The teacher of Russian language and literature in a small provincial town Sergey Vasilievich Nikitin is in love with the daughter of a local landowner Masha Shelestova, eighteen years old, who “has not yet been considered to be small in the family” and therefore calls her Maney and Manyusey, and when the circus she visited in the city zealously attended, she was called Maria Godfroi. She is a passionate horse, like her father; often with her sister and guests, she goes riding on horseback, picking up a special horse for Nikitin, since he is not a good rider. Her sister Varya, twenty-three years old, is much more beautiful than Maniushi. She is intelligent, educated, and as it occupies the place of the deceased mother in the house. Calls herself an old maid – hence, the author notices, “I was sure that she would marry.” In the Shelestovs’ house, they have views of one of the frequent guests, Captain Polyansky, that he would soon make an offer to Varya.
Varya is an inveterate debater. Nikitin annoys her more than anyone else. She argues with him on every occasion and responds to his objections: “It’s old!” or “It’s flat!” In this there is something in common with her father, who, as usual, scolds everyone and repeats: “This is rudeness!”
The main flour of Nikitin is his youthful appearance. Nobody believes that he is twenty-six years old; pupils do not respect him, and he does not like them. The school causes boredom. He shares an apartment with a teacher of geography and history Ippolit Ippolytych Ryzhitsky, a boring man, “with a face that is rude and unintelligent, like a master’s, but good-natured.” Ryzhitsky always says banalities: “Now May, soon there will be real summer, and summer is not that winter.” In winter it is necessary to heat stoves, and in summer and without furnaces… “etc. In the course of the story, he unexpectedly dies and before death, in delirium, he says: “The Volga flows into the Caspian Sea… The horses eat oats and hay…”
love with Manya, Nikitin loves everything in the Shelestovs’ house. He does not notice the vulgarity of their life. “He did not like only the abundance of dogs and cats and Egyptian pigeons, who moaned sadly in a large cage on the terrace,” however, here Nikitin assures himself that they are groaning “because otherwise they can not express their joy.” As you get to know the hero, the reader understands that Nikitin is already infected with provincial laziness. For example, one of the guests finds out that the language teacher did not read Lessing. He feels uncomfortable and gives himself the opportunity to read, but forgets about it. All his thoughts are occupied by Maney. At last he speaks in love and goes to ask for Mani’s hands from his father. Father does not mind, but “like a man” advises Nikitin to wait: “It’s only the men get married early, but there, we know, rudeness, and you, then what? What kind of pleasure in such a young age to put on the chains? “
The wedding was held. Her description – in the diary of Nikitin, written in an enthusiastic tone. Everything is fine: a young wife, their house, inherited, petty housework, etc. It would seem that the hero is happy. Life with Mania reminds him of “shepherd’s idylls”. But somehow a great post, after returning home after playing cards, he talks to his wife and learns that Polyansky is transferred to another city. Manya thinks that he acted “badly” without making Varya the expected offer, and these words unpleasantly hit Nikitin. “So,” he asked, restraining himself, “if I went to your house, I must have married you?” “Of course, you understand this very well.”
Nikitin feels trapped. He sees that he himself did not decree fate, and some kind of dull, extraneous force determined his life. The beginning of spring contrastingly highlights the sense of hopelessness that Nikitin possessed. Behind the wall come to visit Varya and Shelestov dine. Varya complains of a headache, and the old man insists on “how the present young people are unreliable and how little of them are gentlemen.”
“This is rudeness,” he said, “and I’ll tell him directly: this is rudeness, Dear Sovereign!”
Nikitin dreams of fleeing to Moscow and writes in his diary: “Where am I, my God?” I am surrounded by vulgarity and vulgarity… There is nothing more terrible, more insulting, more dreary than vulgarity. “To flee from here, to flee today, otherwise I will go mad!”