Russian Political Allegory
Due to his subtle social commentary and familiar stories, during the tumultuous 1850’s, Ivan Turgenev was one of the more respected figures in Russian literature. His story, The District Doctor, focuses on one of the countless middle-class physicians who were split between poor and rich by more than just monetary terms. The doctor comes across as perhaps someone who isn’t terribly intelligent, but is a very earnest man in his intentions and seems slightly uncomfortable talking about this encounter with a particular patient. He begins to tell the story, explaining how he set out one night to answer a call out in the middle of nowhere. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that the doctor is not at all too pleased with being summoned in the middle of the night to take care of some peasants with terrible roads and most likely a wretchedly primitive house, but unfortunately, he must go as he is poor and has to take anything he can get. Overall, he seems like a pretty negative kind of guy with his numerous self-depreciating moments and frequent apologies. At last, he arrives at the house to find that the family has been waiting for him. He discovers what is a classic archetype for many Romantic era love stories, the three sisters. The oldest has come down with a nasty case of the fever while the two younger siblings and their widowed mother are trying desperately to keep her alive. Throughout parts of the story, Turgenev delivers a strong but subtle message; life in the “old” Russia may seem to be nasty, brutish, and short, but what it all comes down to is that Western Culture has made these people forget their roots and is ultimately a bad influence. Though Turgenev’s disdain of the serf system is consistent, he clearly values his Russian heritage over the new regime of westerners. His main way of portraying this is through the depiction of the two love interests in the doctor’s life; the peasant girl Aleksandra and his more recent wife,...
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