Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, also known as Nymphea alba and Those Who Came, a schizophrenic adolescent. His mental illness is diagnosed as hereditary, though his family situation probably has aggravated it. He has spent some time in a mental hospital but is later enrolled at a special school for students unable to meet the demands of a regular education. The peculiarities of his affliction most obvious in his narrative are his complete lack of a sense of time and his inability to delineate completely the characters of others. The novel is, for the most part, a dialogue between the two selves of his personality. One self yearns to become an engineer, whereas the other is interested in entomology.

The narrator’s father

The narrator’s father, the town’s chief prosecutor, a large, impatient man who perhaps aggravates, by his lack of tolerance, his son’s affliction. He cannot stand disorder or drunkenness and is forever suspicious of freeloaders, including musicians and sponging in-laws. He owns a dacha in the suburbs of Moscow where much of the action takes place.

The narrator’s mother

The narrator’s mother, a housewife who has not worked since her mentally disturbed son first went off to school. She constantly tries to reconcile the son and his father. Good-hearted, though lacking in imagination, she is the only character in the novel whose physical attributes are described. She...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The nameless narrator-protagonist invariably refers to himself as “we,” and the two halves of his mind are in constant dialogue with each other. The main voice is that of his free fantasy, his delusions; the other, lesser voice, is that of rationality, which constantly intrudes, hectors, corrects, and accuses the first voice of trivial and fundamental fabrications. The rational voice asserts that Dr. Zauze has charged him with following the other personality and merging with him. Only in this way can the boy become normal. The price of normality is, however, submission to the repressive rules of society’s institutions. The boy prefers the freedom of madness.

There are hints that the narrator’s madness is feigned, or perhaps later cured. Chapter 2, “Now, Stories Written on the Veranda,” contains twelve realistic mini-stories which deal with people mentioned en passant in the"deranged” portions of the text. These are apparently written by the hero, now in his twenties. The occasional intrusion of an author-persona to whom the boy tells his story also hints that the hero’s schizophrenia may have been feigned. The ambiguity is intentional on the part of author Sasha Sokolov, who, like his hero, has little interest in an inevitably constricting reality.

The novel’s characters, who flicker in and out of the boy’s fantasized recollections, are aligned with the two halves of his personality. One group represents the repressive...

(The entire section is 432 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Boguslawski, Alexander. “Sokolov’s A School for Fools: An Escape from Socialist Realism,” in Slavic and East European Journal. XXVII (1983), pp. 91-97.

Canadian-American Slavic Studies. XXI (Fall, 1987). Special Sokolov issue.

Johnson, D. Barton. “A Structural Analysis of Sasha Sokolov’s A School for Fools: A Paradigmatic Novel,” in Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe: Evolution and Experiment in the Postwar Period, 1980. Edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Thomas Eekman.

Karriker, Alexandra. “Double Vision: Sasha Sokolov’s A School for Fools,” in World Literature Today. LIII (Autumn, 1979), pp. 610-614.

Moody, Fred. “Madness and the Pattern of Freedom in Sasha Sokolov’s A School for Fools,” in Russian Literature Triquarterly. XVI (1979), pp. 7-32.

The New York Times Book Review. Review. LXXXII (September, 1977), p. 41.

Newsweek. Review. XC (July 11, 1977), p. 75.