"Self-sacrifice is sweet - for some people."
Critical Approach: Reader-Response
The novelette is entitled First Love. At first, I thought this is some kind of a light-sailing story about a first romance. But I guess I judged the title too early, and realized while reading that it was indeed a depiction of the agonies of an unrequited first love.
Suspense. That's what i felt while the story is still unfolding. Vladimir's search for Zinaida's true love provoked intense feelings of me. I pity Vladimir as well, because Zinaida and some of her suitors belittled and took advantage of him being the youngest and innocent of them. Vladimir even joins them in their difficult and often fruitless search for the young lady's favor, yet I am in awe of him, for his love is pure and child-like, but passionate. I have this extreme dislike of Zinaida's character, especially when it comes to her suitors and her every now and then changing attitude towards Vladimir.
As I go along the story, my attitude towards it changed. From thinking that Vladimir's love is innocent and doesn't even qualify for Zinaida'a attention, to innocent love is much sweeter and more romantic than gifts and kisses by the hand. Vladimir's pure love for the young Princess uplifted his character more than the other suitors (Count Malevsky, Doctor Lushin, Maidanoff, retired Captain Nirmatzky and Byelovzoroff the hussar). It even made me hope that Zinaida would like Vladimir in return, though I am suspecting that it is one of the suitors she was liking in the beginning. I blame it to her inconsistent in her affections towards her suitors, of which Vladimir is the one to whom she shows, the most affection.
When the time that the Zasyekins have their first dinner at the Vladimir's, I suspected that the young princess has something with Vladimir's father, Pyotr Vasilyevich Voldemar, also when Zinaida is in the garden reading a book when his father...