Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Dimka, a seventeen-year-old who has recently been graduated from high school. He represents the generation of Russian youth born during World War II, who have little firsthand knowledge of the hardships that their parents experienced. Having completed his secondary education, he is faced with the decision of whether to continue his education or to seek a job. Even though he loves his parents and admires his older brother, Victor, a space scientist, Dimka leaves home and Moscow, mainly because he wants to make his own decisions for the first time in his life. This rebelliousness stems from the fact that young people in the Soviet Union are constantly told what to do instead of being allowed to make their own decisions. Even Dimka’s successful brother cannot escape the criticism of being too pliant in acquiescing to the system. Dimka is not rebellious solely for the sake of asserting his independence, as shown at the end of the novel, when he returns home after hearing about his brother’s fatal accident. Through this act, he confirms his integrity and innate sense of responsibility. This attitude bodes well for the young Soviet generation, showing that its individuals can think and act for themselves after decades of submissiveness.


Yurka, Dimka’s classmate, who joins him on the postgraduation journey and becomes a “kilometer eater” instead of meekly accepting the will of his elders. With his feet placed firmly on the ground, Yurka shows promise in the sports field and hopes to become a basketball star. He is willing to forgo the best chance of achieving that...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Dimka, the hero of the novel, is a representative of the generation of Russian youth born during World War II, who have little firsthand knowledge of the hardships which their parents experienced. He shows a healthy mixture of boldness and independence of mind, willing to buck the trend and to follow his own path no matter where it might lead him. Dimka is basically honest, though rebellious. He does not mind telling his parents and his older brother that he will not settle for being a hypocrite. At the same time, he is not sure of himself and does not know what he really wants in life. He wonders:Was it possible that the answer was—nothing? Was it possible that I could wish for nothing beyond standing at a bar and admiring the gleam of artificial stars on the ceiling? Wasn’t I capable of anything more daring than rock ’n’ roll, the Charleston, calypso, the smell of coffee and brandy.... No, hell, I know what I want. Or rather, I feel that knowledge is hiding inside me. But I’ll get to it.

Even though his first attempts at independent life are not an unmitigated success, he has moved toward that unknown goal, and the reader is convinced that eventually he will reach it.

In this respect, Dimka and Victor are similar. Victor seems to follow obediently the path mapped out for him by his elders, as Dimka protests, yet Vassily Aksyonov suggests that there is nothing wrong in becoming a space engineer and working for a meaningful goal....

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Clark, Katerina. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual, 1981.

Gaev, A. “The Decade Since Stalin,” in Soviet Literature in the Sixties, 1964. Edited by Max Hayward and Edward L. Crowley.

Meyer, Priscilla. “Aksyonov and Stalinism: Political, Moral, and Literary Power,” in Slavic and East European Journal. XXX (Winter, 1986), pp. 509-525.

Mozejko, Edward, Boris Briker, and Per Dalgard, eds. Vasiliy Pavlovich Aksenov: A Writer in Quest of Himself, 1986.

Richardson, Maurice. “Dragooned,” in New Statesman. LXIII (1962), pp. 804-805.