Childhood is a happy time in the life of every person. Indeed, in childhood everything seems bright and joyful, and any grief is quickly forgotten, as well as short resentment toward loved ones. It is not by chance that many works of Russian writers are devoted to this topic: “The childhood of Bagrov-grandson” by S. Aksakov, “Tyoma’s Childhood” by Garin-Mikhailovsky, “How the boys grew up” by E. Morozov and many other works.
The hero of the trilogy “Childhood. Boyhood. Youth ” by Leo Tolstoy – Nikolay Irtenev. By the time the story begins, he is ten years old. It was from the age of ten that noble children were sent to study at lyceums, boarding houses, and other educational institutions so that, having received an education, they would be of benefit to the Fatherland. The same future awaits Nikolenka. A few weeks later, together with his father and older brother, he should go to Moscow to study. In the meantime, surrounded by relatives and friends, he experiences happy and carefree moments of childhood.
This story is considered an autobiographical, because Lev Nikolayevich recreated the atmosphere of his childhood. After all, he himself grew up without a mother: she died when Leo was one and a half years old. In the story, the same heavy loss awaits the protagonist, but it will happen at the age of ten, that is, he will have the opportunity to love and literally adore his maman, as was accepted by the nobles in the French manner to call his mother. The hero confesses that when he tried to remember the mother, he only had brown eyes, “always expressing the same kindness and love, but the general expression eluded.” Obviously, a writer who does not remember his mother embodied in the image of maman a certain ideal of a woman-mother.
Right from the first chapters together with Nikolenka, the reader is immersed in the atmosphere of the noble life of the end of the XIX century. The childhood world of the hero is associated with his tutors and courtyards. The closest for him is the teacher of German origin, Karl Ivanovich, acquaintance with whom opens the story. Minute offense at this kind man turns for Nikolenka with a sense of shame that torments him.
In fact, it was in the story “Childhood” that Lev Nikolayevich first used a technique that critics later called the “dialectic of the soul.” Describing the state of his hero, the author used an internal monologue that testified to a change in the mental state of the hero: from joy to sadness, from anger to feelings of embarrassment and shame. It is such quick and sudden changes in the hero’s mental state — the dialectic of the soul — that Tolstoy will use in his famous works.
The quarrel with Natalia Savishna, who devoted her whole life to raising maman, and then all her children, becomes just as painful for him. Having received her freedom, she regarded it as a sign of disgrace, as an undeserved punishment for her, and tore up the document. Only mother’s assurance that everything would be as before reconciled her with her future life in the Irtenyev family. Natalya Savishna faithfully served this family and for all these years she saved only 25 rubles in banknotes, although “she lived sparingly and was shaking over every rag,” according to her brother. She died a year after the death of maman, because she was firmly convinced that “God briefly separated her from the one on which all the power of her love had been concentrated for so many years.” Having lost two people dear to him, Nikolenka, who had grown up and became serious at once, constantly thought that Providence only connected him with these two creatures in order to make him regret about them forever.
Of course, the world of Russian barchuk (namely, the noble children were called this way) is connected with the world of adults: this is also a hunt, in which Nikolenka and his brothers take part; these are balls, where you need not only to be able to dance the mazurka and all the other etiquette dances, but also to have small talk. In order to please Sonia Valakhina with light brown curls and tiny legs, Nikolay, in imitation of adults, wants to wear gloves, but finds only an old and dirty like glove, which causes everyone’s laughter and shame and vexation of the main character.
Nikolas learns and the first disappointment in friendship. When Sergei Ivin, his indisputable idol, humiliated in the presence of other boys Ilinka Grapa, the son of a poor foreigner, Nikolenka felt sympathy for the offended boy, but he did not find the strength to protect and console him. After the love of Sonya, the feeling for Seryozh finally cooled down completely, and the hero felt that Seryozh also lost power over him.
So ends this carefree time in the life of Nikolenka Irtenyev. After the death of maman, the life of the hero will change, which will be reflected already in another part of the trilogy – in “Boyhood”. Now they will call him Nikolas, and he himself will understand that the world can turn into a completely different side.