The Silver Dove Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Andrey Bely

First published: Serebryanny golub, 1909–1910 (English translation, 1974); Petersburg, 1913, revised 1916 and 1922 (truncated English translation, 1959; complete translation, 1978)

Genre: Novel

Locale: Tselebeyevo and Likhov, Russia

Plot: Symbolism

Time: c. 1900

Pyotr Daryalsky (pyohtr dahr-YAL-skee), a poet who makes a summer visit to the small Russian village of Tselebeyevo. The handsome young Daryalsky, who has no obvious intellectual gifts or notable background, soon falls in love with Katya Gugolevo, who lives nearby with her grandmother, the Baroness Todrabe-Graaben. The dreamily impractical Daryalsky is an innocent romantic weakling who is soon identified by the revolutionary leader Kudeyarov as an appropriate potential father of the messiah who will lead the hoped-for overthrow of the government. Thus, Daryalsky is paired off by Kudeyarov with Matryona, a peasant woman whose earthiness contrasts with the vaguely spiritual beauty of Katya Gugolevo. His plight—torn between the two women—represents allegorically the plight of Russia at the turn of the century, looking West to European culture while looking East at its Asian heritage.

Katya Gugolevo (gew-GOH-leh-voh), a lovely young aristocrat who lives with her grandmother and falls in love with Daryalsky. Katya has no special qualities; she is an allegorical embodiment of what many Russian intellectuals at the time saw as a waning European civilization. She contrasts physically and spiritually with Matryona.

Matryona (may-TRYOH-nah), the peasant woman chosen to be the mother of the messiah of the revolution. The earthy Matryona is Mother Russia, a clichéd incarnation of the vitality of Russia's Tolstoyan peasantry. She is cloaked in a mystique that is aptly symbolized by the hypnotic appeal she exerts on Daryalsky, the same kind of mythic force that the peasantry represented for European Romantic intellectuals throughout the nineteenth century. She is also apparently Kudeyarov's common-law wife.

Kudeyarov (kew-deh-YAH-rov), a carpenter who lives with Matryona and leads the group of political revolutionaries known as the “Doves.” Kudeyarov is the most interesting of the four characters who carry the story. His face is described as split into opposed halves, a peculiarity that suggests the ambivalence of his personality. He is eager to pander for Daryalsky in inciting an affair with Matryona, but he is at the same time distressed by jealousy. The response is understandable enough on the simplest level, but his jealousy perhaps also betrays his envy of the role he sees Daryalsky playing in the revolution. His heavy allegorical burden is further weighted by the New Testament allusions that enrich his role: his carpenter's occupation, his anticipation of a messiah, and the ritual sharing of bread and wine that introduces the meetings of the Doves. Matryona and Daryalsky produce no child, and the disappointed Kudeyarov has Daryalsky murdered by the Doves when the poet realizes how he is being used.

Categories: Characters