In the village house of Darya Mikhailovna Lasunskaya, a noble and wealthy landowner, a former beauty and a capital lioness who, far from civilization, still organizes a salon, awaits a certain baron, scholar and connoisseur of philosophy who promised to acquaint her with her scientific research.
Lasunskaya takes the conversation with the audience. This is Pigasov, a man who is not wealthy and has a cynical mood (his attack is against women), secretary of the hostess Pandalevsky, a home teacher of the younger children of the Lasun Bassists, who just graduated from university, retired staff captain Volintsev with his sister, secured by the young widow Lipina, and the daughter of Lasunskaya – still quite young Natalia.
Instead of the expected celebrity comes Dmitry Nikolayevich Rudin, whom the baron instructed to deliver his article. Rudin is thirty-five years old, dressed quite ordinary; he has a wrong, but expressive and intelligent face.
At first, everyone feels somewhat stiff, the general conversation is poorly adjusted. Lives Pigasov, who as usual attacks on “high matter”, abstracts the truths that are based on beliefs, and the latter, Pigasov believes, do not exist at all.
Rudin asks Pigasov whether he is convinced that there is no belief? Pigasov stands on his own. Then the new guest asks: “How do you say that there are none? There you have one for the first time.”
Rudin is asked to talk about his student years, held in Heidelberg. His narrative lacks color, and Rudin, apparently conscious of this, soon passes to general discrepancies – and here he again captivates listeners, because “he possessed almost the highest music of eloquence.”
Daria Mikhailovna persuades Rudin to spend the night. The others live nearby and go home, discussing the outstanding talents of a new acquaintance, while Basistov and Natalia, under the impression of his speeches, can not fall asleep until morning.
In the morning, Lasunskaya begins to take care of Rudin, whom she has decided to decorate her salon, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of her village environment, and it turns out that Mikhailo Mikhaylych Lezhnev, the neighbor of Lasunskaya, has long been well known to Rudin.
And at that moment the servant reports about the arrival of Lezhnev, who visited Lasunsky on an insignificant economic occasion.
The meeting of old friends is pretty cold. After Lezhnev’s departure, Rudin tells Lasunskaya that her neighbor only wears a mask of originality to hide the lack of talent and will.
Going down into the garden, Rudin meets Natalya and starts a conversation with her; he speaks warmly, convincingly, speaks of the disgrace of cowardice and laziness, of the need for everyone to deal with the matter. Rudin animations act on the girl, but do not like Volyntseva, not indifferent to Natalia.
Lezhnev in the company of Volyntsev and his sister remembers the student years, when he was close to Rudin. The selection of facts from the biography of Rudin is not in Lipina’s liking, and Lezhnev does not finish the narrative, promising another time to tell about Rudin more.
For two months, that Rudin conducts at Ласунской, it becomes to her it is simply necessary. Accustomed to revolve in the circle of people witty and refined, Daria Mikhailovna finds that Rudin can eclipse any capital wholeness. She admires his speeches, but in practical matters he still follows the advice of his manager.
Everyone in the house tries to fulfill Rudin’s slightest whim; especially bassists before him, while the common favorite almost does not notice the young man.
Twice Rudin expresses his intention to leave the hospitable house of Lasunsky, referring to the fact that he had all the money left, but takes from the landlady and Volyntsev – and remains.
Most often Rudin talks with Natalia, who eagerly listens to his monologues. Under the influence of Rudin’s ideas, and she herself has new bright thoughts, it inflames the “holy spark of delight.”
It touches Rudin and the theme of love. According to him, at present there are no people who dare to love strongly and passionately. Rudin, in his own words, penetrates into the very soul of the girl, and she ponders for a long time over what she has heard, and then suddenly bursts into bitter tears.
Lypin again inquires from Lezhnev, what Rudin himself represents: Without special hunt, he characterizes a former friend, and this characteristic is far from flattering. Rudin, says Lezhnev, is not very knowledgeable, likes to play the role of the oracle and live at someone else’s expense, but his main trouble is that, igniting others, he himself remains as cold as ice, never thinking that his words “can confuse, destroy a young heart. ”
Indeed, Rudin continues to grow flowers of his eloquence in front of Natalia. It is not without coquetry that he speaks of himself as a man for whom love no longer exists, indicates to the girl that she should stop her choice on Volyntseva. As a sin, Volyntsev becomes an unexpected witness to their lively conversation – and it is extremely difficult and unpleasant for him.
Meanwhile Rudin, like an inexperienced young man, seeks to force events. He recognizes Natalia in love and from her achieves the same recognition. After the explanation Rudin begins to inspire himself that now he is finally happy.
Unable to figure out what to do, Volintsev retreats in his darkest mood. Quite unexpectedly, Rudin appears before him and announces that he loves Natalya and loves her. Irritated and perplexed Volyntsev asks the guest: why does he report all this?
Here Rudin embarks on long and flowery explanations of the motives of his visit. He wanted to achieve mutual understanding, wanted to be frank… Volyntsev losing control over himself sharply responds that he did not ask for trust at all, and he is burdened by Rudin’s excessive frankness.
The initiator of this scene is also upset and blames himself for recklessness, which, with the exception of Volhyntsev, did not bring anything.
Natalia appoints Rudin a meeting in a secluded place where no one could see them. The girl says that she confessed everything to her mother, and she condescendingly explained to her daughter that her marriage with Rudin was utterly impossible. What is now going to be done by her chosen one?
The confused Rudin, in turn, asks: what does Natalya think about all this and how does she intend to do it? And almost immediately comes to the conclusion: it is necessary to submit to fate. Even if he is rich, Rudin reasoned, will Natalia be able to endure the “forced dissolution” with her family, arrange her life against the will of her mother?
Such cowardice strikes the girl in the heart. She was going to make any sacrifices in the name of her love, and her beloved quailed at the first obstacle! Rudin tries to at least somehow mitigate the blow with the help of new exhortations, but Natalya does not hear him anymore and leaves. And then Rudin shouts to her: “You are a coward, not me!”
Left alone, Rudin stands still for a long time and sorts out his feelings, admitting to himself that in this scene he was insignificant.
Insulted by the revelations of Rudin, Volintsev decides that he is simply obliged in such circumstances to call Rudin to a duel, but his intention is not realized, since a letter from Rudin comes. Rudin says wordlessly that he does not intend to justify himself (the content of the letter just convinces the opposite), and notifies his departure “forever.”
When leaving, Rudin feels miserable: it turns out that he is being expelled, although all the decorum is observed. To the Basistov who escaped him, Rudin, out of habit, begins to expound his thoughts on freedom and dignity, and speaks so figuratively that a young man shows tears in his eyes. Rudin himself cries, but this is “self-conceited tears.”
It takes two years. Lezhnev and Lipin became a happy married couple, they got a red-cheeked baby. They host Pigasov and Basistov. Bassistov reports a joyful message: Natalia agreed to marry Volyntsev. Then the conversation switches to Rudin. Little is known about him. Rudin recently resided in Simbirsk, but has already moved from there to another place.
And on the same May day, Rudin traipses in a poor carriage on a country road. At the postal station he is told that there is no horse in the right direction of Rudin and it is not known when they will, however, be able to go the other way. After some reflection Rudin sadly agrees: “I do not care: I’ll go to Tambov.”
A few years later, Rudin and Lezhnev met with a meeting in the provincial hotel. Rudin talks about himself. He changed a lot of places and classes. He was a kind of home secretary with a rich landowner, he was engaged in land reclamation, he taught Russian literature in the gymnasium… And everywhere he failed, even began to be afraid of his unhappy fate.
Reflecting on the life of Rudin, Lezhnev does not console him. He speaks of his respect for the old comrade, who, with his passionate speeches, love of the truth, perhaps fulfills “a supreme appointment.”
July 26, 1848 in Paris, when the uprising of the “national workshops” had already been suppressed, a figure of a tall gray-haired man with a sword and a red banner in his hands appeared on the barricade. The bullet interrupts his crying cry.
“The Poles were killed!” – such is the epitaph pronounced on the run by one of the last defenders of the barricade. “Hell!” the other answers. This “Pole” was Dmitry Rudin.