Dr. Zhivago | Study Guide

Boris Pasternak

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Dr. Zhivago | Book 2, Part 8 : Arrival | Summary



When Yuri gets back to his train car, Tonya immediately introduces him to Samdevyatov, a new passenger who seems to know everything about everyone from Moscow to the Urals. He and Tonya became acquainted while Yuri was gone. He explained to Tonya that Yuriatin is on fire, so the Zhivagos will need to transfer to another train that will take them to Torfyanaya. Talking privately, Samdevyatov tells Yuri about Mikulitsyn, the caretaker of Tonya's grandfather's former home. Mikulitsyn is a member of the Constituent Assembly, representing the Socialist Revolutionary Party. But his son, Liberius, is a commander in the Bolshevik army. Father and son are on different sides of the revolution.

Yuri and Samdevyatov's conversation veers to politics, namely Marxism. Samdevyatov, a Bolshevik, thinks Marxism is "a positive science, a teaching about reality, a philosophy of the historical situation." Yuri doesn't think it's possible for Marxism to be objective, as is required in science. He tells Samdevyatov, "Politics says nothing to me. I don't like people who are indifferent to the truth."

The Zhivago family disembarks at Torfyanaya, where the stationmaster greets them. Samdevyatov had called ahead and told him to be on the lookout for the Zhivagos. The stationmaster immediately recognizes in Tonya's face the family connection to the Krügers, which worries Yuri. The stationmaster makes arrangements for them to be taken to Varykino and warns them, "Don't go unbuttoning yourselves to just anybody."

As foretold by Samdevyatov, the Zhivagos do not receive a warm welcome when they reach Varykino. Mikulitsyn, who was an instrumental part in the revolution in 1905 and subsequently "left with nothing for his trouble," says the Zhivagos are putting him in a terrible position. Yuri says they don't mean to be a burden, and they thought Mikulitsyn and his wife would be willing to help them because of their familial ties to the Krügers. Mikulitsyn retorts, "How can you open your mouth and acknowledge such things in our time?" Luckily, as Samdevyatov also predicted, Mikulitsyn eventually capitulates and offers the Zhivagos an unused outbuilding and a small plot of land.

Yuri and Alexander Alexandrovich both like Mikulitsyn and agree that he's a good man, but his wife is a little odd. She has a strange habit of quizzing people about specific dates and events in history. It is through this game that she starts talking about Pasha Antipov, who was formerly a physics teacher at the high school in Yuriatin. She says he died in the war, but "[i]t's alleged that our scourge of God and punishment from heaven, Commissar Strelnikov, is Antipov come back to life."


Fate continues to play a large role in Yuri Zhivago's life, and this time it comes in the form of Samdevyatov. His chance meeting with Tonya on the train results in Yuri learning everything he needs to know about life in the small town of Yuriatin, including whom to trust. Samdevyatov's insights and advice keep the Zhivagos safe while also making Yuri aware that the countryside may be just as dangerous for them as living in the city. This is the first, but not the last, time Samdevyatov serves as the family's guardian angel. As Tonya says, "I think this man was sent to us by fate. It seems to me he'll play some beneficial role in our existence."

Despite Samdevyatov's counsel, something bad is looming on the horizon. Several people, including Mikulitsyn, warn Yuri about Tonya's resemblance to her grandfather. Neither the reader nor Yuri know why, but Krüger is not fondly remembered in this part of Russia. This could be because of his position as land and factory owner, which would make any living relatives of his targets for the communists.

Danger is the primary reason why Mikulitsyn wants nothing to do with the Zhivagos. As a member of the Provisional Government's Constituent Assembly, he already has a Bolshevik target on his back. The Socialist Revolutionaries were the largest socialist group in 1917, and, for the most part, they ran the Provisional Government the proletariat was revolting against. The party split, and the left-most wing, the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, sided with the Bolsheviks. Their combined troops were known as the Red Army. The remaining Socialist Revolutionaries teamed up with the right-wing anticommunists to form the White Army. Mikulitsyn is a White; his son Liberius is a Red. As in any civil war, it wasn't unusual to find family members and friends on opposite sides, but their positions of power are notable. Mikulitsyn still thinks of his son as a child, telling Yuri that Liberius "still hasn't grown up, hasn't settled down," despite the fact that he "wins over district after district for Soviet power" from the army of the Siberian government. Mikulitsyn's attitude mirrors that of Commissar Gint in Meliuzeevo. To him the Reds are children playing at war who will eventually need their parents' help. The youth of the communist movement is seen as a weakness, when it's actually one of the Bolsheviks' greatest advantages.

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