Alexander Serebrakov (ah-lehk-SAHN-dr seh-reh-brah-KOHF), a retired professor who takes up residence with his young wife at their small estate in the country. After many years of writing books about art, his life is deemed a failure. Success and fame have eluded him; he is a gout-ridden, whining, testy, and complaining old man incapable of generosity or kindness. Presumptuous and full of self-conceit, he is a trial to all those around him.
Helena Andreyevna (eh-LEH-nuh ahn-DRAY-ehv-nuh), the professor’s beautiful young wife. Disillusioned by her husband, whom she married in the belief that he was famous and learned, she spends her life in idleness and indolence, infecting those about her with her absence of direction and values. She holds a fascination for men, but in doting on her, they themselves are corrupted. She remains true to her husband but in the process destroys her own spirit.
Sonya Alexandrovna (SOH-nyuh ah-lehk-SAHN-drehv-nuh), the professor’s daughter by a previous marriage, an innocent, plain young woman hopelessly in love with the local physician, who does not return her love. She learns to endure her pain by helping others, by work,...
(The entire section is 497 words.)