In a fairy-tale form, the author depicts the dispute of seven peasants about “who lives happily, is free in Russia.” The dispute turns into a fight, then the peasants reconcile and decide among themselves to ask the tsar, the merchant and the priest, who are happier without receiving an answer on the Russian soil in search of a lucky man.
The first peasants meet a priest who assures them that “priestly life” is not easy. He says that peasants and landlords are equally poor and stopped to carry money to church. The peasants genuinely sympathize with the ass.
A lot of interesting faces are outlined by the author in this chapter, where he depicts a fair where seven peasants have found themselves in search of happy ones. The attention of the peasants is attracted by bargaining with pictures: here the author expresses the hope that sooner or later there will come times when a man “is not a milord of a stupid – Belinsky and Gogol from the bazaar will incur.”
After the fair people’s festivities begin, “poor night”. Many peasants get drunk, except for seven travelers and a certain master who writes folk songs and his observations of peasant life in a booklet, in this image the author himself probably embodied in this poem. One of the peasants – Yakim Nagoy – blames the master, does not order to portray Russian people as drunkards. Yakim argues that in Russia for one drinker is a non-drinking family, but it’s easier for drinkers, because all the workers suffer equally from life. And in work, and in gulb, the Russian peasant loves the scale, can not live without it. Seven travelers already wanted to go home, and they decided to look for a large crowd of happy people.
The travelers began to invite other men to a bucket of vodka, promising a treat to someone who would prove that he was a lucky man. “Lucky” is very much: the soldier is glad that he survived after foreign bullets and Russian sticks; the young stonemason boasts of strength; the old stonemason is happy that he managed to get the sick from St. Petersburg to his native village and did not die on the way; a bear hunter is glad to be alive. When the bucket has emptied, “our pilgrims realized that they were wasting vodka for nothing.” Someone suggested that we should recognize Yermil Girin as
happy. He is happy with his own truthfulness and popular love. More than once he helped people, and people repaid him good, when they helped buy a mill, which the clever merchant wanted to intercept. But, as it turned out, Ermil sits in the prison: apparently, he suffered for his truth.
The next person who met the seven peasants was the landowner Gavrilo Afanasyevich. He assures them that his life is not easy. Under serfdom, he was the absolute master of the rich possessions, “loving” made here the court and the punishment of the peasants. After the abolishment of the “fortress” the order disappeared and the manors of the barracks came to desolation. The landlords lost their former income. “The idle writers” tell the landowners to study and work, and this is impossible, since the nobleman was created for another life-to “smoke the heaven of God” and “to litter the people’s treasury”, because it allows him to be a generous person: among the ancestors of Gavril Afanasievich there was also a leader with the bear Obolduyev, and Prince Shchepin, who tried to set fire to Moscow for the sake of robbery. The landlord ends his speech with a sob, and the peasants were ready to cry with him, but then changed their mind.
Wanderers get to the village of Vakhlaaki, where they see strange orders: local peasants voluntarily became “godless people” – they retained their serf dependence on the wild landowner who survived from the mind of Prince Utyatin. Travelers begin to try out from one of the local – Vlas, from where in the village such orders.
The extravagant Utyatin could not believe in the abolition of serfdom, so “pruned him down”: from malice the prince had a stroke. The heirs of the prince, whom he accused of losing peasants, were afraid that the old man would deprive them of their estate before their imminent death. Then they persuaded the peasants to play the role of serfs, promising to give the meadows. The Vakhlaks agreed, in part because they were used to slave life and even found pleasure in it.
Wanderers become witnesses of how the local captain praises the prince, how the villagers pray for the health of Utyatin and sincerely cry for joy that they have such a benefactor. Suddenly the prince had a second blow, and the old man died. Since then, the peasants have really lost their peace: between the Vakhla and the heirs there has been an endless dispute over the meadowlands.
Feast – for the whole world
The author describes the feast, which was arranged by one of the Vakhlaks – restless Klim Yakovlevich on the occasion of the death of Prince Duty. The travelers together with Vlas joined the feasting. It’s interesting for the seven wanderers to listen to Vakhlack songs.
The author shifts many folk songs to the literary language. At first he quotes “bitter”, that is, sad, about peasant grief, about poor living-being. Opens bitter songs wailing with an ironic saying “It’s nice to live the people in Russia holy!” Concludes under the head of the song about the “servant of the exemplary Yakov faithful”, who punished his master for bullying. The author summarizes that the people are able to stand up for themselves and inflame the landlords.
At the feast the travelers learn about the pilgrims, who feed on the things that hang on the people’s neck. These idlers use the credulity of a peasant, who is not averse to being elevated. But there were also some among them who served the people faithfully and truthfully: he treated the sick, helped to bury the dead, fought for justice.
The peasants talk about the feast of whose sin is greater – landlord or peasant. Ignaty Prokhorov claims that the peasant is bigger. As an example, he gives a song about the admiral-widower. Admiral before death ordered the elder to release all the peasants, and the elder did not fulfill the last will of the dying man. That is the great sin of the Russian peasant that he can sell his peasant brother for a penny. Everyone agreed that this is a great sin, and for this sin all peasants in Russia are forever in slavery to suffer.
By the morning the feast was over. One of the Vakhlaks composes a merry song, in which he puts his hope for a brighter future. In this song, the author describes Russia as “wretched and plentiful” as a country where a great people’s power lives. The poet foresees that the time will come and the “spark hidden” will break out:
The Raise Rises Uncountable!
The power in it will affect the Indestructible!
These are the words of Grishka, the only lucky person in the poem.
The author ends the poem with an expression of confidence that the great people will certainly become the smith of their happiness.
Wanderers thought about the fact that they should abandon the search for the happy among the peasants, and better to check the women. Right on the way the peasants have an abandoned estate. The author paints a depressing picture of the desolation of a once-wealthy farm, which turned out to be an unnecessary master and which the peasants themselves can not manage. Here they were advised to look for Matryona Timofeevna, “she is a governor”, which everyone thinks is happy. The travelers met her in the crowd of the reapers and persuaded them to tell them about their, women’s “happiness.”
The woman admits that the girls were happy, while her parents cherished. For the parental affection and all the chores on the au pair seemed easy fun: for the yarn the girl till midnight sang, during the works in the field danced. But here she was found a fiancé – a stove-maker Philip Korchagin. Matryona married and her life changed dramatically.
The author pours out his story with folk songs in his own literary work. In these songs it is sung about the difficult fate of a married woman who has fallen into another’s family, about the mockeries of her husband’s relatives. Support Matryona found only with Grandpa Savelia.
In his own family, grandfather was not liked, “branded convict”. Matryona was afraid of him at first, frightened of his terrible, “bearish” appearance, but soon saw in him a kind, cordial man and began to ask advice in everything. Once Saveliy told Matryona his story. This Russian hero got punished for killing a German steward who mocked the peasants.
The peasant woman tells of her great grief: as through the mother-in-law’s fault, she lost her beloved son Demushka. Her mother-in-law insisted that Matryona do not take a child to the stub. Snoha listened and left the boy with Savely with a heavy heart. The old man did not follow the baby, and the pigs ate that. The “boss” arrived and made an investigation. Not having received a bribe, he ordered the autopsy of the child with his mother, suspecting her of “collusion” with Savely.
The woman was ready to hate the old man, but then recovered. And the grandfather out of remorse left in the woods. Matryona met him four years later on the grave of Demushka, where she came to mourn the new grief – the death of her parents. The peasant woman again brought the old man into the house, but Saveliy soon died, continuing to joke and instruct people until his death. Years passed, Matryona had other children growing up. For them the peasant woman fought, wished them happiness, was ready to please the father-in-law and mother-in-law, if only the children were to live well. Fedor’s son, eight years old, gave his father-in-law to the packs, and a misfortune happened. Fedot chased the she-wolf who had stolen the sheep, and then regretted it, as she fed the cubs. The elder decided to punish the boy, but the mother stood up and took punishment for her son. She herself was like a wolf, ready to lay down her life for her children.
It was “the year of the comet”, foreshadowing a crop failure. Bad forebodings have come true: “a devil has come.” Distressed from hunger, the peasants were ready to kill each other. The trouble does not come alone: the husband-breadwinner “in a deceit, not in a divine way” was shaved into soldiers. Muzhchin’s relatives began to scoff at Matryona, at that time pregnant with Liodorushka, and the peasant woman decided to go to the governor for help.
Secretly the peasant woman left her husband’s house and went to the city. Here she managed to meet with Governor Helen Alexandrovna, to whom she applied with her request. In the governor’s house the peasant woman was solved by Lyodorushka, and Elena Alexandrovna baptized the baby and insisted that her husband get Philip out of the recruitment.
Since then, in the village of Matryona, they have been blessed with a fortunate and even nicknamed the “governor”. Peasant woman ends the story with a reproach that it was not the business of the travelers who started “between happy women to look for.” God’s associates are trying to find the keys to the happiness of the female, but those are somewhere far lost, maybe swallowed by some fish: “In what seas that fish walks – God has forgotten! ..”