(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Melekhov family lives in the small village of Tatarsk, in the Don River basin of czarist Russia. Gregor, the oldest son, has a love affair with Aksinia, wife of his neighbor, Stepan Astakhov. Stepan is away serving a term in the army. In an effort to make his son settle down, Gregor’s father arranges a marriage with Natalia Korshunov. Gregor never loves Natalia, and their relationship is a cold one. Soon Gregor goes openly to Aksinia, and the affair becomes the village scandal.

When he hears the gossip, Gregor’s father whips him. Humiliated and angry, Gregor leaves home. With Aksinia, he becomes the servant of the Listnitsky family, well-to-do landowners who live outside the village of Tatarsk. When Aksinia bears him a daughter, Gregor’s father relents enough to pay a visit before Gregor leaves for the army.

In the meantime, Gregor’s wife, Natalia, tries to commit suicide because Gregor does not return her love. She goes back to her own home, but the Melekhovs ask her to come to them. She is glad to do so. When Gregor returns to Aksinia on his first leave from the army, he discovers that she was unfaithful to him with Eugene Listnitsky, the young officer-son of his employer. Aksinia’s daughter dies, and Gregor feels nothing but anger at his mistress. He fights with Eugene and whips Aksinia. Then he returns to his own home, and there he and Natalia are reconciled. During the time he served in the army, Natalia bore twins, a boy and a girl.

In the war against the Central Powers, Gregor distinguishes himself. Wounded, he is awarded the Cross of St. George, and so he becomes the first Chevalier in the village. While in the army, he meets his brother, Piotra, and his enemy, Stepan...

(The entire section is 707 words.)