The Captain's Daughter (Pushkin)

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The Captain's Daughter
1836 Wikidata.svg
Summary of the Novel
Microsummary: A young man is sent to serve in a fortress. It was seized by rebellious peasants. Luck, courage and military honor helped the young officer get out of the fortress, rescue his beloved from there and survive his arrest.

Plot Summary

Russian Empire, 18th century. Peter Grinev at the age of sixteen got into service in a small steppe garrison.

Peter Andreevich Grinev Wikidata.svg — Narrator; the son of a wealthy landowner, a kindly unmerciful young man, strong, honest, stubborn, proud; naive and irresponsible at first, resolute and brave at the end.

There he fell in love with the daughter of the commandant of the garrison. Grinev's fellow soldier had already proposed to her, but was rejected. The soldier quarrelled with Grinev over the girl and wounded him in a duel. The captain's daughter nursed Grinev and fell in love with him. Grinev wanted to marry the girl, but his father was against it.

A peasant revolt began. Rebels seized the garrison, killed the captain and wanted to hang Grinev, but the leader of the rebels recognized him - one winter he was left without warm clothes, and Grinev gave him a hare coat.

Grinev had to leave his beloved and go away. Soon he received a letter from her. A fellow soldier, who had defected to the rebels, was forcing her to marry him, and she asked for help.

Grinev went to the garrison, but ended up with the rebels. The ringleader liked his courage and helped save the captain's daughter. Grinev took the girl to her parents, and he himself went to fight the rebels.

When the mutiny was suppressed, the arrested fellow-traitor accused Grinev of complicity with the rebels, and he was sentenced to exile to Siberia.

The Captain's Daughter went to St. Petersburg, met with the Empress and asked to pardon Grinev. Grinev was pardoned, and the lovers were married.

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

Chapter 1. Sergeant of the Guards

Peter Grinev was born into the family of a retired officer Andrei Petrovich.

Andrei Petrovich Grinev Wikidata.svg — Peter's father, retired officer, stern, straight.

From the age of five the boy was brought up and taught to read and write by the old servant Savelich.

Arkhip Savelich Wikidata.svg — Grinev's old servant, shrewd, cunning, thrifty, loyal, wise.

From the age of twelve, Grinev was brought up by a Frenchman. He did not fulfill his duties, and Andrei Petrovich threw him out. That was the end of Grinev's upbringing.

At sixteen, Andrei Petrovich sent his son to the army, to Orenburg, under the command of his old friend, a general. At parting he gave his son a fatherly admonition.

Serve faithfully to whom you are sworn; obey your superiors; do not chase after their affection; do not beg for service; do not be dissuaded from service; and remember the proverb: guard your dress with your life and your honor with your life.

Savelyich was assigned to look after Grinev.

During the stop in Simbirsk Savelich went shopping, and Grinev met Zurin.

Ivan Ivanovich Zurin — Hussar, officer, about 35 years old, tall, with a long black moustache, a merry player and gambler.

Grinev lost a large sum in billiards to him. To overpower his timidity before Savelyich, Grinev rudely told him to pay the debt, which greatly offended the old man.

Chapter 2. The counselor

Unable to endure the torments of conscience, Grinev apologized to Savelyich and vowed not to spend a single penny without his permission. The old man was grieved and blamed himself for leaving the "child" alone for a long time.

In the steppe the travelers got caught in a snowstorm and lost their way, but ran into a man, who led them to the people. Grinev ordered to give him money, but Savelyich refused. Grinev did not dare to insist and in gratitude gave the muzhik a hare's coat. He was very cold and was delighted with the gift.

In Orenburg the general sent Grinev to the Belogorsk fortress.

Chapter 3: The Fortress

The fortress proved to be not a majestic structure with towers, but a hamlet surrounded by a log fence. The fortress was commanded by Captain Mironov.

Ivan Kuzmich Mironov — commandant of the fortress, captain, a vigorous old man, soft and kind, is under the heel of his wife.

In fact, both the fortress and the household were managed by an active, kind and hospitable commandant, Mironov's wife. She maintained warm family relations in the fortress.

Grinev met Shvabrin, exiled here for murder in a duel.

Alexei Ivanovich Shvabrin Wikidata.svg — Young officer, short, swarthy, very ugly, duelist, dishonorable scoundrel.

He was educated and spoke good French, which made him stand out among the inhabitants of the fortress. Shvabrin spoke derisively of Mironov's family, and called his daughter Masha a fool.

Marya Ivanovna Mironova Wikidata.svg — Captain Mironov's daughter, about 18 years old, round-faced, blushing, fair-haired, modest, intelligent, decent, faithful.

Grinev meets Masha and realizes that Shvabrin is wrong, and the Mironovs are decent people.

Chapter 4. The Duel

Life in the fortress was quiet and pleasant. Grinev began to write poems and read one of them to Shvabrin. He guessed that it was dedicated to Masha and spoke insultingly of her.

Grinev challenges Shvabrin to a duel and took the aged Lieutenant as his second. He tried to dissuade Grinev from a duel, but to no avail. The Lieutenant told Mironov about everything, who interrupted the duel and scolded the duelists.

Masha told Grinev that Shvabrin proposed to her and was refused, as the girl was disgusted. Grinev saw in Shvabrin's mockery a "deliberate slander" and wanted to punish him all the more.

The duel took place. At first Grinev wins, but he is inadvertently distracted by Savelich. Shvabrin took advantage of this and wounded him in the shoulder.

Chapter 5: Love

Savelyich and Masha cared for the seriously wounded Grinev. Grinev forgave Shvabrin and asked to release him from his imprisonment.

Once on his feet, Grinev proposed to Masha, but the girl did not want to marry him without the blessing of his parents. Grinev wrote to his father and was refused: someone informed Andrei Petrovich about the duel, he was very angry.

Savelyich swore that it was not he who had written to Andrei Petrovich about the duel. Grinev suspected Shvabrin of denunciation: only he would win if Grinev left the fortress.

Masha put up with Andrei Petrovich's will and stopped communicating with Grinev. Savelyich wrote to Andrei Petrovich about Grinev's well-being and called the duel a mistake of youth.

Chapter 6. Pugachevshchina

A year before these events there was a popular uprising, which was quickly suppressed. One of the instigators of the revolt, Yemelyan Pugachev, escaped from custody, declared himself emperor, led a new revolt and had already taken several fortresses.

Yemelyan Pugachev Wikidata.svg — Cossack, 40 years old, the instigator of the rebellion, thin, broad-shouldered, black-bearded, of medium height, pleasant but sly face, cunning, authoritative, shrewd, with an animal instinct, able to survive.

At a secret meeting, Mironov ordered that the only cannon be cleaned out and sentries put up. The commandant slyly learned everything from the lieutenant, and the news spread through the fortress.

Soon they captured a Bashkir with an appeal from Pugachev to join his gang. The commandant ordered to torture the Bashkirian to find out who sent him, but to no avail: he had had his tongue cut off.

Then it became known that the rebels took the neighboring fortress and hanged all the officers. Grinev was afraid for the women and offered to send them to Orenburg. The commandant was not afraid of the rebels and refused to part with her husband. It was decided to send Masha away.

Chapter 7. The Attack

On the eve of the assault Grinev was seized by "impatient anticipation of danger and a sense of noble ambition." During the assault Mironov bravely defended the fortress, and the fearless commandant was at his side. Only Masha, who was not sent to Orenburg in time, was afraid.

Cossacks went over to Pugachev's side even at night. When he saw that the fortress could not be held, Mironov said goodbye to his wife and daughter and tried to lead the soldiers to attack, but they did not go after him.

The rebels entered the fortress, the entire garrison and Shvabrin swore an oath to Pugachev. Mironov refused to take the oath, he was hanged and the commandant was hacked to death with a sword.

Savelyich saved Grinev, who threw himself at the rebel's feet, begged him to pardon the "lord's child" and promised a ransom for him. Pugachev ordered to release Grinev, but he refused to kiss the "Tsar's" hand.

Chapter 8. Uninvited Guest

Masha was hidden by the priest's wife. The girl suffers from fever from the nervous shock.

Grinev is astonished to learn from Savelyich that Pugachev is the very man to whom he had given the hare's coat. Pugachev also recognized Grinev, so he pardoned him.

Grinev did not know what to do. His officer's duty demanded that he continue to serve his fatherland, but he could not leave Masha alone.

Soon Pugachev demanded Grinev to see him. He had a council of war, at which everyone shouted, argued with Pugachev without fear, and then decided to go to Orenburg. The "newly recruited traitor" Shvabrin was not invited to the council. Then Pugachev and his cronies drank and sang moody "burlak songs".

After the council Grinev and Pugachev remained alone. He offered to serve him, but Grinev bravely said he did not recognize him as a tsar and refused to break his oath to the Empress.

Grinev's sincerity astonished Pugachev. He understood that Grinev would not serve him and let him go to Orenburg.

Chapter 9. Separation

The next morning Pugachev solemnly leaves the fortress, appointing Shvabrin as commandant. Seeing Grinev in the crowd, Pugachev ordered him to tell the governor of Orenburg that he was going to take the city.

Seeing that Pugachev treated Grinev well, Savelyich gave him a list of things stolen from them by the rebels. Pugachev became furious, but Savelyich calmly said that he was responsible for the baron's goods. Pugachev, "in a fit of generosity", did not touch him and handed over compensation through the Cossack.

Grinev had to leave, leaving Masha in the power of Shvabrin.

Chapter 10. Siege of the City

The inhabitants of Orenburg were preparing for a siege: they built fortifications and repaired the wall. General Grinev found him in an orchard - he was tucking up apple trees for the winter. Upon hearing the news Grinev had brought, the general convened a council, at which there was not a single military man.

Grinev tried to persuade the governor to free the Belogorsk fortress, but the council decided "to remain under the cover of cannons, behind a strong stone wall." One of the officials suggested a "bribery" tactic: to put a bounty on Pugachev's head, and then his own people would hand him over.

Soon Pugachev's army surrounded Orenburg. The siege dragged on, and famine began in the city. Longing and worried about Masha, Grinev entertained himself by going outside the city walls and shooting at Pugachev's Cossacks.

During such a sortie Grinev received a letter from Masha. She wrote that Shvabrin was forcing her into marriage and asked for help. Grinev asked the governor for a company of soldiers, promising to clear the Belogorsk fortress of rebels, but he refused.

Chapter 11. The Rebellious Sloboda

Grinev went to the fortress with the faithful Savelyich. Passing by a sloboda seized by rebels, they came upon a guard post. They were seized, Grinev managed to escape, but returned for Savelyich. They were taken to Pugachev's "palace": a simple hut with walls pasted with gilt paper.

Grinev decided that fate had brought him to Pugachev, and told him that Shvabrin had offended his bride, an orphan girl, and he was going to intercede for her. Pugachev became furious and was going to hang Shvabrin, but his close associates believed that Grinev was an enemy spy and should be tortured.

Hiding his alarm, Grinev thanked Pugachev for the presents. Tom liked it. He decided to help and went with Grinev to the fortress.

On the way Grinev advised Pugachev to surrender at the mercy of the Empress. In response he told a Kalmykian tale about an eagle, which decided to eat carrion and live three hundred years as a crow. After trying it, the eagle realized, "rather than eat carrion for three hundred years, it is better to drink live blood once."

Chapter 12. Orphan

Shvabrin kept Masha locked up, on bread and water, but the girl stubbornly resisted his advances: she believed that Grinev would save her. Pugachev released Masha and wanted to perform the wedding here. The frightened Shvabrin fell to his knees and denounced that the girl was the daughter of the murdered commandant. At that moment all the hatred and anger in Grinev was drowned out by contempt and disgust for Shvabrin.

Grinev again spoke boldly to Pugachev and asked simply to let him and the poor orphan go. The latter was fond of granting "royal favors" and agreed.

- Yin be it your way! - he said. - Execute it is to execute it, and pardon it is to pardon it: that is my custom. Take your beauty; take her wherever you like, and God give you love and advice!

Grinev was given a pass through all the outposts under Pugachev's control. He decided to take Masha to his parents.

Chapter 13. Arrest

On their way the travelers came across a Hussar regiment under the command of Zurin. He persuaded Grinev to send Masha and Savelyich to their parents and stay behind to fight the rebels. Grinev decided to fulfill his officer's duty.

Savelyich did not want to leave the baron, but Grinev said that he trusted him with the dearest thing - his future wife - and the old man agreed. Masha parted with Grinev with tears in her eyes and promised never to forget him.

The revolt continued until the summer. They captured Pugachev on the road to Moscow. Grinev saw the ruined estates, his detachment took away from the peasants what the rebels had not taken away. All this horrified him: "God forbid to see a Russian rebellion, senseless and merciless!"

Finally Pugachev was caught. Grinev willy-nilly sympathized with him, for he had saved Masha.

Grinev was about to go home when Zurin received an order for his arrest.

Chapter 14. Trial

Grinev was accused of complicity with Pugachev. He was slandered by Shvabrin, who was also arrested. Grinev could prove his innocence, but did not want to involve Masha. He was sentenced to death, but the Empress, out of respect for Andrei Petrovich, commuted it to eternal exile in Siberia.

Andrei Petrovich believed that his son was guilty, and his mother believed in her son's innocence and tried to convince her husband of this.

Masha, too, was convinced of Grinev's innocence. She went to St. Petersburg to petition the Empress. Walking in the garden, Masha met a pleasant lady, talked to her and told her story. Hearing Grinev's name, the lady frowned, but Masha convinced her of her groom's innocence. The lady turned out to be an empress. She pardoned Grinev and gave Andrei Petrovich a letter in which she assured him of her son's innocence. Masha was provided with a dowry by the Empress.

This is the end of Grinev's notes. From family legends we know that he was at the execution of Pugachev, and the latter nodded his head, which a minute later was cut off. Then Grinev, with the consent of his parents, married Masha. The Empress's letter became a family heirloom.