Places: Mother

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Mat, serial, 1906; book, 1907 (English translation, 1906)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Naturalism

Time of work: First decade of the twentieth century

Places DiscussedVlasov house

Vlasov Motherhouse (VLAH-sof). Home of protagonist Pavel Vlasov located on the outskirts of an unnamed Russian town. In the main room of the small gray house, Pavel gathers together his ever changing circle of radicals, and a feeling of affinity with the suffering workers of the world is born. There also, Pavel’s mother, Pelagueya Vlasova, is slowly drawn into the lives and work of the revolutionaries. The house becomes a center of radical activity as well as the focus of observation by police spies and is the target of several police raids.


Factory. The unnamed town is dominated by the tall black smokestacks of the factory, in which grime-faced workers have their life force sucked out of them through working in horrid conditions for sub-subsistence wages. Disguised as a food vendor, Pelagueya goes to the factory’s yard secretly to distribute literature to sympathetic workers in order to foment labor strikes. Led by Pavel, workers in the factory refuse to work and instead join a parade that assembles in the churchyard to celebrate May Day. Their parade is stopped by a gray wall of soldiers with fixed bayonets who charge the marchers and arrest Pavel and nineteen other demonstrators.

Ivanovich’s house

Ivanovich’s house. Secluded home of Nikolay Ivanovich, a revolutionary friend of Pavel, to which Pelagueya goes to stay after Pavel is arrested. Strategy meetings continue there as Pelagueya helps tidy the bachelor’s simple one-story shack, which is typical of those of simple workmen. Nikolay is in revolt against the type of life led by his father, a factory manager in Vyataka. Before Pavel’s trial, Nikolay’s house is ransacked by police investigators.


Woods. Forested area outside the town that contain what little beauty can be found in the workers’ lives, such as sunrises and birdsongs. Whatever personal or deeply reflective thinking in which the major characters engage takes place in the woods.


Nikolskoye (nih-kohl-SKOY-ah). Small town to which Pelagueya goes secretly to distribute literature to workers. There she sees Pavel’s friend Rybin being beaten by the chief of police for distributing literature. Rybin had earlier gone to Yegildeyevo (one of the few specific towns mentioned in the novel) to take revolutionary literature to the peasants.


Courthouse. Government building in which Pavel and his associates are tried before judges suffering from boredom and ill health. Pavel and Andrey denounce private property and czarism, and Pavel predicts that socialism will rebuild the land that czarist greed has destroyed. Pavel’s conviction is a foregone conclusion, and he is exiled to Siberia. Afterward, his words are printed in leaflets that his mother carries to a train station, where police intercept her and beat her.

BibliographyBorras, F. M. Maxim Gorky the Writer: An Interpretation. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1967. One of the more astute interpretations of Gorky’s works, especially of his novels and plays. Borras emphasizes Gorky’s artistic achievements in such works as Mother.Gifford, Henry. “Gorky and Proletarian Writing.” In The Novel in Russia: From Pushkin to Pasternak. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. A discussion of Gorky’s influence on proletarian writers, with remarks on the role of Mother in this respect.Hare, Richard. Maxim Gorky: Romantic Realist and Conservative Revolutionary. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. The first substantial book on Gorky in English since Alexander Kaun’s 1932 study. Hare combines the political aspects of Gorky’s biography with critical analysis of his works, including Mother.Holtzman, Filia. The Young Maxim Gorky, 1868-1902. New York: Columbia University Press, 1948. A detailed survey of the first half of Gorky’s life, coinciding with his formation as a person and a writer. Mother is discussed at some length.Levin, Dan. Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maxim Gorky. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1965. A general book that covers Gorky’s entire life, thus completing Kaun’s book. Includes a discussion of Mother.Weil, Irwin. Gorky: His Literary Development and Influence on Soviet Intellectual Life. New York: Random House, 1966. The most scholarly book on Gorky in English, skillfully combining biography with critical analysis, including that of Mother. Valuable especially for the discussion of Soviet literary life and Gorky’s connection with, and influence on, younger Soviet writers.
Categories: Places