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First Love: Pathway to Adulthood
Love is one of the strongest emotions that a human being can feel. It
can arise ever so suddenly, spreading a feeling of warm happiness through every
inch of a person; like wildfire spreading through a tree. But as the feelings
become more intense, the flame of passion can turn into a blazing fire that
burns painfully through every vein. A person’s first love is especially
powerful because it grows from an innocent, na?ve passion. Such was the case
for both Vladimir, in Turgenev’s First Love, and Tatyana, in Pushkin’s Eugene
Onegin. The first experience of unrequited love for Vladimir and Tatyana was
filled with these raptures and tribulations, which, although left them broken
hearted, gave them the strength and maturity needed to become adults.
Throughout the genre of First Love, Vladimir was shown to be completely
swooped up in overwhelming emotion for Zinaida. Vladimir was entranced with her
beauty from the moment he first saw her, “I gazed at her, and how dear she
already was to me , and how near. It seemed to me that I had known her for a
long time, and that before her I had known nothing and had not lived?. (33)”
Vladimir was in love at the first sight of her. He couldn’t help himself from
becoming infatuated with her because he didn’t know the first thing about love.
As the genre moves on, Vladimir’s feelings for Zinaida became deeper and deeper.
Vladimir thought to himself:
I felt weary and at peace, but the image of Zinaida still hovered triumphant
over my soul, though even this image seemed more tranquil. Like a swan rising
from the grasses of the marsh, it stood out from the unlovely shapes which
surrounded it, and I, as I fell asleep, in parting for the last time clung to it,
in trusting adoration. (48)
Vladimir allows himself to become completely wrapped up in Zinaida to the point
where it becomes an obsession. He is in love with her so much that he even
envisions himself rescuing her, as if from any other man: “I saw a vision of
myself saving her from the hands of her enemies: I imagined how, covered with
blood, I tore her from the very jaws of some dark dungeon and then died at her
feet (71-72).” Vladimir was so lost in love for Zinaida that he fantasized
about her in order to make their love seem real. Although Vladimir’s obsessive
love for Zinaida brought wonderful emotions, it also brought the pain and
suffering of jealousy and rejection.
The raptures that Vladimir experienced went hand in hand with the
tribulations of love:
I say that my passion began from that day; and I might add that my suffering
began on that day too. In Zinaida’s absence I pined: I could not concentrate: I
could not do the simplest thing. For whole days I did nothing but think
intensely about her. I pined away, but her presence brought me no relief. I
was jealous and felt conscious of my worthlessness. I was stupidly sulky, and
stupidly abject; (52)
As a result of his obsession, Vladimir became a basket case who could do nothing
for himself. By allowing himself to become so wrapped up in her, he no longer
had any feelings of self worth. The conflicting feelings of passion and pain
struck fear into him:
It was a queer, feverish period; the most violently conflicting feelings,
thoughts, suspicions, hopes, joys, pains, tossed and whirled within me in a kind
of mad chaos: I was afraid of looking into myself, if a boy of sixteen can be
said to do such a thing; I was afraid to face anything – whatever it might be -
This innocent fear of looking into himself was what ultimately led to Vladimir’s
utter sorrow of finding out about the love between Zinaida and his father: “The
sudden revelation crushed me; all was ended. In one swoop all my flowers were
torn up by the roots and lay about me – scattered, broken, trampled underfoot
(94).” Vladimir, unknowingly, set himself up to be hurt badly by not seeing
that the relationship between him and Zinaida was merely platonic, in her eyes.
But Vladimir eventually realized how childish his love was and thus shed his
innocence: “I had suddenly grown much older, and my love, with all its violent
excitements and its torments, now seemed even to me so very puny and childish
and trivial? (102)”
Tatyana experienced these same feelings of rapturous emotion in her love
for Eugene Onegin. “And in her heart the thought was planted?/ Until at last
her fate was granted:/ She fell in love. For thus indeed/ Does spring awake the
buried seed (60).” Like Vladimir, Tatyana fell very deeply for Eugene and lived
day to day on an emotional love high. She gave herself completely to him, as if
he was her only guardian: “Tatyana’s love is deep and true:/ She yields without
conditions, boldly–/ As sweet and trusting children do (69).” Tatyana was
accurately characterized as a needy child who placed her whole life in the hands
of a man who didn’t want her. Although this gave her a feeling of happiness
and security, at first, pain and suffering soon follow.
When Eugene rejected Tatyana’s hand in marriage, Tatyana falls into a
deep depression which affects the rest of her life. The initial reaction to his
rejection was one of devastation for her. “Within her heart the frenzied
beating/ Coursed on and never ceased to press/ Her gentle soul, athirst with
aching;/ Nay, ever more intensely quaking,/ Poor Tanya burns in joyless throes;/
Sleep shuns her bed, all sweetness goes,/ The glow of life has vanished starkly
(93);” It was as if Eugene had ripped her heart out and smashed it to pieces.
This agony continued on even when Eugene left the country. Tatyana’s obsession
with him was so intense that she tried to find consolation in his empty home.
But she only fell deeper in pain: “And once inside that silent study,/ Sealed
off at last from everybody,/ The world for just a time forgot,/ Tatyana wept and
mourned her lot? (166)” Tatyana’s pain temporarily subsided when she went to
Moscow and married, but, when Eugene shows up, her emotions cannot be controlled.
Tatyana tried to resist Eugene, at first, but, when she read his letter of love,
she fell to pieces:
Quite unadorned, her face gone white/ Above some letter that she’s reading–/
And cheek in hand as down she peers,/ She softly sheds a flood of tears./ In
that brief instant then, who couldn’t/ Have read her tortured heart at last!/
And in the princess then, who wouldn’t/ Have known poor Tanya from the past!
Even after years of being away from Eugene, Tatyana’s first love was still very
prominent in her mind. But Tatyana, having matured, did not allow her emotions
to control her. By politely declining to go with Eugene, she showed that she is
no longer the weak child that he was able to toy with before.
Although the first loves of both Vladimir and Tatyana were very
emotionally trying, the experience allowed them to make the transition from
innocent youth to enlightened adulthood. The feelings associated with love
range from the highest highs to the lowest lows, but only the experience of a
first love can allow someone to control these emotions.
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