Vladimir Tendryakov’s childhood passed in the bleak epoch of post-revolutionary Russia and Stalin’s repressions, all the horror of which remained in his memory a gloomy trace of childhood memories that formed the basis of the story “Bread for a Dog.” Perhaps, it was the effect of children’s impressions that helped the author to describe so clearly and impartially the events that took place in a small township settlement, in which the first years of his life passed.
And there was the same thing that happened in many other similar settlements: dekulakized “well-to-do” peasants, exiled to Siberia and not reaching the place of exile, were thrown to starve to death in a small birch forest in front of the villagers. The adults tried to bypass this awful place by the side. And the children… “No horrors could not drown out our little curiosity,” the author writes. “Petrifying from fear, disgust, exhausted with panic pity,
we observed…”. Children watched the death of “kurkuli” (as they called “living” in birch forests).
To strengthen the impression produced by the picture, the author resorts to the method of antithesis. Vladimir Tendryakov describes in detail the horrifying scene of the death of the “kurkul”, which “stood up to its full height, was clasped with a smooth, radiant hand by a smooth, strong birch trunk, pressed to him with an angular cheek, opened his mouth, the roomy black, dazzlingly toothy, was about to shout a curse, but the scream rippled and foam bubbled, scraping the skin on the bony cheek, the “rebel” crawled down the trunk and died down for good. “In this passage we see the contrast of brittle, radiant hands to the smooth, strong trunk of a birch tree. The perception of both individual fragments and the whole picture.
Following this description follows the philosophical question of the station’s chief, who is obliged to follow the “kurkuli” for the duty of the service. “What will grow out of such children?
They admire death, what kind of peace will live after us, what kind of peace? …”. A similar question sounds like the author himself, who after many years is amazed at how he, an impressionable boy, did not go mad at the sight of such a scene. But then he remembers that he had already witnessed how hunger forced “tidy” people to go to public humiliation. This somewhat “obmozolilo” his soul.
Meeked, but not enough to remain indifferent to these hungry people, being full. Yes, he knew that being embroiled was a shame, and tried not to show it, but still secretly he took out the remains of his food “kurkulyam.” This went on for a while, but then the number of beggars began to grow, and the boy could no longer feed more than two people. And then there was a breakdown “cure”, as the author himself called it. In one day a lot of hungry gathered at the fence of his house. They stood in the way of the boy returning home and began to ask for food. And suddenly… “My eyes darkened, a strange, wild voice escaped from me:” Go away! Go! The bastards! Gads! The bloodsuckers! Leave! “The others, extinguished, lowered their hands, began to turn their backs to me, creeping away without haste, sluggishly.
How emotionally described this episode! What simple, common in everyday life words, in just a few phrases, Tendryakov conveys the emotional breakdown of the child, his fear and protest, which are adjacent to the submissiveness and hopelessness of doomed people. It is due to the simplicity and surprisingly precise choice of words, in the imagination of the reader with extraordinary brightness, the pictures about which Vladimir Tendryakov narrates appear.
So, this ten-year-old boy is healed, but is it completely? Yes, he could no longer take a piece of bread to the “kurkul”, dying from hunger, standing under his window. But was his conscience calm? He did not sleep at night, he thought: “I’m a bad boy, I can not help feeling sorry for my enemies!”
And then a dog appears. Here it is the most hungry creature in the village! Volodya grabs her, as the only way to not go crazy with the horror of the consciousness that he daily “eats” the lives of several people. The boy feeds this unfortunate dog that does not exist for anyone, but realizes that “I did not feed the hungry dog with pieces of bread, but my conscience”.
It would be possible to complete the story on this rather joyful note. But no, the author included one more episode, reinforcing a heavy impression. “In that month, the head of the station shot himself, who had to walk in a red hat along the station’s public garden, as he owed his service.” He did not think to find a miserable little dog for himself, to feed him every day, tearing the bread away from himself “
Thus ends the story. But, even after this, the reader for a long time does not leave the sensation of horror and moral devastation caused by all the suffering, which involuntarily, thanks to the skill of the author, he experienced with the hero. As I have already noted, this story amazes the author’s ability to convey not only events, but also feelings.
“With a verb burn the hearts of people.” Such instruction to the true poet sounds in Pushkin’s poem “The Prophet”. And Vladimir Tendryakov succeeded. He managed not only to paint his childhood memoirs colorfully, but also to awaken compassion and empathy in the hearts of readers.