Preparations for departure to the capital begins the third part of the trilogy. The main character – Kartashev’s theme is full of dreams about how he “will become serious, will be engaged, will be a scientist”, and for his loved ones this is a time of regrets about that ideal theme they wanted to see and whom they loved. After a month’s stay in the village, after thorough monthly gatherings, Kartashev, Kornev, Lario, and Darsier go to study in St. Petersburg and joined the company during the final examinations of Shatsky. For the Topic, leaving for St. Petersburg means “keeping accounts with a past life”, with everything that “went, made it everyday”. Arriving in St. Petersburg, the company dispersed – all enrolled in different educational institutions: Theme – the law faculty of the university, Kornev – in the medical and surgical academy, Shatsky – in the Institute of Railways.
The first impression
of the Theme from Petersburg was strong and pleasant, but then it was replaced by a feeling of loneliness, boredom and alienation. Waiting for the beginning of the academic year at the university becomes for Kartashev tedious, but even more painful is the impression of the “bottomless chaos of the first lecture.” Kartashev, who read Boyle, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov and, according to his own ideas, reached the incredible heights of scholarship, does not understand what is said at the lectures. Not having regular and equal communication, Kartashev is in a depressed state because of new feelings and experiences that have surged through him. Unlike Kartashov, Kornev, despite his first failure at the entrance examination, is more adapted to independent life.
Having entered the academy with great difficulty, he reasonably arranges his life, “subscribes to reading books,” gets a certain circle of acquaintances from among those students with whom he regularly meets in the kitchen workshop where he dines. Later, Kornev will also introduce Kartashev to the members of this circle, among whom will be
long-time gymnasium friend Kartasheva Ivanov. But during the first time in St. Petersburg old friends communicate quite rarely.
This is the reason for the rapprochement of the Theme with Shatsky. Kartashev’s plans to catch up, to work hard-to read Hegel and others-remain unrealized, and all scholarly pursuits end in a joint reading with Shatsky reading of Rockambol, the author of popular adventure novels, and participating in various entertainments and mystifications of Shatsky, who became famous during gymnasium.
The adventures of the St. Petersburg period Shatsky, and with him and his new friend Kartashev, are less harmless. Financial affairs of friends because of frequent visits to the theater of operetta and other entertainment establishments soon come to a deplorable state. After selling all the little things of value like Shatsky and Kartashov, and the very poor Lario, after repeated appeals for help to relatives, Kartashev has a considerable debt, which he is not able to pay off on his own. But gradually entertainment annoys Teme; Shatsky turns for him into a “former” idiot, “and after a big quarrel between friends Kartashev moves to a new apartment, decides to radically change his way of life, communicates more with Kornev, trips to the operetta are replaced by opera performances, and on the table of Kartashev instead of Rockambol appears a volume of Goethe. After a long break, Tema writes a letter to her family, where she tells about her adventures with Shatsky, and having experienced a real creative upsurge, Kartashev thinks about whether he is a writer.
He works a lot and, although we torment his doubts about his own talent and the value of his “writings,” he decides to show the work written by Kornev. A friend expresses a balanced and responsible judgment. He believes that the Theme has already “figured out the confusion of life,” but has not yet a “philosophical basis” for creativity, and calls it “corn-making master.” Confused by the assessments of a friend, Theme still comes back to writing experiences during the exams. He conceives the idea of a story about a needy student, who, unable to withstand his plight, is thrown out of the window for Easter. Having finished the story, he takes it to the journal Delo, and two weeks later he learns about the editorial refusal to print it.
In addition, the subject, not having passed the first exam, submits a petition for dismissal from the university. Again approaches Shatsky. Sharing his “theory of the practice of life,” he submits documents to the institute where his friend is studying, also deciding to become an engineer. Having bought gymnasium textbooks on mathematics, Kartashev tackled what he “considered already handed down forever into the archive of life.” Disorderly way of life of Shatsky leads to the fact that he is seriously ill. Only thanks to the efforts of Kartashev Shatsky receives medical assistance, and Lario, with whom the friends at this time quite actively communicate – the place of the tutor, which, however, does not contribute to improving his financial situation.
Soon after being expelled from a technological institute, which occurred as a result of student riots and cost Larion and other students imprisonment in a transit prison, he was expelled from St. Petersburg. And Kartashev and Shatsky take exams: Theme – introductory, and Shatsky – for the second year. Kartashev goes for a few days to his relatives, where everyone is satisfied with his decisive act and chorus of predicting a bright future. Upon returning to St. Petersburg, the topic was expected to be the usual institute life: lectures, work in drafts. Without joining unambiguously to any of the institute circles that were more inclined “towards the fermentation of the heart than the mental one,” Kartashev preferred the so-called “voluptuous” – the fettered institute majority. Despite its still gymnasium reputation of “red”, The topic goes to the side of “well-educated boys,” as Kornev put it, opposing the provocation of riots at the institute ball. However, soon all institute affairs go to the background. Kartashev learns that all his many amorous adventures have not been in vain and he is sick with syphilis. He is in a state close to suicide, but salvation comes from home. The brother of the mother comes – “Mitya’s kind uncle” – who, after paying all the debts of his nephew, fairly argued with him about God and the difference in the views of “fathers” and “children,” takes him home for treatment. “A rugged companion” comes to his home with a sense of arrest. The suppressed state is aggravated by the fact that Kartashev, ready for any maternal reproaches, is completely lost in the face of the feeling of physical disgust that he caused in Aglaida Vasilyevna. At the same time, Kartashev’s keen desire to live combines with complete despair and “stupid indifference” to everything that is happening, and especially to his further destiny. It is in this condition that the author leaves his hero at the end of the third part of the tetralogy.