Theatre Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983. A useful illustrated presentation of Turgenev’s work for theater, with a bibliography of translations of his plays into English and of their productions in Great Britain. Various aspects of A Month in the Country are treated in an uncluttered way.

Freeborn, Richard. “Turgenev the Dramatist.” In Critical Essays on Ivan Turgenev, edited by David A. Lowe. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989. An excellent survey of Turgenev’s dramatic works. Freeborn considers Turgenev’s work for the theater a part of his apprenticeship for future works. In A Month in the Country, he added a dimension of forceful psychological insight, reinforced by a sharp edge of social criticism.

Magarshack, David. Turgenev: A Life. London: Faber and Faber, 1954. An illustrated biography by Turgenev’s translator, concentrating on the events shaping his life, his relationships with Russian and foreign writers, and the circumstances surrounding his works, including A Month in the Country.

Seeley, Frank Friedeberg. “Poetry, Plays, Criticism.” In Turgenev: A Reading of His Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. In this survey of Turgenev’s poetry and plays, Seeley finds A Month in the Country to be a combination of two subtle psychological portraits, that of a woman in crisis and of a Hamlet-type hero. The play marks the full development of the Russian psychological drama a generation before Chekhov.