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Characters Discussed


Nezhdanov (nehzh-DAH-nof), a young socialist who idealistically believes in revolution as the panacea for all of Russia’s ills. Born illegitimate to a wealthy aristocrat, Nezhdanov (literally, “the unexpected”) received a university education, specializing in the arts. This training frustrates him because, although a basic appreciation of music and poetry has been instilled in him, he indignantly denies that aesthetics have any social value. Frustration is the key to his character. More than once, he compares himself to Hamlet, the idealist challenged to act in a practical situation. While tutoring in the home of Sipyagin, he falls in love with Marianna, who elopes with him and agrees to work for the cause of the party. Nezhdanov cannot devote himself wholeheartedly to social revolution and consequently considers himself a failure unworthy of Marianna’s love. In desperation, he takes his own life, leaving Marianna to Solomin, his friend and compatriot. In Nezhdanov, the author has depicted the dilemma of a sensitive soul, basically opposed to ugliness and brutality, caught up in a social movement that demands the violent overthrow of the aristocracy.


Marianna (mah-rih-AHN-nuh), Sipyagin’s niece, living in his household. Although she is of the aristocracy, her parents died in shame and poverty; her father, a general, had been detected in a huge theft from the government funds. Marianna, longing for freedom, loathes the life of a dependent in the Sipyagin family and is incensed by Valentina’s remarks concerning her disreputable father and her lack of gratitude. In Nezhdanov she finds both a lover and a cause; not only does she agree to elope with him, but she also proves a ready convert to the party line. It is largely the purity and intensity of her devotion to Nezhdanov that draws the latter’s frustration to a tragic climax.


Sipyagin (sih-PYAH-gihn), a nobleman who hires Nezhdanov as tutor for his young son Kolya. Wealthy and respected, Sipyagin is regarded as a liberal and progressive aristocrat who favors certain experiments in social profit sharing. As such, he is the mean between the extremes of Kallomyeitzev, who is an aristocratic tyrant, and Nezhdanov and his comrades, who ostensibly advocate annihilation of the aristocracy. He tolerates Nezhdanov and even welcomes him in his household until Nezhdanov’s extreme views become offensive. Enmity between the two is sealed when Nezhdanov persuades Marianna to reject both her family and her social position.


Valentina (vah-lehn-TIH-nuh), Sipyagin’s wife, a woman of beauty and poise. She is also the appropriate feminine counterpart to the moderately liberal views of her husband. Only once does her nature become wholly unpleasant, when Nezhdanov spurns her attentions in favor of Marianna.


Markelov (mahr-KEHL-lof), Valentina’s brother, a violent advocate of social rebellion. When captured and exposed, he remains firm in his hatred of the aristocracy, refusing influential aid from Sipyagin, his brother-in-law.


Solomin (soh-LOH-mihn), a factory manager, a calm and taciturn man of great strength of character. Although a comrade, he recognizes the impossibility of immediate rebellion; hence, he lives amiably and profitably in the existent society, helping the party cause when and where he is able. As a manager, he is the picture of efficiency, respected by owner and worker alike. Aside from Nezhdanov, he is the most sympathetic portrait of a party member, interested more in peaceful means of social improvement than in inciting peasants to chaotic rebellion. He marries Marianna after Nezhdanov’s suicide.


Kallomyeitzev (kahl-loh-MEHYT-zehf), a nouveau riche aristocrat, the inveterate opponent of Nezhdanov’s social views. Essentially a fop, he takes meticulous pains to dress in the latest style and ostentatiously peppers his speech with French phrases. Politically, he believes in iron-hand control of the peasants.

Miss Mashurin

Miss Mashurin (mah-SHEW-rihn), a devoted party member, plain and masculine in her features, secretly in love with Nezhdanov.


Kolya (KOH-yluh), the young son of Sipyagin, tutored by Nezhdanov.

Anna Zakharovna

Anna Zakharovna (ahn-nuh zah-HAH-rov-nuh), Sipyagin’s aunt, a meddlesome woman.


Ostrodumov (osh-troh-DEW-mof),


Pakhlin (PAH-lihn), and


Golushkin (goh-LEWSH-kihn), party members frequently in the company of Nezhdanov, Solomin, and Markelov.

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