10 types of relations representative of the feeling of the first love (on the example of the novel “First love” by IS Turgenev)

by Bondarenko, N.

Bondarenko N (2017). 10 types of relations representative of the feeling of the first love (on the example of the novel “First love” by IS Turgenev). In Young Scientist USA, Vol. 10 (p. 47). Auburn, WA: Lulu Press.


Abstract. The article represents the general definition of the concept of the first love. It defines the specificity of feeling of love from the viewpoint of IS Turgenev, as well as describes the types of relations representative of the feeling of the first love.

Keywords: love, first love, types of interrelations between people.


Love is an eternal theme of literature and art of all people and at all times. The further the humanity followed the path of its physical and emotional development, the more the relations between the men and women became more specific and complicated.

Within the framework of the article, we deal with ten types of interrelations representative of the feeling of the first love.

We use the novel “First love” by IS Turgenev as the study material.

The main peculiarity of this novel consists in that the description of love in life of three generations within the only plotline. Turgenev showed us love in life of a child, love in life of an adult, and love in life of a person, who was at the critical stage between the careless life of a child and the adulthood full of problems, choices and decisions. In this novel, we face the love, which is tragic, indifferent, seductive, and beautiful at the same time, where joy and delight give place to tough tragedy. The author considered love to be concerned with the inevitable submission and free-will dependence, to be the fate controlling the human beings, a power, which always bent the human beings to submission. According to Turgenev, love was an element, which was not in human’s control; the human beings could not make it serve to their happiness.

RI Aleksandrova and EA Kurnosikova bring together the broadest conception of the word “love” as follows:

a) Erotic or romantic (lyrical) experience;

b) The intimate connection between lovers or marrieds;

c) Devotion and care in relation to kindred;

d) Devotion and care in relation to soul mates;

e) Admiration and piety in relation to some figures of authority of human or supernatural nature;

f) Kindness and mercy in relation to other ones. (Aleksandrova, 1999)

The Minor Academic Dictionary presents also the following definitions of this word:

а) Feeling of deep devotion in relation to something or somebody. Feeling of sympathy to somebody.

б) Feeling of cordiality, appetency.

в) Internal aspiration, inclination, propensity, attraction to somebody. (Russian Language Dictionary, 1999)

IS Turgenev considered love to be directly connected with nature and internal freedom of a human being. According to him, two human beings could love each other, only if they had not any sense of duty or pity in relation to each other.

Love was not rosy from the viewpoint of the author, it could not bring only happiness, and there were so many obstacles on the way of the characters that only the amorous one was able to overcome them. The author supposed that every moment of happiness, when love was near, had its price, and this price was pain and suffering. He noted that not everyone was capable to love mutual. Love did not come when you waited for it, it could not be tamed. One might only wait and hope, and watch from the sidelines. Turgenev himself wrote the following: “Love is stronger than death and the fear of death. Only love keep our life and put it in motion.”

Thus, the concept of the word “love” in the interpretation by IS Turgenev is reflected in full in the definitions presented by RI Aleksandrova and EA Kurnosikova.

On the base of the analysis of the novel, we can mark the following ten types of interrelations:

-          love without feelings and emotions;

-          love as a living necessity;

-          dreamy love;

-          love as an ordeal;

-          unconditional love;

-          love as a game;

-          love as a passion;

-          cruel love;

-          love in family;

-          cupboard love.

“There was left in the room only the master of the house and Sergei Nikolayevich and Vladimir Petrovich … ‘And so it’s settled,’ he observed, sitting back farther in his easy-chair and lighting a cigar; ‘each of us is to tell the story of his first love.’

Sergei Nikolayevich, “a round little man with a plump, light-complexioned face” began his narration about love without any senses and emotions: “I had no first love”, “I was eighteen when I had my first flirtation with a charming young lady, but I courted her just as though it were nothing new to me; just as I courted others later on.” Sergei Nikolayevich did not tell the story, he did not describe anything, but he just made a kind of report, which stated the following: “I suppose, love doesn’t exist at all.” His first feeling was described ordinary, with such words as “flirtation” and “charming young lady”. As a result, he became a bachelor, whose life was quite boring. He could love always, but love itself was toneless, dull and not interesting for him, like a palled on amusement. He did not tell us the name of that girl, did not describe her look, she was just the first one in the row of the same girls. “To speak accurately, the first and last time I was in love was with my nanny when I was six years old; but that’s in the remote past. The details of our relations have slipped out of my memory, and even if I remembered them, whom could they interest?”

The master of the house began his story after Sergei Nikolayevich; love from his viewpoint was a necessity, a sort of duty. “…I never fell in love with any one till I met Anna Nikolayevna, now my wife — and everything went as smoothly as possible with us; our parents arranged the match, we were very soon in love with each other, and got married without loss of time.”  As in the previous case, there was “nothing much of interest”. He lived with his family; he had his home and children. He did not know another feeling except that one he had towards his wife. Love was compared there to the feeling of gratitude, devotion, to a sort of custom. He could not imagine his life without his wife; he was truehearted in relation to her. Although he supposed that there was probably another feeling, which was like a flame, which made people make mistakes, hurt each other, leave everything and everyone, and follow the heart, but not the mind. However, he appeared acutely aware of that he avoided of this “unknown” feeling; moreover, he supposed that it was quite difficult to meet it, because the experience of interrelations with many women was necessary for it. “I must confess, gentlemen, in bringing up the subject of first love, I reckoned upon you, I won’t say old, but no longer young, bachelors.”

After the previous stories, the dreamy love of Vladimir to Zinaida was seemed to be very bright, open and unforgettable. “My first love, certainly, was not quite an ordinary one,’ responded, with some reluctance, Vladimir Petrovich, a man of forty, with black hair turning grey”. It was also remarkable that the adult man described this childish love, but his feelings were kept alive, he remembered every look, sigh, and motion. He understood that he could not tell about that love, but could only live it through again. He could not imagine the happiest moments of his life for some minutes, he needed time, in order to repeat that life exactly, brightly, and sensible. “If you wish it… or no; I won’t tell the story; I’m no hand at telling a story; I make it dry and brief, or spun out and affected. If you’ll allow me, I’ll write out all I remember and read it you.”

Vladimir began his story from the time when his heart was pure and open for all the new and unknown things, but his mind already marked the forthcoming of something mysterious and painful-sweet. “… my blood was in a ferment and my heart ached — so sweetly and absurdly; I was all hope and anticipation, was a little frightened of something, and full of wonder at everything, and was on the tiptoe of expectation; my imagination played continually, fluttering rapidly about the same fancies...”

“I remember that at that time the image of woman, the vision of love, scarcely ever arose in definite shape in my brain; but in all I thought, in all I felt, lay hidden a half-conscious, shamefaced presentiment of something new, unutterably sweet, feminine... This presentiment, this expectation, permeated my whole being; I breathed in it, it coursed through my veins with every drop of blood... it was destined to be soon fulfilled.”  The author described the state of sixteen years old boy, who, being at the bosom of nature, entered his youth. That is how Turgenev showed his first impressions of the meeting with Zinaida: “…in the gestures of the girl (I saw her in profile), there was something so fascinating, imperious, caressing, mocking, and charming.”  “I forgot everything, I devoured with my eyes the graceful shape and neck and lovely arms and the slightly disordered fair hair under the white kerchief, and the half-closed clever eye, and the eyelashes and the soft cheek beneath them.” It took him only a moment to fell in love with this girl. The author showed how strong was the feeling of Vladimir using the verb “devoured”.

There is a popular belief that having fallen in love, you cannot sleep, eat, drink without your beloved, and all your thoughts revolve around your passion. You just kind of get out of the social life, because the entire world except love is no more. So was the feeling of Vladimir, as the author showed it. “Away from Zinaida I pined; nothing was to my mind; everything went wrong with me; I spent whole days thinking intensely about her… I pined when away, but in her presence, I was no better off. I was jealous; I was conscious of my insignificance; I was stupidly sulky or stupidly abject, and, all the same, an invincible force drew me to her, and I could not help a shudder of delight whenever I stepped through the doorway of her room.”

The scene with the jump could be a speaking proof of the reality of Vladimir’s feelings to Zinaida. He obeyed her request in all humility, without any thoughts about possible consequences, just trying to find favor in her eyes: “Zinaida had hardly uttered those words when I flew down, just as though someone had given me a violent push from behind.”

Nevertheless, his dream of their mutual love was not fated to come true. “...All was at an end. All the fair blossoms of my heart were roughly plucked at once, and lay about me, flung on the ground, and trampled underfoot.” His happy life came to its end. The time of disappointments came, and the might have been love gave a deep wound to Vladimir. “We went back to town. I did not quickly shake off the past; I did not quickly get to work. My wound slowly began to heal...”

Although, despite of all the sufferings, the first love remained in Vladimir’s memory and heart as the highest pleasure, which might be got in life. He found it, felt it, experienced it, it captured all the cells of his body, sucked him dry, he was devastated, but happy. “She tore herself away, and went out. And I went away. I cannot describe the emotion with which I went away. I should not wish it ever to come again; but I should think myself unfortunate had I never experienced such an emotion.”

One can love insanely, loosing head, extolling the beloved one, forgiving all the sins, but Turgenev introduced us another character named Lushin, for whom love was an ordeal.

The relations between Lushin and Zinaida were quite strange. “Lushin, the ironical doctor, so cynical in words, knew her better than any of them, and loved her more than all, though he abused her to her face and behind her back.” Portraying Lushin, Turgenev gave the example of such a character feature as honesty towards himself and the beloved one. Perhaps, he tried to conceal his feelings towards Zinaida, displaying her weaknesses, but his fear of love turned him into slave, he needed just hear her ask or even her command in order to obey her immediately. “She could not help respecting him, but made him smart for it, and at times, with a peculiar, malignant pleasure, made him feel that he too was at her mercy. ‘I’m a flirt, I’m heartless, I’m an actress in my instincts,’ she said to him one day in my presence, ‘Well and good! Give me your hand then; I will stick this pin in it, you will be ashamed of this young man’s seeing it, it will hurt you, but you will laugh for all that, you truthful person.’ Lushin crimsoned, turned away, bit his lips, but ended by submitting his hand. She pricked it, and he did in fact begin to laugh, and she laughed, thrusting the pin in pretty deeply, and peeping into his eyes, which he vainly strove to keep in other directions.”

Portraying Lushin, Turgenev showed the behavior of a man, who was comfortable with “casual relationship” and did not know that girls could give the sack. He was not married, he did not know what was love forever, how to gain it and save. He could not experience the humiliation from that wicked girl. He was always the winner in the love games, and so, having understood that there would not be any mutuality from Zinaida, he took soon another stand towards her. He gave to Vladimir the following assessment of Zinaida,: “I regard it as a duty to warn you. Old bachelors, like me, can come here, what harm can it do us! We’re tough, nothing can hurt us, what harm can it do us; but your skin’s tender yet — this air is bad for you — believe me, you may get harm from it.” These were the words of a man, who got already harm, but who would be soon recovered.

The theme of one-way love was also observed in the relationship of Zinaida and Belovzorov, but that love was not like Vladimir’s feeling. His love was selfless, he crumbled in Zinaida’s presence, tried to do everything possible to make every her wish true. He lived both in the real world, and in the imaginary one. Belovzorov was a realist. He gave a human judgment to his and Zinaida’s feelings.

“You were pleased to say yesterday that you wished to possess a tabby kitten with long ears... so I obtained it. Your word is law.” It must be noted that the transition from dreams to reality was rather suddenly within that episode: “The kitten having had enough began to purr and move its paws affectedly. Zinaida got up, and turning to the maid said carelessly to take it away.” Zinaida liked to know that she played a great role in life of this man, to know that he did not want to share her with someone else; she liked to splurge on Belovzorov’s feelings. Therefore, she provoked the following conversation intentionally:

“What a nonsense!’ said Zinaida. ‘Well, imagine, for instance, you are married, and tell us how you would treat your wife. Would you lock her up?’

‘Yes, I should lock her up.’

‘And would you stay with her yourself?’

‘Yes, I should certainly stay with her myself.’

‘Very good. Well, but if she got sick of that, and she deceived you?’

‘I should kill her.’

‘And if she ran away?’

‘I should catch her up and kill her all the same.’

‘Oh. And suppose now I were your wife, what would you do then?’

Byelovzorov was silent a minute. ‘I should kill myself.’

Zinaida laughed. ‘I see yours is not a long story.”

Thus, in a few words Zinaida gave Belovzorov to understand that she cared nothing for him, she even prepared him to buy into the idea that he would be left alone with broken heart. It was one-way love, but that love did not revenge, did not range or fight, but just accepted the reality.

The relations of Vladimir towards Zinaida were described as the third type of love, but let us analyze the reverse side of this love now, i.e. the relations of Zinaida towards Vladimir, the first type of female love, love as a game.

The girl had many time with Vladimir, she felt his love, but she just amused herself, playing love, because she was not in need of admirers. “…She amused herself with my passion, made a fool of me, petted and tormented me.”

The interest of Zinaida towards Vladimir was also aroused through the fact that Vladimir was young and inexperienced in love. She ruled him skillfully. “Zinaida continued to play cat and mouse with me. She flirted with me, and I was all agitation and rapture; then she would suddenly thrust me away, and I dared not go near her — dared not look at her.”

Playing love with Vladimir, Zinaida felt how the passion to Peter Vasilyevich invaded her. It was the second type of female love, love as a passion.

She was clever and wanted to see by her side a similar man or even a man, who would be better than she was. “No; I can’t care for people I have to look down upon. I must have someone who can master me. Nevertheless, merciful heavens, I hope I may never come across any one like that! I don’t want to be caught in any one’s claws, not for anything.”  Vladimir’s father devoured and enslaved her. “…She uttered monosyllables, not raising her eyes, simply smiling — submissively, but without yielding.” Zinaida’s love towards Peter Vasilyevich was full of obedience. The most potent episode in this relation was the love scene, when Vladimir’s father stroke Zinaida with lash. Her reaction was unexplainable from the good sense viewpoint, as she was not huffed; she did not strike back or cried… She did not feel any pain, as the lash was in her beloved’s hand. This reaction could be understood only by one, who loved as insanely as she. “While Zinaida shuddered, looked without a word at my father, and slowly raising her arm to her lips, kissed the streak of red upon it.”  “That’s love,’ I said to myself again, as I sat at night before my writing-table, on which books and papers had begun to make their appearance; ‘that’s passion! To think of not revolting, of bearing a blow from any one whatever... even the dearest hand! But it seems one can, if one loves. While I... I imagined...”

The feelings of Peter Vasilyevich towards Zinaida were obsessive. “In the street, forty paces from me, at the open window of a little wooden house, stood my father, his back turned to me. He was leaning forward over the window-sill, and in the house, half hidden by a curtain sat a woman in a dark dress talking to my father; this woman was Zinaida.”

Although, even such love can be cruel. It does not mean that it is one-way love; it means that such love tests to destruction.

Vladimir’s father tried to break this love, and it could be assumed that at some time he came to hate this love; indeed, not without reason it is said that there is a thin line between love and hate. “My son,’ he wrote to me, ‘fear the love of woman; fear that bliss, that poison.”

Starting a family, two people bind each other with certain relations, which we call family love. Vladimir was shown as a child of a marriage for money, whose endeavors no one appreciated. “No one interfered with my freedom. I did what I liked…” The author summarized that the relations within that family were just for show. “My father treated me with careless kindness; my mother scarcely noticed me, though she had no children except me; other cares completely absorbed her.” Throughout the whole novel, the main character did not say or think any rude word towards his father. He remembered him fondly and remembered those rare minutes, which he had passed with him, as a miracle and the highest pleasure. “A curious influence my father had over me, and curious were the relations existing between us. He took hardly any interest in my education, but he never hurt my feelings; he respected my freedom, he treated me — if I may so express it — with courtesy, only he never let me be really close to him. I loved him, I admired him, and he was my ideal of a man — and Heavens! How passionately devoted I should have been to him, if I had not been continually conscious of his holding me off!”

Vladimir loved his father so much that he was ready to sacrifice for him everything he had, i.e. his love. “My wound slowly began to heal; but I had no ill-feeling against my father. On the contrary he had, as it were, gained in my eyes...”

The last type of love presented in the novel are the relations between the parents. To be precise, the question is the love as the fear and respect of Vladimir’s mother towards his father, and love of money of Peter Vasilyevich. IS Turgenev described money marriage on the one hand, and love marriage on the other hand. “My mother led a melancholy life; she was forever agitated, jealous and angry, but not in my father’s presence; she was very much afraid of him, and he was severe, cold, and distant in his behavior. I have never seen a man more elaborately serene, self-confident, and commanding.”

Making a comparison of those characters, Turgenev concluded that the love of money was prioritized over true feelings in that family, and the familiar lifestyle was misunderstood to be love.

The title of the novel is thus the dominant idea of its point. The phrase “first love” consists of two words, and everyone is a keyword. The difference lays in the fact that the first word is of the most importance for Vladimir, the second one is important for his father, and both of them are worthwhile for Zinaida. The name of the novel is polysemantic. “First love” is not only a story of the first beautiful feeling of a boy becoming a youngster. It is also the story of the last painful passion of his father, as well as of the Zinaida's fatal love. It is just an abstract feeling, a kind of tribute to fate, a forfeit for something. It is life of bachelors, in which life there is not any place for constant love. It is a burden of family life both for mother, and for father of the main character. It is the tragic relations of children and parents.

Thus, every main characters of the novel experienced their own “first love”.

Despite of such a variety of types of love, IS Turgenev marked the main thing that love was a beautiful and great feeling, an eternal human value.




  1. RI Aleksandrova. Russia: spirituality, philosophy of love. Saransk: Publishing house of Mordovia State University; 1999.
  2. Russian Language Dictionary of Russian Academy of Sciences, Lingual Studies Institute in four volumes. Edited by AP Yevgenyeva. Volume 2. Moscow: Publishing house Russky yazyk Poligrafresoursy; 1999.
  3. IS Turgenev. First love. Moscow: Publishing house AST; 2017.