Literature Study GuidesDr ZhivagoBook 2 Part 14 Summary

Dr. Zhivago | Study Guide

Boris Pasternak

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Dr. Zhivago | Book 2, Part 14 : In Varykino Again | Summary

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Summary

About nine months into their domestic partnership, Yuri comes home to find Lara talking to Komarovsky, who has a proposition for them. He has been named a minister of justice in eastern Russia and is leaving for his new position soon. He has heard that Antipov and Tiverzin are "sharpening their claws" for Yuri and Lara, and Yuri is "the next in line to be annihilated" for blatantly violating the Communist "way of living and thinking." Komarovsky offers to take them and Katenka to safety in the East.

Yuri refuses to accept his help. He's suspicious of Komarovsky's motives but still suggests that Katenka and Lara go. Lara refuses to go without him. The next day Yuri and Lara agree they need to hide somewhere; they choose Varykino. Although Lara feels ill, they are full of love for each other as they make their plans, exchanging endearments and compliments. Yuri knows Lara suspects she's pregnant but he doubts it.

Varykino is desolate in the winter, but thanks to items left behind by a mysterious lodger, Lara, Yuri, and Katenka settle in rather cozily. Yuri finds ink and paper in a desk and stays up all night writing as Lara and Katenka sleep. After a few days of this, sleep deprivation takes its toll, and he can no longer think clearly. A feeling of doom blankets the house, and he senses that his days with Lara are numbered.

On the 13th evening, Yuri returns from collecting firewood from the shed to find Komarovsky with Lara. He informs them that he's leaving the next day and insists they must be on the train with him. Yuri refuses, and Komarovsky asks him for a private word in the kitchen. He tells Yuri that Strelnikov has been executed, which puts Lara and Katenka on the chopping block next. If Yuri won't agree to go, he can at least pretend that he will join them at the train station after locking up the house. That will get Lara and Katenka in the sleigh and on their way to safety.

Yuri fully understands the imminent danger facing Lara and Katenka. He agrees with the plan, rationalizing, "[o]ne of us is certain to be deprived of freedom, and therefore, one way or the other, we'll be separated." They leave before he can change his mind, barely saying goodbye since they think they'll see him in just a few hours. "I'll never see you again, never, never in my life," he laments as the sleigh races out of view.

Yuri spends the next week drunkenly writing poems about Lara. Pasha arrives not long after Yuri sobers up, very much alive and looking for his wife and daughter. He was hiding in Siberia until Terenty Galuzin, the noted saboteur, gave him up to the authorities. Pasha's still on the run, but his time on earth is drawing to a close.

Yuri and Pasha talk through the night. Pasha explains that he went to war to "conquer [Lara] again" and then fought in the revolution to "pay back in full for everything she had suffered, to wash clean these sad memories, so that there would be no return to the past." Pasha is surprised to learn how much Lara loved him, and he begs Yuri for every last detail of what Lara said about him.

That night Yuri sleeps well for the first time in weeks. But he wakes to find Pasha's corpse on the snowy lawn, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Analysis

Yuri isn't in his right mind when he sends Lara and Katenka away with Komarovsky. Mentally and physically exhausted from his all-night writing sprees, he can't make sound decisions. Then Pasha's suicide shakes him even more. This prompts the reader to wonder whether Yuri fully understood the magnitude of the decision he made alone with Komarovsky in the kitchen. But Yuri did wonder if he was making a "fatal, irrevocable error that will horrify me all my life." That line of thinking shows he knew exactly what he was doing.

Yuri likes to be sad. Years before, when Anna Ivanova died, Yuri found himself looking forward to disappearing for a few days to write about her and her funeral. Everyone else was devastated, but Yuri wanted "to dream and think, to toil over forms, to bring forth beauty." He does the same thing in Varykino. The more fully he understands that he and Lara will not get to live out the rest of their lives together, the more he wants to "weep out his anguish in expressions that would make everyone else weep." Yuri's poetry is fueled by heartache, so he doesn't really do anything to avoid it. Some might even say he courts it.

Yuri is undoubtedly distressed by Lara's leaving, but he doesn't regret his decision. He has a horse. There's nothing stopping him from riding to the train station in their wake, as he told Lara he was going to do in the first place. Instead he stands on the front porch, moaning her name out loud while composing verses in his head.

When he sits down to write, however, "the Lara of his verses and notes ... kept moving further away from her true prototype." Yuri is hesitant to write anything too personal that might "wound or offend the direct participants in what had been written and lived through." The desire to protect the subject of one's work isn't unique to just Yuri. Pasternak specifically includes this detail because the love triangle in the novel is based on his own romantic entanglements. He is essentially telling the reader that the story's characters are works of fiction, but the feelings they grapple with are all too real.

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