Mumu (Turgenev)

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Summary of the Novel
Microsummary: A cruel, capricious and overbearing madam has separated a deaf and dumb servant from the woman he loved and forced him to drown his only friend, a dog. Fulfilling his mistress' orders, the servant returns to his native village.

The division into chapters is conditional.

Meet the Barinya and Gerasim

In one of the deafest streets of Moscow, in a house with columns, full of courtiers, footmen, and maidens, lived an old barainess.

Barinya Wikidata.svg — old and rich widow, despotic, overbearing, capricious and cruel mistress.

Her daughters have long since married, and the barainess was lonely living out the last years of "her bored and miserly old age."

Her day, unhappy and inclement, had long since passed; but her evening was blacker than the night.

The most "wonderful face" in her house was Gerasim.

Gerasim Wikidata.svg — janitor in the madam's house, deaf and dumb from birth, not old, 195 cm tall, powerful, kind, faithful, hardworking, strict and serious, loves order.

The baroness brought him from her village, where Gerasim lived in his hut separately from his brothers and was considered the best worker. Growing up on the land, Gerasim longed and had a hard time getting used to city life. After the hard work in the village, working for his mistress seemed too easy for him. Having done everything in half an hour, he would "throw his face on the ground and lie motionless on his chest for hours like a caught animal".

Soon Gerasim became accustomed to his new home. He performed his duties properly, kept the yard clean, and the neighbourhood thieves avoided the madam's house. The servants of the house were also afraid of the deaf-mute, but Gerasim did not touch them, he treated them as his own and learned to communicate with them in gestures.

He lived in a separate room above the kitchen. Gerasim made his own sturdy furniture that could withstand even such a giant as he was. He used to lock his room and did not like people to come in.

Barinya separates Gerasim from the woman he loves

A year has passed. The Baryna, who had unlimited power over the courtiers, decided to marry Kapiton Klimov.

Kapiton Klimov — The cobbler of the baroness, a bitter drunkard, considers himself educated, capitalist, unappreciated and resentful of the whole world.

The baroness thought that after the wedding Kapiton would give up drinking and settle down. She chose Tatiana as his wife and instructed Gavrila to bring the matter to a wedding.

Tatiana — The Lady's washerwoman, 28 years old, thin and blond, shy and battered.
Gavrila Andreyevich — Gavrila Andreyevich, butler of the mistress, cowardly, obliging, cunning, with yellow eyes and a duck's nose.

Of Tatiana's kin, she had several old uncles left behind in the village, and there was no one to protect her. From an early age, she worked for two and dressed in rags. Tatyana had once been beautiful, but her "beauty soon wore off" due to hard work. A woman she was timid, indifferent to herself and dreamed of only one thing: to finish work on time.

Tatiana liked Gerasim. The janitor was awkwardly courting her, protecting her from taunts, while she was very afraid of the huge mute man. The story of Gerasim's advances reached the baroness, but the "queer old woman" only laughed and rewarded the janitor. Gerasim was afraid of the baroness, but was going to ask her permission to marry Tatiana anyway.

Gavrila pondered the problem for a long time: the baroness was pleased with Gerasim, but what husband out of a deaf-mute? Kapiton was not averse to marriage, but was afraid of the mighty janitor and called him a "beast" and an "idol." Tatyana obeyed the order of her mistress with resigned indifference, and only for a moment felt faint and leaned her hand on the upper doorjamb.

The butler secretly hoped that the young lady would forget her fancy, as she had done more than once, but she asked about the wedding every day. At last Gavrila remembered that Gerasim hated drunkards and devised a ruse: he persuaded Tatiana to pretend she was drunk and to walk in front of the gate-keeper. The trick was a success - Gerasim gave up Tatiana, and she married the shoemaker.

Another year passes. Kapiton finally drank himself to death, and the mistress sent him and Tatiana to a distant village. Before his departure, Gerasim gave Tatiana the red shawl he had bought for her a year before. Tatiana wept and "Christian kissed Gerasim three times. Mute was about to see her off, but halfway turned back.

Gerasim rescues the doggie and becomes attached to her

After spending a little time with Tatiana, Gerasim returned home along the river, saw the drowning puppy in the water, fished it out, carried it to his den, and came out.

No mother cares for her child as much as Gerasim cared for his pet.

The puppy grew into "a very good little dog." Gerasim named her Mumu: it was the only word he could pronounce.

Mumu Wikidata.svg — A small dog with long ears, a fluffy tail and big expressive eyes, intelligent and loyal.

Mumu was very intelligent and affectionate. Gerasim loved her without a memory, and the yardmates also loved Mumu. The dog accompanied the deaf-mute everywhere, guarded the yard at night and never barked in vain. Mumu never entered the master's house.

The meeting of the baroness with Mumu

A year later, the baroness looked out her window and noticed Mumu. That day the Mistress was in for a "merry hour": she laughed and joked and demanded the same from her lodgers. They were afraid of the landlady's mood: "These flashes did not last long and were usually replaced by a gloomy and sour mood.

Mumu liked the young mistress and she ordered her to bring her to her chamber, but the dog, frightened by the unfamiliar surroundings and people, went to the corner and began to growl at the old woman and to bite her teeth. The Mistress' mood quickly deteriorated and she ordered Muma to be taken away.

The Mistress did not sleep well and awoke in a gloomy mood, saying that the barking of the dog prevented her from falling asleep and ordering Gavrila to get rid of Mumu. Gavrila told the footman to sell the dog at the market.

Gerasim immediately discovered that his pet had disappeared and began asking servants about her. Many knew what had become of Mumou, but they would not tell the mute man, and only laughed at him. Gerasim abandoned his business and searched for Mumu for a long time, but he never found her. In the evening he returned home tired and unhappy, and this time no one laughed at him.

Baryna orders Gerasim's pet to be drowned

Gerasim languishes. In twenty-four hours, the doggy returned to him by himself with a scrap of rope around his neck.

Gerasim had time to understand that Mumu had disappeared on the orders of the landlady: he had been told in gestures of the incident in the lord's apartments. He decided to lock the doggie in his closet for the day and let it out only at night. Soon everyone understood that Mumu had returned, but they did not want to betray Gerasim.

At night Mumou smelled a stranger in the lane and barked. The young baroness was falling asleep after a very hearty dinner. The loud barking gave her a nervous fit, she moaned and complained "that everybody had abandoned her, the poor old woman, that nobody felt pity for her, that everybody wanted her dead. The frightened Gavrila swore that soon the dog "would be dead," whereupon the baroness drank soothing drops and fell soundly asleep.

In the morning the baroness told him to get rid of the dog. Gavrila went to Gerasim and with gestures explained to him that Mumu must be killed, otherwise there would be trouble. The janitor himself carried out the order.

Mumu's death

Putting on his best caftan, he fed Mumu heartily at the inn, then took a boat and sailed to the middle of the river. Having said goodbye to his only friend, Gerasim tied a rope around Mum's neck with bricks tied to it and threw it into the water.

Gerasim heard nothing, neither the rapid screeching of the falling Mumu, nor the heavy splash of the water; to him the noisiest day was silent and soundless, as no quietest night is soundless to us.

The yard people decided that Gerasim was "strange": is it possible to be killed so much because of some little dog?

Gerasim returns to his native village

Upon returning home, Gerasim quickly packed his things and left on foot for his home village. No one was waiting for him there, but he hurried "with a kind of indestructible courage, with a desperate and together joyful determination."

Three days later, Gerasim was already there, and the headman gladly received him. In Moscow they searched for Gerasim for a long time. Having found the former janitor in the village, the landowner wanted to discharge him, but changed her mind: "she will never need such an ungrateful person. Soon after, the landlady died, and her heirs had no time for Gerasim.

Gerasim settled in his shabby hut, did not even look at women, and did not keep dogs.

The retelling is based on edition of the story from Turgenev's Collected Works in 30 Volumes (M.: Nauka, 1980).