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Literature Study GuidesDr ZhivagoBook 2 Part 13 Summary

Dr. Zhivago | Study Guide

Boris Pasternak

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Dr. Zhivago | Book 2, Part 13 : Opposite the House with Figures | Summary



After walking and hitching rides for weeks, Yuri finally arrives in Yuriatin. Lara isn't home, but she has left a key in the usual place with an accompanying note. It says that she and Katenka are in Varykino where they assume Yuri would go first. He realizes Lara would go to Varykino only if she knew his family wasn't there. He frets about them, but not enough to turn over Lara's note and read further that they've gone to Moscow, and Tonya has had their baby, a girl. He finally learns they are safe from Glafira Tuntseva, who agrees to give him a haircut and a shave.

Yuri returns to Lara's rundown, rat-infested apartment and realizes he's very ill. He sleeps for what seems like days, plagued by nightmares. When he wakes, Lara is there, taking care of him. She insists he return to his family once he recovers, for she would go to Pasha if he returned. They discuss their relationships, and Yuri hesitantly asks whether Lara has ever been involved with Samdevyatov, who is clearly responsible for the small comforts in the apartment. She says no—he's too masculine for her taste—but she tells Yuri all about Komarovsky. Yuri tells her about Komarovsky's involvement in his father's death.

Yuri gets a job, but it doesn't last long. Though his employers at the Institute of Gynecology and Obstetrics say they value independent thought and new ideas, he senses they don't like his lectures about biological adaptations. He worries about being arrested, and Lara worries about her own safety, particularly since Tiverzin and Antipov, Pasha's father, are members of the revolutionary tribunal council. She's certain they both would, if given a chance, destroy her and Pasha "in the name of higher revolutionary justice." Yuri and Lara discuss fleeing Yuriatin for Varykino or even Moscow, but Lara wants to stay nearby because "Pashenka's fate is being decided here."

One evening after another unsuccessful trip to the train station to find a way to Moscow, Glafira arrives at the door with a letter for Yuri. It's from Tonya, sent five months ago. She writes that the family is being deported from Russia, most likely to Paris. She hopes Yuri will eventually get permission to join them, but she doesn't really believe that will happen. "The whole trouble is that I love you and you do not love me." She also assures him that she does not blame him for any wrongdoing and beseeches him to "shape your life as you want it to be, so long as it is good for you." She ends her letter by telling him, "We will never, ever see each other again." A heartbroken Yuri clutches his chest and faints.


Yuri Zhivago survived a tour with the Imperial Army and forced service with the Bolsheviks, yet he seems almost physically incapable of juggling the affections of two women. He loves them both; he has known Tonya for so long that she almost seems like an extension of his physical person, but Lara completes his soul. Yuri resists making a choice between the two women, but inadvertently shows his hand when he goes to Yuriatin to see Lara before checking on his family at Varykino. Lara, however, assumes Yuri would be more loyal to his family than to her. If the situations were reversed, she would always look for Pasha first because she "would not resist the call of the past, the call of faithfulness. [She] would sacrifice everything." Even Yuri.

Yuri feels enormously guilty for his affair with Lara, but guilt seems to be his only penance. Pasternak doesn't make him out to be a villain or even a bad guy. This is for two reasons. The first is that the rules of the heart are different during times of war. War disrupts regular society, separates families, and kills loved ones. As Lara says, "all everyday things [are] overturned and destroyed," and the naked soul "draw[s] to the one nearest to it, which is just as naked and lonely." Things that wouldn't normally be allowed, such as living with a common-law wife while being legally married to someone else, are overlooked, because everyone deserves comfort during disaster.

Pasternak also doesn't make a big deal about Yuri's extramarital relationship because he was in the middle of one himself when he wrote Doctor Zhivago. He uses his experience of being torn between his second wife, Zinaida, and his mistress, Olga Ivinskaya, as the basis for the love triangle between Yuri, Tonya, and Lara. Yuri is essentially a fictionalized version of Pasternak, so it makes sense that Pasternak would shape the narrative so the reader sympathizes with him.

Even Tonya sympathizes with Yuri, which may seem unrealistic to some readers. She loves Yuri desperately and doesn't believe that he returns her affections, just as a young Pasha believed Lara had none for him. Tonya is no fool—she assumes Yuri and Lara are together. She knows her husband better than he knows himself, and she knows exactly what type of woman he would find attractive. She can't hate him for that. In fact she does the exact opposite and tells him to be with Lara. After she tells him they will never see each other again, she writes, "There, I have written these words, do you clearly make out their meaning? Do you understand, do you understand?" She's letting him know that it's okay if he moves on with his life. He can stop searching for her and their children.

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