Pyotr Daryalsky (pyohtr dahr-YAL-skee), a poet who makes a summer visit to the small Russian village of Tselebeyevo. The handsome young Daryalsky, who has no obvious intellectual gifts or notable background, soon falls in love with Katya Gugolevo, who lives nearby with her grandmother, the Baroness Todrabe-Graaben. The dreamily impractical Daryalsky is an innocent romantic weakling who is soon identified by the revolutionary leader Kudeyarov as an appropriate potential father of the messiah who will lead the hoped-for overthrow of the government. Thus, Daryalsky is paired off by Kudeyarov with Matryona, a peasant woman whose earthiness contrasts with the vaguely spiritual beauty of Katya Gugolevo. His plight—torn between the two women—represents allegorically the plight of Russia at the turn of the century, looking West to European culture while looking East at its Asian heritage.
Katya Gugolevo (gew-GOH-leh-voh), a lovely young aristocrat who lives with her grandmother and falls in love with Daryalsky. Katya has no special qualities; she is an allegorical embodiment of what many Russian intellectuals at the time saw as a waning European civilization. She contrasts physically and spiritually with Matryona.
Matryona (may-TRYOH-nah), the...
(The entire section is 436 words.)