The story is from the first person. A narrator named Misail Poloznev, along with his father-architect and sister, Cleopatra, live in a provincial town. Their mother died. Father raised children in severity and, when they became adults, continues to demand complete submission. He succeeds in this with Cleopatra, but Misail came out of submission. He changes one job after another, not being able to get along with the bosses and not wanting to engage in boring office work. He can not and does not want to dissolve into the boredom and vulgarity of provincial life. Dreams of the present case. This angers his father, scares his sister. Often the hero attends amateur theatrical performances in the rich house of the Azhogins. The local society is going to, two girls are coming: the daughter of the engineer Masha Dolzhnikov and Aniut Blagovo – the daughter of the comrade of the chairman of the court. Anyuta is secretly in love with Misail. Through her father,
she helps him to work for engineer Dolzhikov for the construction of a railway. Dolzhikov is an arrogant, stupid person and, moreover, a hefty boor. Talking, he as it were constantly forgets that before him the son of a city architect, humiliates, like an ordinary unemployed person. Entering the post of a telegraph operator, Misail meets Ivan Cheprakov, the son of the general’s wife, a childhood friend. He is a drunk person who does not understand the meaning of his work and does nothing for days.
By the way, they remember that Misail was nicknamed as a child – “Little good”.
All together: Dolzhikov, Azhogins, Misail’s father, Cheprakov – they present a picture of the provincial intelligentsia, decayed, stolen, lost the principles of education. Misail sees all this and can not reconcile with this. He is drawn to ordinary people, workers and peasants. He goes to work as a painter under the contractor Andrei Ivanov (in the city he was called Redka and said that this is his real name). This is a strange person, a little philosopher. His favorite phrase: “Aph was eating
grass, rye – iron, and lying – the soul.” As soon as Misail became a worker, the “noble” part of the city turned away from him. Even Anyuta Blagovo said that he did not greet her in front of everyone. The father curses his son. Now Misail lives in the city suburbs of his nurse Karpovna and her adopted son Butcher Prokofy. The latter is like Misail, on the contrary. He is from peasants, but stretches to the “noble”. He says this: “I can indulge you, mother, … In this earthly life I will feed you in my old age in the vale, and when you die, at your expense, I’ll eat it.” Misail and Prokofy do not like each other, But the painters treat Misail with reverence: like that he does not drink and does not smoke and leads a sedate life.
Misail is often visited by the sister and brother of Anyuta, Dr. Vladimir Blagovo. He is in love with Cleopatra, and she loves him. But he is married, they meet secretly. Between the doctor and Misail are talking about the meaning of existence, about progress, etc. Misail thinks that everyone is obliged to engage in manual labor, no one has the right to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor. In his words Tolstoy’s ideas slip. The doctor is a fan of European progress and an opponent of personal self-improvement. At the same time, it is a tired and frivolous person living a double life.
Someone sometimes sends Misail tea, lemons, cookies and roasted grouse, probably to ease the weight of his life. (It will later be found out that Anuta Blagovo did this.) Finally, the “noble” are reconciled with his deed, even begin to openly respect him. Masha Dolzhikova comes to him and complains of boredom, calls him “the most interesting person in the city” and asks to visit their house. Everyone is invited to talk about the painters; it is clear that the life of ordinary people seems to be something exotic, unexplored. And again the debate about the meaning of life, about progress. Unlike “society,” Misail’s father can not forgive him leaving home. He appeals to the governor to exert influence on his son, who, in his opinion, defames the honor of a nobleman. The governor can not do anything and only finds himself in an awkward position,
In the life of the hero again a serious change. Masha Dolzhikova and he are in love with each other and become a husband and wife. They settle in the Dubecnya estate, which the engineer Dolzhikov bought from the general’s wife Cheprakova, begin to engage in excitement with agriculture. This work captivates Misail. At first she likes Masha too. She writes books on agriculture, builds a school in the village and tries to establish contact with the peasants. But she does it poorly. Guys try to deceive them, drink, they work reluctantly and do not hesitate to rude Masha: “I would go myself and carry it!” They obviously take Misail and Masha for fools and fake hosts. Masha very quickly became disillusioned with the peasants and village life. Misail looks, deeper and deeper. He sees that despite all the depravity in the peasants, spiritual purity has been preserved. They want justice and are angry, that they should work for idle people. The fact that they work daily and do not have time for boredom – their advantage over the “noble”. But Masha does not want to understand this. It turns out that she did not so much love Misail, as she wanted freedom and independence. She is a bird of another flight. One day she leaves and does not return. Misail receives a letter, where she writes that she is traveling with her father to America and asks for a divorce. Misail is worried hard; with the loss of Masha as if all the bright things in his life come to an end and gray everyday life comes, just “life” begins without hope and ideals. She is a bird of another flight. One day she leaves and does not return. Misail receives a letter, where she writes that she is traveling with her father to America and asks for a divorce. Misail is worried hard; with the loss of Masha as if all the bright things in his life come to an end and gray everyday life comes, just “life” begins without hope and ideals. She is a bird of another flight. One day she leaves and does not return. Misail receives a letter, where she writes that she is traveling with her father to America and asks for a divorce. Misail is worried hard; with the loss of Masha as if all the bright things in his life come to an end and gray everyday life comes, just “life” begins without hope and ideals.
“Life” is complicated by the fact that Misail’s sister left her father and lives with her brother. She is pregnant with a doctor and is sick with tuberculosis. Misail asks his father to take care of her, but he drives his son away and does not want to forgive his daughter. Prokofiy, the son of a nanny, also demands that Misail and his pregnant sister leave his house, for “for such a vale people do not praise us or you.” But Radish – pities Misail and his sister and condemns the doctor: “Your Honor, you will not have the kingdom of heaven!” The doctor jokingly retorts: “What to do, it is necessary to be someone in hell.”
The last chapter of the story is a kind of epilogue. The narrator “grew old, became silent, stern”; he works as a contractor instead of Radish. In the house of the father does not happen. His wife lives abroad. The sister died, leaving her daughter. Together with the baby Misail on holidays goes to the grave of his sister and sometimes meets there Anyuta Blagovo. She, apparently, still loves Misail and still hides it. Caressing the little daughter of Cleopatra, Misail’s niece, she gives vent to feelings, but – hardly enter the city, becomes strict and cold, as if there was nothing between her and the girl.