Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Elena (Lena) Borissovna Zhuravliov

Elena (Lena) Borissovna Zhuravliov (boh-rih-SOHV-nah zhew-rahv-LYOV), a Soviet schoolteacher. Attractive, intelligent, and cultured, she is a thirty-year-old wife and mother who has become dissatisfied with her life. She finds purpose in her career as a teacher but no emotional satisfaction in her relationship with her husband. She unwittingly falls in love with her husband’s coworker, Dmitri Koroteyev, who is also cultured and sensitive. When she realizes the seriousness of her affection, she leaves her husband. Mistakenly believing that her love is unrequited, she lives solitarily until a chance encounter brings her and Dmitri together.

Ivan Zhuravliov

Ivan Zhuravliov, a factory manager, several years older than Lena. He has grown stout and sedate with marriage. Committed to increasing production, he puts machines ahead of workers and his job before his family. Soon after Lena leaves him, a storm destroys shoddily built housing that he constructed for employees. Well-meaning but bewildered by private as well as public humiliation, he loses both his family and his career.

Dmitri Koroteyev

Dmitri Koroteyev (DMIH-tree koh-roh-TEH-yehv), an engineer in Zhuravliov’s factory. Thirty-five years old and regarded as a model worker, he is...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The development of characters is more important to Ehrenburg than the continuation of a coherent story line. In fact, the personal dramas of the characters are, for the most part, separate from one another.

What is most important in the novel, however, is not the development of any individual character but the author’s attitude toward these people in general. Ehrenburg has taken stock characters of Soviet life and literature—the energetic worker, the factory manager, the idealistic teacher, the bored housewife, and the artists—and concentrated on their personal crises rather than on their public personae. Socialist Realism, the official method for literature and art in the Soviet Union, discouraged such forays into the personal domain and preferred that writers employ more public-spirited themes, such as heroic workers at construction projects, soldiers at the front fighting for their country, and Party intellectuals performing great feats in the battle to construct a classless society. Ehrenburg ignores these themes and concentrates on the personal problems of the characters. The result may seem commonplace to the Western reader, but this method was considered revolutionary in the Soviet Union of the 1950’s, so much so that the title, The Thaw, is commonly applied to the loosening of restrictions in the Soviet Union following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Alexandrova, Vera. A History of Soviet Literature, 1963.

Brown, Edward J. Russian Literature Since the Revolution, 1982.

Goldberg, Anatol. Ilya Ehrenburg, 1984.

Rogers, Thomas. Superfluous Men and the Post-Stalin Thaw, 1972.

Slonim, Marc. Soviet Russian Literature, 1964.