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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518

Mother is a compelling novel about dissidents in Russia who risk everything to gain more freedom and a better life. The two main characters are Pelagueya Nilovna Vlasova and her son, Pavel Vlasova.

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Pelagueya, a widow, leads a desperate life in an impoverished village after the death of her husband. She longs for her son to have a better life than her drunken husband did, even though Pavel is toiling in the local factory as his father did. Protective of her son, Pelagueya is initially very cautious of Pavel’s revolutionary friends and warns him to be careful. However, over time, she sees how Pavel and his friends find some freedom and happiness in standing up for their convictions, despite the dangers they encounter. She allows Pavel’s group to assemble at her house, despite the questions of other villagers. Pelagueya helps her son indirectly in many ways in an effort to support his cause and make a difference. Eventually, she also risks everything by directly confronting the oppressive police and declaring her true beliefs.

Pavel is a young factory worker who finds close friendships with others at the factory who share subversive material with him. As he reads and considers the material for himself, his own convictions and desires for justice are strengthened. He finds that living a dangerous, but full, life while being true to oneself is more fulfilling than living a cold, predictable life as a dutiful factory worker. Despite the perilous circumstances he faces, Pavel finds some joy in his life with his close friends. They print leaflets, march openly in parades, serve time in jail, and are eventually exiled to Siberia for their speech against the government. He matures from a young, idealistic man to a bold, inspirational leader.

Andrey is one of Pavel’s closest friends who is fun and joyous. He is one of the most forthright and bold dissidents. He comes to live with Pavel and his mother on and off due to his activities and imprisonment. Andrey helps to open Pelagueya’s eyes to the socialist movement. He is a man of action, even taking a life when he encounters a spy.

Vyesovshchikov is another friend of Pavel and Andrey, who is outspoken and committed to their cause. He and Andrey are arrested together initially. At one point, Pelagueya helps to hide him from the police.

Two other friends in the socialist group are the girls, Sashenka and Natasha, who remain devoted to the cause, also dispersing literature and ideas in the village.

Nikolay Ivanovich and his sister, Sofya, are also strong supporters of the socialist movement and become caring friends for Pelagueya. They even take her in to live with them when Pavel and many friends are imprisoned. Nikolay, Sofya, and Pelagueya continue to risk all to further the cause, even being arrested.

Rybin is an older man who also works in the factory and becomes inspired by Pavel’s courage and message. He begins to embrace the convictions of Pavel’s group and even emboldens a group of peasants himself, charging them with the message of resistance.

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