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Doctor Zhivago Book Report

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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is a fictional novel telling the romantic story of Yuri Zhivago’s struggle to choose between two women within the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War. The forces of this chaotic time greatly impact the characters and add to their dynamic growth throughout the story. Yuri Zhivago, the protagonist of the story shows the personal impact of these violent times which adds to the novel’s brilliant use of personal viewpoints to provide historical insight to these times in Russia.
Doctor Zhivago takes place during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War between 1918 and 1922. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a series of outbreaks and chaos which caused the downfall of the tsarist autocracy and liberal Provisional Government which resulted in the establishment of the Soviet Party under control of the Bolsheviks. The Russian Civil War between 1918 and 1922 was an internal war in Russia between the Bolshevik Red Army and the anti-Bolshevik forces called the White Army. The civil war, which lasted about four years, led to the firm establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922 that lasted until its downfall in 1991. The historical background of Doctor Zhivago adds great development to the characters and setting and helps create such a dynamic storyline in the novel.
Yuri Zhivago, the protagonist of the novel, is primarily affected by the historical events. Serving as a doctor in the army causes him to meet Lara, who he always seems to meet in surprising and unexpected ways. He immediately develops a permanent love for her which would become a central theme in the novel. His love for her is affected though by his marriage to Tonya and the chaotic times surrounding their relationship. As the plot thickens, other themes begin to develop and the abstract antagonist is clearly seen. The main theme throughout the story is how the innocence of life is ruined by war. This theme is clearly seen in how war victims and killers seem all the same in times of war. Pasha’s double life as Strelnikov also shows the effects of new gained power on young innocence. The antagonist, war and violence, create the underlying enemy against Yuri. Although one can look at the Bolsheviks as an antagonist, the environment of war is the force that truly drives the storyline. These themes and conflicts add to personal character developments and create the richness of the literature that is Doctor Zhivago.
Boris Pasternak builds an amazing storyline that eventually fuses the characters together through the events that occur. His life experiences drive him to create this wonderful literature. Doctor Zhivago is a statement of the horrible violence he experienced hidden in a romantic novel. The dynamic growth and change of the characters can be mirrored by the dynamic rebirth that Boris Pasternak experienced in the mid 1930’s. Boris Pasternak was born in Moscow on February 10, 1890. He experienced firsthand the growth of the Soviet Union which caused the restrictions placed on the publications of his literature and poetry. His masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, was published in 1957 in Italy. In 1958, Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature which he eventually had to give up after a forceful Soviet campaign. After pleading with the Russian government, he was allowed to remain in Russia; he did so until his death in 1960.
As a student reading this novel, I was very pleased with the knowledge I gained from the character’s storylines alone. I was not very knowledgeable in the historical context of the book prior to reading it. Though the story itself focuses on the personal storylines of the characters, the historical significance is clearly identified. The personal storylines mixed with such historical importance created an amazing literary experience, which will carry on with me through my studies.

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