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Doctor Zhivago
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Doctor Zhivago > Doctor Z - Week Six - The Rowan Tree/Opposite the House of Sculptures

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message 1: by Dianne (last edited Jun 07, 2017 04:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 0 comments The Rowan Tree - For a chapter with the title recalling a snowy tree, this was an incredibly brutal section. Dr. Z watches an execution and exists amidst starvation, excessive drinking, and shortages of supplies so severe that the army has to kill dogs to make winter coats of their fur. Pamphil briefly regains normalcy when his family lives with him, but when he learns they might be sent away, he loses his grip on reality. The Forest Brotherhood continues to fight the Whites and they end up absorbing a great many new soldiers, which only exacerbates their deprivations. Oddly enough, a group of women begin clearing the forest and building roads. They think this will help the army but in fact the roads just serve to make them more accessible to the enemy. A man with two limbs amputated then crawls up to the army camp telling them they will be overtaken by the enemy shortly. Witnessing this is the last straw for Pamphil, who proceeds to murder his wife and children and then disappear in the woods. Liberius later tells Dr. Z that the war is ending and Dr. Z, thinking of his family, takes this as his cue to escape.


Dianne | 0 comments Opposite the House of Sculptures - Dr. Z travels a great distance and finally reaches Yuriatin. He goes to Lara's house and finds a note from her and in it she asks that he stay there until she returns. He stays at Lara's, which at this point is overridden by rats. He goes to a sewing shop to get his hair cut and the seamstress who cuts his hair turns out to be Liberius' aunt. From her, he learns about the struggles of Communism and that his family has returned to Moscow. Dr. Z then falls ill and, conveniently enough, wakes from his delirium to find Lara doting on him. Lara tells him that she was his wife's nurse during the birth of his daughter. Dr. Z and Lara become close during this time, and she tells him about the Komarovsky affair. Oddly enough though, she goes on and on to him about her love for her husband Pasha. Dr. Z receives a letter from Tonya and collapses upon reading it.


message 3: by Dianne (last edited Jun 07, 2017 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 0 comments a few questions on these chapters:

1. What do you think the significance of the Pamphil story was in the novel? How did fear affect his actions and those of others? Is the notion of mental illness isolated in the book or more systemic of a problem in wartime?

2. What side do you think Dr. Z is on in the war at this point?

3. How do you view Dr. Z's thoughts on his family and Lara in this section? Where do you think his loyalties lie? Is Dr. Z a sympathetic character at this point in the novel?

4. What do you think of Tonya's letter and her reaction to the relationship of Dr. Z and Lara?

5. Why does Dr. Z compare Lara to the rowan tree?


Pamela (bibliohound) | 0 comments I felt that Dr Z sympathised with the Whites and he certainly has a strong antipathy towards Liberius, but he's also trying to find something 'higher' that goes beyond politics and fighting. The Pamphil episode was really shocking and memorable, as was all the chaos where the traitors were being killed.

I quite sympathised with him at this point, but he became less sympathetic in the 'House of Sculptures' section. There he just seems very weak, he lets himself be manipulated by Lara and goes along with her demands. I don't find their love story very appealing I'm afraid, I prefer the parts where Lara doesn't appear.


Andrea (tasseled) | 189 comments I find that any sections where Whites are fighting Reds are filled with a lot of mixed feelings and internal struggle. These are the people that fought together, side by side, in the Russo-Japanese war and WWI, the people of the same roots and belief, people that used to be neighbours and friends. Now they are divided by something as silly as a different ideology. Dr. Z is definitely an outsider, looking in on this mess and lamenting the past. You have to stop and think, under what circumstances these people were fighting. A large majority possibly didn't even believe in the possibility of the new world, but joined Reds, because they were winning in this particular territory, and fighting against the winning side meant prosecution and death. Regular folk were stuck between the rock and the hard place, and that is the sentiment that runs through Z's mind all the time.


Greg (gregreadsalot) | 200 comments Pamela wrote: "I felt that Dr Z sympathised with the Whites and he certainly has a strong antipathy towards Liberius, but he's also trying to find something 'higher' that goes beyond politics and fighting. The Pa..."
Pamela, all good points, and I agree with all you say. I've compared Zhivago to Pierre in "War and Peace" previously. Both Zhivago (at Lara's home) and Pierre (imprisoned by Napolean's army) seem to just go along for the ride, accepting whatever fate may come their way. It's almost like they are willing to just go along with whoever wins the war, they want peace more than death and destruction. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. That said, there are things we must all fight for.


Greg (gregreadsalot) | 200 comments Andrea wrote: "I find that any sections where Whites are fighting Reds are filled with a lot of mixed feelings and internal struggle. These are the people that fought together, side by side, in the Russo-Japanese..."
Andrea, good points!
Yes, as Zhivago reaches it's finale, it is had to say who is fighting for what as a reader, and I think that's true of many of the characters. That's why, to me, overall, this is a love story: Lara loves her fighter, Pasha, and she loves her lover, Zhivago, and these two loves are the backbone of this novel.


MichelleCH (lalatina) | 41 comments Such hard chapters to read! Pamphil's story for me is a symbol of what must of have happened hundreds of times. I can't imagine being in such fear that you would rather your family die than see them suffer. War is brutal and the writing about Pamphil illustrates that well.

I think that Dr. Z is torn; he loves Lara but longs for his family at the same time. I think he is weak both physically and mentally. War is an extreme that we thankfully have not had to live through for some time here in the US. So tragic to think how everyone's lives would have been so different had it not been for the war and destruction of the Whites and Reds.

The rats were incredibly bold and disgusting. Perhaps they knew that the humans were weak from the war and that they could have their way in everyone's homes.


Dianne | 0 comments MichelleCH wrote: "Such hard chapters to read! Pamphil's story for me is a symbol of what must of have happened hundreds of times. I can't imagine being in such fear that you would rather your family die than see the..."


Totally agree Michelle, Pamphil's story is heart rending!! I don't think Dr. Z had much personal integrity - he seemed to not really be decisive and I think the letter from Tonya marked a turning point in his mental stability. I wonder what his thinking was when he read it?


MichelleCH (lalatina) | 41 comments He is so frustrating. I have started to not like Dr. Z very much at all. It's probably a combination of guilt and relief.


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