Katya is Mitya’s beloved. She studies at a private theater school, goes to the studio of the Art Theater, lives with her mother, “always smoking, always a bruised lady with crimson hair,” who has long since left her husband.
Unlike Mitya, Katya is not completely engrossed in love, it’s no accident that Rilke noticed that Mitya would not be able to live with her anyway – she’s too immersed in a theatrical, fake environment. Her enthusiasm is indulged by the director of the school, “a self-satisfied actor with impassive and sad eyes,” every summer going on vacation with another seduced by him a student. “The post with K. began to deal with the director,” Bunin points out. As in the stories “Clean Monday”, “Steamer” Saratov “”, the most important events in the life of the heroes correspond with the time of Lent. It was in the sixth week of Lent, the last before Passion, that K. passes
the exam to the director. At the exam she is dressed in white, like a bride, which emphasizes the ambiguity of the situation.
In the spring, with Katya, important changes are taking place – she turns into “a young socialite, all in a hurry.” The meetings with Mitya are all shortened, and the last surge of Katya’s feelings coincides with his departure to the village. In spite of the persuasion, Katya writes two letters to Mitya, and in the second she confesses that she has changed him with the director: “I’m bad, I’m ugly, spoiled but I’m madly in love with art! I’m leaving – you know with whom…” This letter and becomes the last straw – Mitya decides to commit suicide. The connection with Alenka only strengthens his despair.
Mitya is a student, the protagonist of the story. It is in the transition age, when the masculine part is intertwined with the child’s fledgling. M. “thin, awkward”, doing everything with boyish Awkwardness. He has a big mouth, black hard hair, “he was from that breed of people with black,
as if constantly widened eyes, who do not even have a mustache or beard growing even in their mature years…”.
The narrative about the life and death of M. covers a period of slightly more than six months: beginning in December, when he met with Katya, and until the middle of summer, when he finishes with himself. About the past of M. we learn from his own fragmentary memories, one way or another related to the main themes of the story – the theme of all-embracing love and the theme of death.
Love captured M. “even in infancy” as something “ineffable in human language,” when one day in the garden, next to a young woman, “something hot wave poured in him,” and then in various guises: a neighbor-gymnast, “sharp joy and sorrow of sudden love at the gymnasium balls. ” A year ago, when M. fell ill in the village, – spring became “his first true love.” The immersion in the March nature of the “saturated with stubble and black arable land” and similar manifestations of “pointless, ethereal love” accompanied M. until December of the first student winter, when he met with Katya and almost immediately fell in love with her.
The time of insane and exciting happiness lasts until the ninth of March, when Katya talks about the “price” of her reciprocal love: “I still will not give up art for you,” that is, from a theatrical career that should begin after she ends this spring in private theatrical school. In general, the image of the theater in the story is accompanied by an intonation of decadent falseness – Bunin sharply emphasizes his rejection of modern art, in part in accordance with the views of Leo Tolstoy. At the final exam, Katya reads Blok’s poem “A Girl Sang in a Church Choir” – perhaps, from Bunin’s point of view, a manifesto of decadent art. M. perceives her reading as “vulgar melodiousness… and stupidity in every sound”, and the theme of the poem defines very harshly: “
January and February are the time of uninterrupted happiness, but against the backdrop of the beginning of a split in the previously integral feeling, even at that time it seemed as if there were two Kati: the one that was persistently desired, Mitya demanded, and the other was genuine, ordinary, painfully not coinciding with the first. ” M. lives in student numbers on Molchanovka, Katya and her mother on Kislovka. They see each other, their meetings take place “in the heavy dope of kisses,” becoming more and more fervid. M. is more and more jealous of Katya: “The manifestations of passion, the very thing that was so blissfully and sweetly applied to them, Mitya and Katya, became indescribably vile and even unnatural when Mitya was thinking about Katya and about another man.”
Winter is replaced in the spring, jealousy increasingly substitutes for love, but at the same time the passion of M. increases with jealousy. “You love only my body, not my soul,” Katya tells him. Quite exhausted by the ambiguity and uncertainty of the sensuality of their relations, M. at the end of April leaves for the country estate – to rest and sort out himself. Before leaving, Katya “was again tender and passionate,” even for the first time crying, and M. again felt how close she was to him. They agree that in summer M. will come to the Crimea, where Katya will rest with her mother. In the collection scene on the eve of departure, the motif of death again sounds – the second theme of the story. The only friend of M., a certain Protasov, comforting M., quotes Kozma Prutkov: “Junker Schmidt, honestly, summer will return,” but the reader remembers, that in the poem there is also a motive for suicide: “Junker Schmid from the gun wants to shoot himself!” This motif comes back again when a student in the window opposite Mitya’s room sings the romance of A. Rubinstein to G. Heine’s verses: “Having fallen in love, we are dying.” On the train, everything again speaks of love, and later, already on the way to the village, M. is again full of pure affection, thinks “of all that women, what he approached during the winter with Katya.” In the parting scene of M. and Katya, an inconspicuous detail is extremely important – the fragrance of Katina’s glove, recalled several times. According to the laws of melodic composition, there are intertwined opposing leitmotifs: the smell of love and the smell of death. In the village, M. at first seems to be relieved of the suspicions that torment him, but almost immediately in the fabric of the narrative is interwoven the third theme – love, devoid of the spiritual component. As the hope for a future together with Katya M. fades, there is more and more pure sensuality: lust at the sight of the washing window of the “day-laborer from the village”, in conversation with the maid Parasha, in the garden where the village girls Sonya and Glasha flirt with the fruity. In general, the theme of the village-soil-earth-naturalness is connected with Bunin with sensuality and longing, because all the village heroes of the story somehow participate in the seduction of M.
The only clue in the fight against carnal temptations is the feeling for Katya. Mother M., Olga Petrovna, busy with the household, sister Anya and brother Kostya have not yet arrived – M. lives a memory of love, writes passionate letters to Katya, examines her photo: he is answered by a direct, open look of the beloved. Katie’s reply letters are rare and terse. Summer comes, but Katya still does not write. The anguish of M. intensified: the more beautiful the world, the more it seems to M. more unnecessary, meaningless. He remembers the winter, the concert, Katinka’s silk ribbon, which he took with him to the village – now even he thinks about it with a shudder. To speed up the receipt of news, M. goes for the letters himself, but all in vain. Once M. decides: “if in a week there is no letter, I’ll shoot myself!”
It is at this moment of spiritual decline that the village headman, for a small reward, offers M. to amuse himself. At first, M. has enough strength to refuse: he sees everywhere Katya – in the surrounding nature, dreams, dreams – it is not only in reality. When the headman again hints at “pleasure”, M. unexpectedly agrees for himself. The elder offers M. Alenka – “a woman poisonous, very young, the husband in the mines is only married for the second year”. Even before the fateful meeting, M. finds in it something in common with Katya: Alenka is not great, mobile – “a woman, mixed with something childish.” On Sunday, M. goes to the mass in the church and meets Alenka on the way to the temple: she, “wagging backwards,” passes without paying attention to him. M. feels “that you can not see her in the church,” the sense of sin is still capable of holding him.
The next evening, the elder is taking M. to the forester, the father-in-law of Alenka, from whom she lives. While the village elder and forester are drinking, M. accidentally encounters Alenka in the forest and, no longer owning herself, makes arrangements for tomorrow’s meeting in the hut. At night, M. “saw himself hanging over a huge, poorly lit abyss.” And for the whole next day the motif of death sounds more and more clearly. M. goes to the hut, Alyonka soon appears. M. gives her a crumpled five-ruble note, he is embraced by the “terrible power of bodily desire, not passing into… spiritual.” When finally what he wanted so much, M. “rose completely astonished at the disappointment” – the miracle did not happen.
On Saturday of the same week it rains all day. M. in tears roams the garden, reread yesterday’s letter from Katya: “Forget, forget everything that was! .. I’m leaving – you know who…” By the evening, Thunder drives M. to the house. He climbs to himself through the window, locked himself from the inside and in a semi-conscious state sees in the corridor a “young nanny” carrying a “child with a big white face” – so the memories of early childhood come back. Nurse is Katya, in the room she hides the child in the drawer of the dresser. The gentleman enters in the tuxedo, is the director with whom Katya has left for the Crimea. “M. watches Katya return to him and finally comes to herself with a feeling of piercing, unbearable pain. Return to what was” like paradise, no, and can not be. “M. takes out a revolver from the night table drawer and”
RM Rilke shrewdly points to the main cause of the tragedy: “a young man loses the ability to expect the flow of events and the way out of an intolerable situation and ceases to believe that these sufferings must be followed by something else which, by virtue of its otherness, should have been seem more tolerable and portable. “
“Mitya’s love” has caused a lot of conflicting assessments. So, 3. Gippius put the story in a row with Goethe’s “Sufferings of the young Werther”, but sees in the feelings of the hero only “grimacing Lust with white eyes.” At the same time, the poetess MV Karamzina defined the “sacrament of love” in Bunin’s story as “a miraculous grace.” RM Bitsilli in his article “Notes on Tolstoy. Bunin and Tolstoy “finds in Tolstoy’s Tolstoy Tolstoy influence, namely – a roll call with an unfinished story of L. Tolstoy’s” The Devil. “
Bunin himself pointed out that he used the story of the “fall” of his nephew. VN Muromtseva-Bunina calls the name of the prototype: “… touched the young novel of Nikolai Alekseevich, but the appearance is taken from his brother, Petit.” V. Yanovsky in the memoirs “Fields of the Champs Elysees” confirms the reality of the prototype: “In Mitya’s love, the hero ends rather banally with suicide, whereas in reality the young man from his story was tonsured into monks and soon became an outstanding priest.” V. Nabokov wrote in a letter to 3. Shakhovskoy: “Bunin told me that when he started” Mitya’s love, “he saw before him the image of Mitya Shakhovsky,” that is, Dmitri Alekseyevich Shakhovskoy’s brother, 3. the poet, in twenties monastic vows under the name of Father John.