The Bronze Horseman discussion

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Characters > American Spirit, Soviet Soul? *Possible Spoilers*

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message 1: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments I haven't had a chance to read the other two books in the trilogy, yet (too much required reading for school right now). But I'm just curious - after leaving the Soviet Union with Tania, what aspects of Alexander's personality do you see as "American" and what traits do you see as a product of spending most of his life in the Soviet Union? In the Bronze Horseman, Tania makes the comment that Alexander seems so American - that he sticks out like a black nail among white pegs, or something along those lines. Yet he has lived longer as a Russian than an American. And by the end of The Summer Garden, does Tania seem to have taken on any particularly American traits? What do you notice as particularly American or Russian in their habits or personalities? I know this post is pretty long - hope it makes sense! And I don't mind spoilers at all.


message 2: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
I don't know if Alexander seems more American in Tatiana and Alexander, but his background is given through flashbacks from the point of him living in America to moving to the Soviet Union, to the deaths of his parents. It was showed how he was forced to adapt to the new life that was thrust upon him. There is also some more details given about T & A that we didn't get with TBH. I think in TBH and T & A he realizes that he wants to have the American way of life again, not just freedom for himself, but for Tatiana and their child too. I have not read TSG yet to know how everything unfolded.


message 3: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments Well I think the way you are raised as a young child says a lot about how you turn out as an adult. Although Alexander spent many years in Russia, his foundation was built in America. Notice how strong and sure of himself he is. Even in Lazarevo he wanted to keep the American traditions. The vows, carrying her over the threshold. Giving her birthday presents. Those traditions definitely meant something to him and made him unique among all the other Soviet men.


message 4: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
Oh, I forgot about those traditions that he did, good point Diane!


message 5: by ChristinaRae (new)

ChristinaRae | 163 comments Mod
One of the things that stands out about Alexander's character was how tough army life made him. I think it was T&A that talked about his going into the army and officer training, and how he did better than the other men. I think the fact that he was able to be better was in part because of his American-ness; he had the hope of something better to strive for. The Soviet Union sure did the job of making him strong, though (all the arrests and beatings and escapes, etc.) I liked the irony that the SU made him the man he was, just like his father wanted. I thought the reason he and Tatiana stuck it out in TSG is because they were so strong from everything they survived.


message 6: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
What a good discussion ladies! Yes, it was T & A where he talked about the army, Christina Rae.


message 7: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments I haven't read T&A yet, but wow it makes sense now why Alexander was so strong and had such a way about him because he went through so much at such a young age. Also why he was able to sacrifice his life for Tatiana's safety. I can't wait to read it.


message 8: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
It is a really good book. I myself perferred TBH, but I do love the ending to T & A.


message 9: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments I imagine that TSG dealt primarily with T & A coming to terms with all that had happened and building a new life together in the states. But does the story mention any adjustments that either character had to make in regards to coming to America itself, after dreaming about it for so long? I can imagine there must have been some culture shock involved, especially for Tatiana. But even for Alexander, the U.S. changed a lot from the time he left to the time he came back.


message 10: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
Carly, Have you read Tatiana and Alexander yet? Tatiana learns to adjust to American life eventually in this book. I have not read TSG yet, but I think it does focus on their new life together in America. Maybe someone else can answer that for you.


message 11: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments No, I haven't read Tatiana and Alexander yet. Go ahead and spoil me, though :) I won't get to them for a while, what with school and all. too many textbooks to highlight.


message 12: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
Well, I don't want to give too many spoilers away, but Tatiana does make it to the U.S. but doesn't adjust well at first. The whole books surrounds what T and A are doing at the same time in their own world, more background is provided about Alexander's past. Tatiana must decide if she goes to find Alexander, not knowing exactly where he is... she does find him eventually and they do learn in the end they can both go to America. I think the best part of the book is when they are reunited on to the end.


message 13: by Kelly (last edited Feb 26, 2010 07:43AM) (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments In TBH Alexander mentions privacy to Tatiana and she doesn't even know what it means.
Also Tatiana mentions that Alexander is very clean always washing.
American things for sure.

What about his smoking? Is that just from the times or is that a SU thing?

When T&A come to America I think every single aspect of life is a struggle and huge change

Tatiana is so paranoid that the goverment is going to send Alexander back to Russia. I think that comes from her fears of the way the Russians treated citizens.

Also the idea of a woman working in America. She went work right after high school but when she comes to America woman are commenting about her working I think it was Amanda that made that damn comment about but who has the children! Alexander has a huge problem with it as well.

I'll have to think more on it this. It is a great question Carly.


message 14: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
Good points Kelly! I think the smoking is just from the times because people were smoking in America as well and offering to Tatiana.


message 15: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments Wow, so Alexander didn't want Tania to work? Did he have a problem with her doing it in Russia? I know he felt like she got taken advantage of by others, but I didn't remember him having an issue with her working specifically. Maybe I just don't remember.


message 16: by Kelly (last edited Feb 26, 2010 08:27AM) (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments Yes she works as a nurse. I think he has many reasons for not wanting Tatia to work. One being he feels she has seen enough suffering and pain and feels that he needs to protect her and she shouldn't be working in a hospital.
Also he becomes very needy and really wants her to be available to him and Antman.
They are also trying to have more children.
I think that it is a ego thing as well he feels he is working and providing for the family and her working is a reflection on him that he is not enough.


message 17: by ChristinaRae (new)

ChristinaRae | 163 comments Mod
I thought the working thing was more about staying tied to Russia and their experiences; she was a nurse but also a caretaker of others; it always threatened their relationship, at least in Alexander's mind. And getting to the point where she is working 65 hours a week, I see Alexander's point. I don't know how people have a family life when they work that much, and he was always demanding and jealous. (isn't that what everyone finds so hot about him? plus you can't have sex every night if you're at work) :)

I think the biggest adjustment they have to make is to the way comfortable, spoiled-for-choice America can slowly and subtly divide them. Things that are not as obvious as menacing Dimitri and the KGB can still destroy a marriage. (I don't want to tell you too much more, Carly)


message 18: by Kelly (last edited Feb 26, 2010 01:32PM) (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments Hey ChristinaRae

Alexander actually says at one point that he does not want her working around sick people because of all the suffering and death she has been endured.

Yes, I did like how he was demanding in the book but in reality that could be a bit overwhelming.

That was crazy that she worked 60hours plus kept the house and had a child to care for actually 2two children during the better 1/2 of TSG I felt like Alexander was as much work if not more than a child.
But well worth it.


message 19: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments That's interesting. I do recall in TBH that Alexander tells her at one point that she belonged to everyone else, while he belonged only to her and that was frustrating for him. I know what you mean about the subtler influences, ChristinaRae. It's easy to avoid taking each other for granted when there are obvious, tangible threats and everyday is a reminder of how fragile things are. It would be harder to fight for each other from the inside, to fight against abstracts like complacency or outside interests that are also rewarding. Does Tatia work so much because she wants to, or do you think she is using work as a way to avoid Alexander and the issues in their relationship? If you feel like it will spoil too much to answer that, it's okay :) Now, I'm just so curious - can't wait to read it.


message 20: by Lady (new)

Lady England | 39 comments I think Tatiana worked in the hospital out of a desire to save people. She couldn't save her sister, mother, father, grandparents, everyone she loved but she could still help save total strangers. Like the soldiers she saved. They were so grateful. I think her work gave her life a sort of fulfillment separate from being a mom and wife (anyone relate?). She was pretty modern and forward thinking for her time, but she still did ALL the housework.
She must have been exhausted. No wonder Alexander was a little cranky.


message 21: by Alycia (new)

Alycia | 549 comments Mod
I haven't read TSG yet, but I would agree that she was a nurse to help save people because she couldn't always save her loved ones. That frustration of Alexander's is present in the first two books.


message 22: by Lady (new)

Lady England | 39 comments I think Tatiana becomes Americanized pretty quickly. Remember the magazine quizzes the keeps taking? Pretty American, and she's so upset that she and Shura can't answer the questions in the quiz. For example, she doesn't know his favorite color. The poor man has been fighting wars for 10 years, jailed and beaten. He doesn't even know his favorite color. I loved the part in TSG when Shura finds out that his favorite color is blonde. I think it's a turning point in their relationship. And so steamy and sensual.


message 23: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments I love when she wakes up that next morning and he says oh so in the day I am Alexander again.


message 24: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments I always love when he says that to her. "Oh so now I'm Alexander again?" So adorable.

I'm about 200 pages into TSG now. It was tough reading at first seeing how damaged and hardened Alexander had become. I could completely understand Tatiana's sadness and frustration. I love how little by little he does let her in again until it's almost the way it was in the past, but never quite. I think they are trying to find Lazarevo again only to realize it will never be that way again. Their time together in the Napa Valley was so sensual, I had to re-read that part twice :) His soul was starting to return.


message 25: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments I agree Diane, You still have some good reading ahead of you.


message 26: by ChristinaRae (last edited Mar 01, 2010 09:06AM) (new)

ChristinaRae | 163 comments Mod
Carly wrote: "That's interesting. I do recall in TBH that Alexander tells her at one point that she belonged to everyone else, while he belonged only to her and that was frustrating for him. I know what you me..."

Carly, I think it's both-and. There are a handful of complex reasons for Tatiana going to work. Sometimes you want to yell at both her and Alexander when you can see how they are sabotaging themselves.


message 27: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments I know. Alexander himself predicted that Tatiana working those long hours and the overnight would be the cause of major problems. He was right. Even though Alexander did some unforgivable actions, it really frustrated me how Tatiana would work so much. To spend so much time away from a man she was away from for 3 long years thinking he was dead? I don't get it.


message 28: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments Diane wrote: "I know. Alexander himself predicted that Tatiana working those long hours and the overnight would be the cause of major problems. He was right. Even though Alexander did some unforgivable actions, ..."

Well don't forget that Alexander is working as well. I think she was so busy trying to "fix" Alexander it seems that the hospital gave her some sort of peace.


message 29: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments Yeah and I also feel she needs to help people to make up for the fact that she couldn't save anyone in her family. They all died around her and she was powerless against it. So I think working with critical patients gives her some sense of peace as well. I just wish she hadn't neglected him in the process. I also wish he had been a little bit more understanding and not so amendment about her not working. But I think he was okay with her working, just not at a hospital. Reminded him too much of the past.


message 30: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments Diane wrote: "Yeah and I also feel she needs to help people to make up for the fact that she couldn't save anyone in her family. They all died around her and she was powerless against it. So I think working with..."

Oh, it was a bit of everything that caused a perfect storm. Dr. Bradley, not being able to have another child, Alexander out at bars, Tatiana picking up extra shifts at work.

I LOVE that Alexander never walked in to meet with that Carmenho because in the end he remembers why he is alive!

He can not die because she has poured her immortal blood into him. I LOVE that line!


message 31: by ChristinaRae (new)

ChristinaRae | 163 comments Mod
I thought it was interesting how in the bar Alexander sort of reverted to the man he had been before T. When they weren't close, he turned back into the disconnected Soviet jerk.


message 32: by Diane (new)

Diane (LadyDi4476) | 107 comments I agree ChristinaRae. He had said he was born again on that summer day in June when he met Tatiana. There was his life before her and after her. He reverted back to his old life of drinking, hanging out with other jerks, and being tempted by women. As soon as things went sour with Tatiana he fell back into his old habits. He was lost back then in his early 20s and he was lost during his "separation" with Tatiana. He was not happy then and he wasn't happy flirting with Carmen.
I absolutely love that moment when he realizes he is no longer that man. He is forever changed. Her blood runs through his veins. Tears ran down my face when he thinks back to her rescuing him in the prison and he "wakes up" and drives away.


message 33: by Mishelle (new)

Mishelle LaBrash (mishalabrash) Diane wrote: "I agree ChristinaRae. He had said he was born again on that summer day in June when he met Tatiana. There was his life before her and after her. He reverted back to his old life of drinking, hangin..."

That was a very powerful scene, one of my fave's in the book for sure. What a powerful 'Aha!' moment.


message 34: by Carly (new)

Carly | 47 comments I thought I understood from other discussions that Alexander cheated on Tatiana and she ended up forgiving him. Did he not cheat on her? or was Carmen a temptation that didn't end up happening?


message 35: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  | 637 comments Carly wrote: "I thought I understood from other discussions that Alexander cheated on Tatiana and she ended up forgiving him. Did he not cheat on her? or was Carmen a temptation that didn't end up happening?"


It was kind of like Bill Clinton's cheating.


message 36: by Ellen W-S (new)

Ellen W-S | 21 comments Kelly wrote: "Carly wrote: "I thought I understood from other discussions that Alexander cheated on Tatiana and she ended up forgiving him. Did he not cheat on her? or was Carmen a temptation that didn't end up..."

Oh Carly, even we won't spoil it for you.....I want you to have the opportunity to shout your thoughts to Alexander too. Powerful part of the book.....READ ON!


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