Doctor Zhivago Literary Elements

Doctor Zhivago Literary Elements


A novel

Setting and Context

The events of the novel cover a rather large period of time. It starts with the events of 1903, then the events of the Russo-Japanese War are mentioned. Part of the novel takes place during the revolution of 1905; in particular, the Moscow events of December 1905 are described in more detail. Further for a while the story seems to go into the background and again invades the life of the heroes during the war of 1914 and the revolution that followed. All the events of the first part from 1903 to October 1917 were written out with careful chronological accuracy. However, since the winter of 1917-1918 till to the 30th historical events are beginning to be portrayed in a different way: in particular, the narrative is filled with anachronisms. When in the epilogue the writer says "five or ten years have passed", this means that the action takes place in 1948 or 1953 - fundamentally different periods in the history of the country.

Narrator and Point of View

Third-person narration

Tone and Mood

Both tone and mood are really disturbing as events during war and revolution are described. When it comes to the theme of love then the mood becomes tender, but still the unknown of tomorrow adds sorrow to the plot.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Yuri Zhivago is the protagonist of the novel, while revolution, soldiers are the antagonists.

Major Conflict

The main conflict stands between the intelligentsia and the revolution, because the author most accurately describes the author's many moments in the novel. In the work - the most powerful force - the course is the revolution. Zhivago - the protagonist of the work in no way interferes with everything that happens and does not affect the course of events. In this frank and bold writing of the revolution there is something close to the people, familiar from ancient times. The most important thing is genius! If someone set the task of creating a new world, to open a new calendar, then first of all this person would need to clear a place for this. He would wait for the end of the old years and epochs in order to begin their chronology after them. He will need a clean sheet, a new paragraph.


The climax comes with the death of the main character


The novel is written in the tone of complete unknown of tomorrow, neither of the characters knows what to do to get some certainty. And to foresee how the events would develop is very difficult.


Though the author is rather frank in the portrayal of the events developing during the war and revolution sometimes there comes a feeling that something is suppressed.


The novel alludes to several historical events like World War I, the October Revolution, and World War II


Imagery is widely used in characters descriptions; the most beautiful are the images of nature that usually serve as background of the events


The main paradox is that Zhivago being an extremely clever, one might even say genius doctor, and clever person, turns out to be completely unable to take responsibility and to decide when firm decisions are to be made


The most vivid parallelism is the life of the main character and his love to two women

Metonymy and Synecdoche

“The voices were outside of the door” (it is a metonymy, voices mean people)
“the crowd continued to press forward, scattering down corridors and straying into the classrooms” (it is synecdoche, crowd is a whole for people)


“Russia, with its fields, steppes, villages, and towns, bleaches lime-white by the sun, flew past them wrapped in hot clouds of dust.” A country is given the qualities of a human, and adds an additional coloring to the narration.

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