The second story of the tetralogy tells about the company of classmates: Kartashev, Kornev, Dolba, Berendya, Lario and Darcy. Friends have common interests. First, the company is divided into two “parties”, grouped around the reputable leaders Kartashev and Kornev. The initial confrontation goes into rapprochement, and then into close friendship. Friends are arguing on all sorts of issues.
Kornev is intelligent, well-read and principled. He is familiar with the works of Belinsky, Pisarev, Bokly. The topic respects a friend very much, but at the same time, seeks to limit Kornev’s influence and preserve his own opinion. He studies philosophical literature to be on par with Kornev.
Kartashev often visits the Kornev family and falls in love with his younger sister.
Friends conceived to produce a gymnasium handwritten magazine. Each of them poses a certain creative task. Berendya undertakes to prove that the development of the Russian people by the universal human path of progress. Dolba wants to engage in a popular presentation of the ideas of German philosophers. The idea of the Theme is pragmatic. He writes an article about the harm of classical education.
The magazine was published. He is read in the gymnasium. The articles of Kornev, Dolby and Berendi find a response, and Kartashev’s article is not of interest. Adelaide Vasilievna also likes the works of the comrades Themes. The topic is somewhat hurt, but continues to participate in the discussions of their friends.
Berendya introduces the company to two drunk people: a technician and a teacher. Their bitter destiny causes heated debate among schoolboys about human happiness, about life ideals. The subject talks with her mother. But she does not find sympathy for her reasoning, justifying the behavior of new acquaintances.
In the Kornev family, the relationship between fathers and children is different. The father watches only observance of external decency. The son is charged with visiting the church, atheistic views are not taken into account.
The theme invites Kornev to hold summer vacations after the exams together in the village. There friends not only have a good time. They study the peasant life, get acquainted with the village priest and landowner Neruchev. Subsequently Neruchev marries the elder sister of Theme Zine. But this marriage will be unhappy. Zina goes to the Jerusalem monastery, leaving her children in the care of her mother.
Young people kept bright memories of high school years. Kartashov is fascinated by the clever and talented Kornev (he sings well and has artistic abilities).
In the new school year there are sad events. Over the summer, Berendya was addicted to booze. At the literary evening, a teacher of history, who is very fond of schoolboys, made a speech about the need for reforms in the field of education. A Latin teacher writes a denunciation on him. The historian is forced to resign. Gymnasts arrange an informer with an obstruction. Berendu and Rylsky, as the main instigators of obstruction, are expelled from the gymnasium. For Berendi, the exception led to a tragic outcome. Unjustly accused of murder, he ends up with himself. The gymnasiums are shocked. At the funeral, Dolba makes a speech, for which he is also threatened with an exception. Thanks to the intercession of Kartashev, who is a relative of the governor-general, Dolba remains in the gymnasium.
The most beautiful guy Rylsky, the groom of Sister Kornev Natasha, forever leaves Russia. Drunkards, who Berendya had previously approached, were involved in the murder case. They are expelled from Odessa.
Changes take place in the education system. An additional eighth year of study was introduced. But for Kartashev and his friends, it is possible to take final exams after seven years of study. They use this opportunity and finish the gymnasium.