The first story from the cycle "Mirgorod", "Old World Landowners" "was written by N. V. Gogol in 1835. The main characters of the work are two spouses who have lived in perfect harmony for many years and own an extensive household. The story shows the touching mutual concern of the characters and, at the same time, the author's irony over their limitations.
To this day, the work, which has become a classic, evokes ambiguous emotions in readers.
The story begins with a description of a typical estate and the narrator's reflections on the hospitality of small houses in Little Russia and from the owners. Conventionally, the work can be divided into several parts:
- acquaintance with the estate;
- measured and harmonious life of the heroes;
- the departure of Pulcheria Ivanovna and its consequences.
The dwelling of old-world landowners is striking in comfort. There is enough of them all. The landowner couple Tovstogubs live in a remote village. Pulcheria Ivanovna is a troublesome person, she looks always serious. Her husband Afanasy Ivanovich likes to make fun of his wife. They own a rather big farm. Life flows calmly and quietly. To everyone who visits the blessed corner, the complete absence of anxiety from the surrounding world seems incredible. Here they have no power over souls and minds.
The manor's small house, immersed in greenery, has a special, incomprehensible life. It is used to prepare liqueurs all day, boil jam, marshmallow, make jelly and other supplies, and dry mushrooms. The clerk with lackeys shamelessly rob the old landowners. Every day courtyard girls climb into the closet to feast on all kinds of delicacies.
The owners did not notice the plunders, because the local land gave such rich harvests that there was enough supplies in abundance. The writer portrayed the main characters as simple-minded and very kind people. The ironic story says that the main meaning of the Tovstogub family is eating dried fish, fungi and constantly caring for each other.
The couple of old-world landowners did not have children. Unspent tenderness and warmth are drawn to the partner. For a very long time Tovstogub served as a companion, then became a second-major. He got married at thirty. It was rumored that the bridegroom very cleverly took the chosen one away from dissatisfied relatives in order to get married. Lovely people have lived the whole serene and cloudless life in perfect harmony. Others were touched by their appeal to "you". The tale is recognized as a story of heartfelt and deep affection.
The old men were very fond of delicious food. As soon as morning came, the door began to creak in every way. All kinds of food were prepared in the kitchen. Pulcheria Ivanovna directed and supervised all the work.
She constantly jingled keys, endlessly opening and closing the countless locks of closets and barns. The master's breakfast began with coffee. This was followed by shortbreads with bacon, poppy pies, salted mushrooms. Afanasy Ivanovich's meal was completed with dried fish with mushrooms under a glass of vodka. This was followed by a conversation between the owner and the bailiff and orders that were rarely carried out. The couple walked together in the garden.
Pulcheria Ivanovna after the promenade was busy with the housekeeping, and her husband watched the yard, sitting in the shade of the canopy. The good-natured and friendly hosts amazed with their hospitality. As soon as any person stopped by, and even stayed, they certainly began to regale him every hour with the best home-made dishes. The owners liked the stories of the travelers. From the outside it seemed that the landowners lived for the sake of the guests.
As soon as a person visited Tovstogubov, he began to get ready for the fan on the road, as with all the ardor they began to convince him of the need to spend the night with the owners. No guest could refuse such a request. As a reward, he received a fragrant delicious dinner, warming and lulling the master's story, a soft and warm bed. Such a portrait of the old-world landowners was given by Gogol.
The summary of the work makes the author's intention clear, and an idea of the modest and quiet inhabitants of the house appears.
It seemed that the end of the happy serenity of living would not come. However, trouble comes unexpectedly. A strange incident happened to the hostess. For both spouses, it had the most sad consequences. Pulcheria Ivanovna had a pet, a white cat. The kind old woman always took care of her. Once the pet disappeared, attracted by local cats. The fugitive returned three days later. Now the owner has ordered milk for the cat. She tried to pet the animal, but she was shy.
When the owner decided to caress her and held out her hand, the animal rushed to the window and ran away. The cat never came back. The sweet old woman from that moment has changed, becoming sad and pensive. To all questions about her worried husband's well-being, she replied that she anticipated an imminent departure from life. All attempts of Afanasy Ivanovich to dispel her melancholy ended in complete failure.
Pulcheria Ivanovna did not stop assuring that death itself came in the form of her kitty. The landowner believed in her thought so much that she fell ill. A little time passed, and the good-natured landowner was gone. The work does not end with her death. Afanasy Ivanovich was indifferent to the preparation of his life partner for the burial. He looked at everything as if it did not concern him. The blow he received was too strong.
Tovstogub could not recover from him and believe that Pulcheria Ivanovna was no longer with him. Only when the grave was buried did the orphaned husband rush forward and asked why there was a burial and why. From that moment on, the formerly cheerful old man was covered with melancholy and loneliness. After the cemetery, he, without hiding, sobbed in the room of his departed wife. The courtyards began to worry about the owner. At first, they hid all sharp objects from him, fearing that Afanasy Ivanovich would injure himself.
Gradually, however, those around him calmed down, ceasing to follow the landowner's heels. Left alone, he took out a pistol and tried to shoot himself. He was found on time, a doctor was called. He put the old man on his feet. However, as soon as the family was reassured in the calm course of life, the unfortunate widower threw himself under the wheels of the carriage. He survived, but injured his leg and arm.
Departure of Afanasy Ivanovich
After that, there was a lull. The landowner was noticed in an entertainment establishment. In his crowded hall, he played cards. A smiling young wife stood behind the back of the chair. Thus, the landowner tried to drown out the anguish and painful grief that tormented him. The work with a tragic ending shows the boundless tenderness and affection of people who have lived together for many years.
The main character was overcome by hopelessness. Only five years have passed, and the formerly rich and prosperous economy has decayed. Desolation reigned everywhere. The huts were practically falling apart, the men drank themselves or ran away. Near the manor house, a hedge almost fell. The absence of the owner was felt everywhere. And the owner himself has changed beyond recognition. He hunched over, barely walked, with difficulty moving his legs. Everything in the house reminded him of the caring bustle who had left this world.
Often Afanasy Ivanovich would sit down, immersed in his thoughts. Tears flowed down his cheeks at these moments. Soon Tovstogub also passed away. In his death they saw something similar to the departure of Pulcheria Ivanovna. On a sunny summer day, the landowner walked in the garden. Suddenly he felt that someone was calling his name. Very quickly Afanasy Ivanovich convinced himself that it could only be the beloved deceased wife.
The landowner began to dry out, wither and died. They buried him next to his wife. A distant relative of the couple arrived at the estate after the funeral. The new owner took up the arrangement and putting in order of the neglected farm. Through his "efforts" everything was blown to the wind in a few months.
The ending of the story is sad. The era of serenity has irrevocably sunk into the past. The work "Old World Landowners" has been and remains one of the readers' favorite works of the great classic for many decades. The almost childish spontaneity of the characters evokes sympathy and admiration among the readers.