First Love Characters

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First Love Summary & Study Guide Description

First Love Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on First Love by Ivan Turgenev.

Vladimir Petrovichappears in First Love

Vladimir Petrovich is the protagonist of Ivan Turgenev's "First Love." He is one of the remaining guests in the frame story when the host suggests that they all tell the stories of their first loves. Vladimir does not want to tell the story but agrees to write it down and read it for his friends a few weeks later. In the narrative that he recalls, Vladimir Petrovich is sixteen years old during the summer of 1833. He lives in Moscow with his parents, but his family leases a summer house near the Kaluga Toll-gate, in Keskootchy. Vladimir is preparing for University but has his freedom since his last tutor quit. He has an uncomfortable relationship with his parents; Vladimir's mother scarcely notices him, and his father treats him with a good-humored indifference. At this point in Vladimir's life, he does not have a clear image of women or love, but that changes when he meets the neighbor's daughter, Zinaida Zasyekin.

Vladimir first sees Zinaida in the garden and runs blushing to his room after his spying is discovered. When his mother sends him to Princess Zasyekin's lodge, he becomes a constant visitor to Zinaida. Vladimir quickly falls in love with Zinaida who torments him by being kind at times and completely ignoring him at other times. After Zinaida changes a lot over a week, Vladimir realizes that she has fallen in love, and he ponders whom she loves. After Zinaida tells Vladimir that she wants him to love her as a friend but not as before, she appoints him her page. Count Malevsky chides Vladimir for being a bad page and suggests that the boy watch the garden to learn who Zinaida is in love with. Vladimir sees his father in the garden but does not ponder the subject. After Mme. Petrovich learns of her husband's affair with Zinaida and decides to move back to Moscow immediately, Vladimir takes his leave of Zinaida, assuring her of his everlasting love and devotion. Several years later, after Vladimir has graduated from University, he learns that Zinaida is in St. Petersburg, but it takes a week for him to visit her upon which he learns that she died four days earlier during childbirth. Vladimir is struck with the need to offer a prayer for Zinaida, his father and himself.

Princess Zinaida Zasyekinappears in First Love

Princess Zinaida Zasyekin is the twenty-one year old daughter of the elderly Princess Zasyekin who rents the decrepit lodge in Keskootchy, located next door to the Petrovichs' summer house. Zinaida has many admirers: Byelovzorov, Dr. Looshin, Count Malevsky, Captain Nirmatsky and Maidanov. Zinaida has a graceful figure and a lovely face. Her arms are beautiful, and her hair is fair. Zinaida's eyes are large, grey and perceptive. She is joyful, and her movements are enchanting, imperious and caressing. She is always laughing, and Vladimir finds her enchanting. Zinaida befriends Vladimir Petrovich though he is five years younger than her. She realizes that Vladimir is in love with her and teases him mercilessly.

Princess Zinaida Zasyekin is haughty and cold when she visits the Petrovichs' house, but she is warm and charming when Vladimir visits her at the lodge. Byelovzorov brings a tabby kitten to Zinaida because she mentions that she wants one, and Zinaida also asks for a horse because she wants to go riding with Pyotr Petrovich, Vladimir's father. Zinaida changes throughout the book, and Vladimir realizes these changes are due to Zinaida being in love. Zinaida is sad and tells Vladimir that she wishes herself on the other side of the world. Zinaida tells Vladimir, who she sees as a child, that she loves him and wants him to love her as a friend but not as before. She appoints him as her page. Zinaida has an affair with Pyotr Petrovich whom she is in love with. When Vladimir takes his leave of Zinaida after Mme. Petrovich learns about the affair, Zinaida pleads with him to believe that she is not as bad as he thinks she is. Zinaida dies in St. Petersburg during childbirth several years later.

Pyotr Petrovichappears in First Love

Pyotr Petrovich is Vladimir's father. He is younger than his wife whom he did not marry for love. He is coldly affectionate toward his son most of the time. Pyotr has an affair with Princess Zinaida Zasyekin in Keskootchny during the summer of 1833. He dies of a stroke six months after his son enters college, but the morning before his death, he begins a letter to Vladimir, warning his son away from women and their poison.

Mme. Petrovichappears in First Love

Mme. Petrovich is Vladimir's mother. She is older than her husband and always secretly agitated. She disapproves of Zinaida and Princess Zasyekin. An anonymous letter alerts Mme. Petrovich to her husband's affair with Zinaida, and she insists upon returning to Moscow immediately; however, her husband convinces her to refrain from making his affair a public scandal.

Princess Zasyekinappears in First Love

Princess Zasyekin is the elderly princess who rents the decrepit lodge next door to the Petrovichs' summer home. She is Zinaida's mother. Princess Zasyekin is poor and asks Mme. Petrovich for protection.

Byelovzorovappears in First Love

Byelovzorov is one of Zinaida's admirers. He is a blond, curly-haired young officer. He has a magnificent figure with a pink face and protruding eyes. Byelovzorov gives Zinaida a tabby kitten because she wants one and her word is law. Vladimir is jealous of Byelovzorov whom Zinaida calls "my wild beast, or sometimes simply mine." Byelovzorov would gladly leap into a fire for Zinaida. He has no confidence in his brains or other qualities, but he constantly proposes marriage to Zinaida, implying that the others only talk. After Zinaida's affair with Pyotr Petrovich becomes known, Byelovzorov disappears, supposedly to the Caucasus.

Dr. Looshinappears in First Love

Dr. Looshin is one of Zinaida's admirers. He is a swarthy man who yells at Vladimir for looking at Zinaida in the garden. He has close cropped dark hair, and he is very cynical and sarcastic. Dr. Looshin knows and loves Zinaida best of her admirers, but he attacks her to her face and behind her back. Zinaida respects Dr. Looshin, though she takes a malicious pleasure in asserting her complete power over him.

Count Malevskyappears in First Love

Count Malevsky is one of Zinaida's admirers. He is very handsome with dark hair, expressive brown eyes, a small narrow nose and a thin mustache over a tiny mouth. He has a slight Polish accent and is always fashionably dressed. Count Malevsky is clever and shrewd, but he is also sneaky and rude at times. Pyotr Petrovich kicks him out of his house after Mme. Petrovich learns of Pyotr's affair with Zinaida though an anonymous letter; this suggests that Pyotr believes Count Malevsky wrote the letter.

Captain Nirmatskyappears in First Love

Captain Nirmatsky is one of Zinaida's admirers. He is a retired man of about forty years old who is hideously pockmarked with curly hair. He has slightly bowed legs and wears a military tunic unbuttoned and with epaulets.

Maidanovappears in First Love

Maidanov is one of Zinaida's admirers. He is a tall, young man with a thick face, small eyes and extremely long, black hair. He is responsive to the poetic strain in Zinaida's soul, though he is somewhat cold by nature. He fervently assures Zinaida that he adores her and composes endless verses in her honor which he recites with an affected, sincere ardor.

Volodyaappears in First Love

Volodya is Zinaida's younger brother. He is twelve years old and a cadet. When he visits Zinaida and Princess Zasyekin on a break from school, Zinaida convinces Vladimir to play with Volodya.

Vonifatyappears in First Love

Vonifaty is Princess Zasyekin's insolent servant.

Fyodorappears in First Love

Fyodor is the Petrovichs' footman. He continually tells Vladimir when Mme. Petrovich is angry.

Sergey Nicolayevichappears in First Love

In the frame story, Sergey Nicolayevich is one of the remaining guests who agrees to the host's plan to tell stories of their first loves; however, Sergey claims that he had no first love because he began courting a girl for the first time as though it was nothing new to him.

Hostappears in First Love

In the frame story, the host suggests that he, Sergey Nicolayevich and Vladimir Petrovich tell the stories of their first loves. He does not have a story to tell because he did not fall in love until he met his current wife.

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