Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

And Quiet Flows the Don depicts four periods in the life of a Cossack family: the harsh but simple, everyday realities of the rural, prewar Don region; the disruptive demands of war commitments, which separate families, take men away from the land, and bring sacrifice and loss; the confusing period of revolution, with competing political groups seizing and losing power; and the civil war that results from world war and revolution. The story begins with the Melekhov family, Cossacks with Turkish blood, who are neither aristocrats nor peasants, but independent, spirited warriors committed to land, horses, battle, and the czar. The oldest son of the family, Gregor, seduces his neighbor’s wife, Aksinia, while her husband, Stepan, is away in the army. To end this affair, Gregor’s father forces him to marry Natalia, a nice girl from a rich family, who is beautiful, hardworking, and in love with him. After the wedding, however, her sexual inexperience drives him back into the arms of the lascivious Aksinia, and their scandalous, open affair ultimately forces Gregor to leave his wife and family for the Listnitsky estate, where he and Aksinia live and work together. After a confrontation with Aksinia, who bears Gregor’s daughter, Natalia tries to commit suicide by falling on a scythe but recovers slowly, her neck permanently twisted. Although she comes back in shame to her father’s house, she eventually returns to the arms of the Melekhovs, who feel deep affection for her and treat her like their own daughter. While Gregor fulfills his military service, his daughter dies, and Aksinia...

(The entire section is 651 words.)