First Love by Ivan Turgenev

First Love by Ivan Turgenev


FirstLove byIvan Turgenev

FirstLove Turgenev

FirstLove byIvan Turgenev is a fascinating tale of the innocence that youngpeople, especially teenagers go through when they first know how tobe emotionally attractive to the opposite sex.The three young menconverse about their first loves in a way that is reminiscent of theencounters they had with the women they fell in love with for thefirst time. The Russian gentlemen present a picture of snob, whichalso somewhat implies that dating was considered an importantaccomplishment in one’s life. The ultimate theme that Turgenevintends the reader to know is that first dating involves utmostsensitivity of those involved during their youth, but it is also aperiod of gross sensitivity and emotional experimentation.

One would expect that their social status would create a conversationaround money, pomp, and other achievements that make more sense in aconsumerist world, but their conversations around dating and theeventual singling out of Vladimir Petrovich shows how important thesubject of love was at that time. . Petrovich‘s choice as the mainfigure in the ensuing events of the story further cements thevitality of dating in the Russian society of that time. Possibly, theinsistence that his must write down his experience on the first dayhe dated rather than relate it orally, also shows the contextualgravity with which his peers would perceive the issue of dating.

Throughthe narrative that Turgenev gives, the reader learns of the naivetyof Zinaida, Petrovich’s first girl to date. The narrator soundsmature and experienced on the dating scene than Zinaida. The bigquestion, therefore, is, of what importance are the naivety ofZinaida and the apparent experience of the narrator to theadvancement of the theme of dating? The best way to answer thisquestion quite articulately is to first understand the culturalsignificance of dating in Russia during that period in history(Turgenev &amp Freeborn, 1999). In the 1850s, Russia was like any other European society. Childrengrew up in a strictly religious setting. Thus, Petrovich’s firstexperience of dating essentially attempts to portray the life typicallife of a Russian as the same as those of other religious groups inEurope. The essential universal features of first dates includeinnocence, naivety, curiosity, and shyness. These features areexplicit in Turgenev’s narrative of Petrovich’s experiences inthe first date.

Zinaidaembodies the actual experiences of a youth dating for the first time.. However, Turgenev finds the best way to present the experiences ofthe two youths on their first date. Through Zinaida, the reader seesa typical adolescent experimenting on Petrovich. In fact, sheprojects the life of an adolescent in a way that is typical of howmost of them feel and behave of the first date. Petrovich may nothave the age advantage to fathom all that Zinaida goes through, butTurgenev’s representation of her allow the reader to insightfullyunderstand the love dynamics of the two young people. Zinaida makescasual asides such as,

“Imust have someone who can master me…..But, merciful heavens, I hopeI may never come across anyone like that!” (Turgenev, 1960).

Petrovichis emotionally sensitive, but incapable of figuring out how romanticexperiences are all about. While Zinaida hopes that Petrovich nevermasters her at all, Turgenev portrays him as the young man that maynot have the acumen to do so after all. Though it is a tale ofadolescent experience, the fact that Turgenev interprets theirexperience through an adult’s perspective makes the narrative evenmore fascinating.


Turgenev,I. S. (1960). Firstlove.Princeton, N.J: D. Van Nostrand.

Turgenev,I. S., &amp Freeborn, R. (1999). Firstlove, and other stories.Oxford University Press.