In the Odessa estate in the large family of retired general Nikolai Semenovich Kartashev his eldest son Tema grows. The character of the Nicholas general is harsh, and he keeps his children in strictness, accustoming them to discipline. The mother of the Theme of Aglaida Vasilyevna, an intelligent and educated woman, has opposite views on the upbringing of children. She believes that children should not be humiliated and held in fear of corporal punishment.
The eight-year-old theme grows a mobile, playful child. Today, he is haunted by setbacks. Unintentionally, he breaks his beloved father’s flower, but in fear of the impending punishment he does not admit this. Then follow the unauthorized jump on the horse, the broken dishes, the torn governor’s skirt and, finally, the theft of sugar. The father brutally flogged the child. For the rest of his life, the theme has preserved the memory of cruel executions and an unkind feeling for the father. Aglaida Vasilyevna knows that her son has a good heart, and he did not deserve such a cruel punishment. Sensitive, but strict love of the mother finds a response in the soul of Themes, and he confesses to her everything. The boy experiences an investment, but is still under stress because of the suffering. Then he remembers his favorite dog Zuchka. Nurse informs him that some scoundrel threw Zhuchka into an abandoned well. The theme goes down into the well, and, risking his life, saves his favorite. Truly a brave act!
Heavy days end for the topic of a long, serious illness. A healthy children’s body wins, and the Theme rejoices at its recovery. The theme gets permission to play with the children on the “hired waste” – the site of the estate, which Kartashev rents out. Here the boy finds new friends, participates in all games, walks with them to the sea. Privolnaya life lasts two more years. But then it’s time for Teme to go to the gymnasium. He successfully withstands the entrance examination and becomes a schoolboy.
New life – new emotions and impressions: fear of a strict Latin teacher, attachment to a good teacher of natural history, new friends. But time passes, emotions fade, and monotonous school days come on. Theme is friends with classmate Ivanov, a kind and calm boy. Ivanov loves to read and introduces the topic to reading. However, after a deplorable incident, Ivanov was expelled from the gymnasium. Friendship ends for a serious reason: Ivanov becomes an eyewitness of the friend’s unseemly act. The theme is the reputation of the informer. It is hard for him to survive the boycott of his classmates.
The Themes have new friends. With them, he plans to travel to America. Buddies begin to build a boat on which they intend to make a trip. Of course, this goes to the detriment of study and leads to bad marks in the gymnasium, about which parents do not know. Of course, the trip to America did not take place, and the gaps in the studies made themselves felt. The theme covers fear of failure in examinations. He even attends the idea of suicide, he wants to poison himself with matches. Fortunately, everything ends well. The subject successfully passed the exams and moved to the third grade. Father Themes became softer with years and became closer with children. He often communicates with them, talking about past campaigns and battles. But the general’s health is weakening every day, and he dies. The Golden Childhood Themes ended.