My Childhood (Gorky)

From Translated Summaries
Disclaimer: This summary is automatically translated from Russian. It can contain silly mistakes.

Short summary

Alyosha's father died and his mother had to move to Nizhny Novgorod.

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Alyosha Peshkov — narrator (Gorky himself), boy, about 9 years old, docile, impressionable, loves his mother and grandmother.

Alyosha and his mother settle in the big house of his grandfather, the owner of the dye shop.

Besides his grandfather and grandmother, Alesh's uncles with their wives and children lived in the house. Everyone in this big family was feuding. Aleshin's grandfather was stingy and cruel. On Saturdays, he punished his grandchildren for their week's accumulated faults, and once beat Aliosha to within an inch of his life.

One of the few good people who lived in his grandfather's house was a stepchild, but he was ruined by his uncles, too - they made him carry a heavy cross, and the boy overworked himself and died. Aleshu was loved only by his grandmother, she became his outlet in this hopeless life.

In the spring the family separated. Grandfather bought a big house and started renting out rooms. Alyosha's mother also left, and the boy stayed with his grandfather and grandmother. But even in the new place a quiet life did not work out. His sons started showing up at his grandfather's house and demanding money.

After living in a new house for the summer and part of the winter, grandfather moved out again. Then Alyosha's mother moved in and soon married. The stepfather turned out to be a crook, a gambler and a very cruel man. He beat Alyosha's pregnant mother, the boy hated him and once attacked him with a knife.

Alyosha grew up pugnacious and did poorly in school. Grandfather began to eat separately from his grandmother and did not give his grandson a penny. To support himself and help his grandmother, Aliosha collected scrap metal, robbed drunks, and stole firewood. Because of this, his classmates mocked him.

Soon his stepfather disappeared somewhere. Alyosha's seriously ill mother died, leaving her newborn son. His stingy grandfather said he was no longer going to support him and kicked him out of the house.

Chapter-by-chapter summary

The titles of the chapters are conditional.

Chapter 1. Father's death, moving to Nizhny Novgorod, meeting his grandfather

Alyosha's first memory is of his father's death. He did not realize that his father was gone, but he remembered Varvara's cries.

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Varvara — Alyosha's mother, a widow, still young and beautiful, large, strong, with thick blond hair, unruly with a strong character,.

Grandmother Akulina came to help with the funeral and the severely ill Alyosha.

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Akulina Ivanovna Kashirina — a large, fat, big-headed grandmother with huge eyes, a loose nose and long black thick hair, very kind, wise and strong, knows many fairy tales.

The day her husband died, Varvara went into premature labor and the baby was born weak. After the funeral, the grandmother took everyone to Nizhny Novgorod. On the way, on the steamer, the baby died.

At first, the grandmother seemed strange and funny to Alyosha. She said that she came from Nizhny Novgorod by water, but the very young boy did not understand where the water came from in the city. The grandmother spoke, chanting the words in a peculiar way, and in the boy's imagination they became like flowers. Grandmother's selfless love illuminated Aleshin's life. She became his friend, "the closest to his heart... the most understandable and dearest person.

The trip on the Volga became for Alyosha "the first days of saturation with beauty. His grandmother was admiring the passing shores and repeated, "Look how nice it is."

At Nizhny, they were met by Vasily Kashirin, his two sons, and their children.

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Vasily Vasilievich Kashirin — Alyosha's grandfather, small, gaunt, with a red beard, a bird's nose and green eyes, the owner of a dye shop, not poor, but very stingy, angry and bossy, loves no one.

The boy did not like the grandfather; he regarded him with wary curiosity and "at once felt an enemy in him."

Chapter 2. Grandfather Kashirin's Unfriendly Family

Grandpa lived in a big house with a dye shop on the ground floor. The family lived unfriendly, and this life Alyosha perceived as a "harsh fairy tale. Varvara had married without a blessing, and now her uncles demanded her dowry from her grandfather, but the greedy grandfather did not want to share.

Grandfather's house was filled with a hot fog of mutual enmity of all against all.

From time to time the uncles fought. The first wild fight between the uncles and his grandfather, Alyosha saw the day he arrived and was very frightened. After the fight, Grandma washed the blood off her sons' faces and called them a "wild tribe.

The arrival of Alyosha and his mother intensified this animosity. It was very hard for the boy, who grew up in a friendly family.

A few days after his arrival, his grandfather made him learn prayers. The boy was helped by the battered wife of one of his uncles. The words of the prayers were so incomprehensible that Alexei never learned the Lord's Prayer.

On Saturdays, the grandfather would eat the grandchildren who had done wrong during the week. On the first Saturday, he punished one of Aliosha's cousins for a "joke" - he slipped a red-hot thimble to a half-blind foreman. Aliosha watched the punishment and his legs trembled with horror.

Alyosha also suffered: he threw his grandmother's white ceremonial tablecloth into the tub of paint. The boy, who had never been whipped, resisted, bit his grandfather, and the latter caught him half to death. From then on, the boy's heart became "sensitive to every insult and pain, his own and another's." The punishment "torn" his attitude toward his mother, who could not protect him.

Soon his mother disappeared from the house, and Aliosha was nursed by his grandmother. When Aliosha was lying in bed, his grandfather came to make peace, telling him about his difficult life. The boy understood that his grandfather was "not evil and not scary," but he could not forgive him.

Ivan-Tsyganok, who held Alyosha during the whipping, astonished the boy by putting his hand under the cane, and part of the strokes went to him.

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Ivan the Gypsy — foundling, brought up in the Kashirins' house, 17 years old, cheerful, kind and naive, sympathetic, hardworking, always ready to help.

Chapter 3. Ivan the Gypsy

Alyosha became friends with Ivan. The boy had golden hands, so he "occupied a special place in the house. Ivan was a foundling: his grandmother found him in the winter near her house and raised him. He promised to become a good craftsman, and his uncles often quarreled over him: after partition each wanted to take Gypsy for himself.

The children loved him for his cheerful character and ability to show tricks. On holidays, Ivan played the guitar, and then "danced tirelessly, selflessly, and it seemed that if you open the door to the street, he will go dancing in the street, in the city, the unknown where. Sometimes he was joined by his grandmother, who danced - "as if she was telling him something.

On Fridays, Ivan was sent to the market for groceries, and he spent less and brought back more than he should - stealing to please his stingy grandfather. My grandmother scolded - she was afraid the boy would be caught by the police.

In my grandfather's yard there was a heavy oak cross. One of the Kashirins' sons made a vow to take it to his wife's grave. Ivan carried the heavy cross, strained himself and died from bleeding.

Chapter 4. Grandmother Akulina

Time passed. Things were getting worse in the house. Before going to bed, Grandma would talk to God for a long time, asking Him to talk sense into her wild sons. Then tales about saints and devils began, laced with apt folk sayings that made life easier for Alyosha.

Grandma was not afraid of anyone but cockroaches. One evening the workshop and the stable caught fire. Akulina undertook to save the household, and the confused grandfather obeyed her orders.

She was as interesting as the fire; illuminated by the fire, which seemed to catch her, black, she rushed about the yard, keeping up everywhere, ordering everything, seeing everything.

Risking her life, Grandmother led the stallion out of there and burned her hands badly.

Chapter 5. Moving to a new house

"By spring the uncles had separated," and Grandpa bought a large house with a neglected garden and began renting out rooms. Akulina and her grandson settled in a cozy room in the attic.

All the neighbors turned to Akulina for advice - she knew many recipes for herbal medicines. The grandmother was from the Volga. Her mother was "offended" by the lord, the girl threw herself out of the window and was left crippled. Since childhood Akulina went "around the people", asking for alms. Then her mother, an expert lacemaker, taught her daughter her trade, and when Akulina's fame spread, her grandfather came along.

Soon the grandfather began to teach Alyosha reading and writing from church books. Unlike the lessons of his timid aunt, his grandfather's lessons were not boring and Alyosha got nickels for his efforts. The boy proved capable and quickly learned to read. His grandfather became nicer to his grandson, he munched him less often and sometimes told him about his childhood, about his mother - a wicked fence, about the war he lived through with Napoleon.

Alesh was frightened by his grandfather's "bygone" stories, he liked his grandmother's kinder tales better. Deciding that his grandfather did not like questions, the boy persistently asked him who was stronger - the Russians or the French, hoping that his grandfather would get bored and let him go for a walk.

Chapter 6. New Scandals

Soon Aleshin's quiet life was over. In the evenings one of his uncles began to come to them and make scandals. He demanded a dowry from Varvarino's grandfather, but the old man would not give up.

Chapter 7. Grandmother and Grandfather's Faith

Alyosha realized early on that his grandmother's faith was different from his grandfather's. Grandmother Akulina prayed to God fervently and joyfully. Her faith was bright, and God was kind and not scary. Grandma's god Alyosha was not afraid, but he was ashamed to lie.

Grandfather read the prayers clearly and "firmly, as if answering a lesson," his voice sounded loud and demanding. Grandfather's God was cruel, vengeful, and caused Alyosha "fear and dislike."

He loved no one, watched everything with a stern eye; he above all looked for and saw in man the bad, the evil, the sinful. It was clear that he did not believe in man, was always waiting for repentance and loved to punish

Outdoors, Alyosha was rarely allowed out - the local boys called him "the grandchild of Koschei Kashirin," and he would rush into battle, but the street almost always won out. Aliosha was angered by the cruelty of street fun, but despite this he ran away from the yard every chance he got.

In the street, Alyosha often met a craftsman who worked in his grandfather's workshop. He was completely blind and lived on alms. Alesh felt pity and fear for the blind old man, and his grandmother tried to help him and reproached his grandfather, who threw the old craftsman out, predicting that God would punish him too. And so it happened. When my grandmother died, my grandfather went to beg.

Chapter 8. Another Move. Unemployed Good Thing

At the end of winter Grandpa sold the house and bought another. To the left of the new house lived Colonel Ovsyannikov, and to the right lived the Betleng family.

The house was full of interesting people. Aliosha was especially interested in the Good Cause.

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Good Deed — unemployed freeloader, kind, harmless and lonely, friend of Alyosha, self-taught inventor.

The boy befriended Good Thing. He taught him how to tell the story correctly, without repeating himself and cutting off everything superfluous. Alyosha understood that Good Deed was very lonely, pitied him and tried to visit him more often. Grandma and Grandpa did not like this friendship - they considered the freeloader a sorcerer. Good Cause had to move out.

Chapter 9. Children of the House of Ovsyannikov

In the yard of the Ovsyannikov house, Alyosha often saw the three boys playing amicably and without quarrels. One day, while playing hide-and-seek, the youngest boy fell into a well. Alyosha rushed to the rescue and, together with the older children, pulled the little boy out.

The children were friends until Alyosha caught the Colonel's eye. He kicked the boy out of the house. Since then, Alyosha communicated with his friends only through a hole in the fence.

Chapter 10. Mother's Return

Aliosha seldom thought of his mother, who lived separately. One winter she came back, took up residence in the sponger's room, and began to teach her son grammar and arithmetic. Alyosha understood how to read poems from the Native Word, but deliberately read them wrong - he felt that the poems, as bewitched, "were deprived of all meaning. His mother got angry and called Alyosha stupid and stubborn.

His grandfather quarreled with his mother and forced her to remarry, but she refused.

Russian people, because of the poverty and scarcity of their lives, in general love to amuse themselves with grief, play with it like children, and are seldom ashamed of being unhappy.

Grandmother stood up for her daughter, and one day Grandfather beat her severely. Helping his grandmother up, Alyosha compared her to a saint: "You are exactly a saint, they torture you, and you get nothing!" Two days later, the boy took revenge on his grandfather by ruining his favorite christmas book.

His mother befriended a neighbor, the wife of a military man, who often had guests from the Betlenga house. Grandfather also began arranging "evenings" and even found his mother a fiancé, a crooked and bald watchmaker. Varvara turned him down.

Chapter 11. Alyoshin's illness

Daring to go against her grandfather's will, Varvara quickly "became the mistress of the house." The Maksimov brothers, acquaintances of the Betlengs, began to visit her.

After Christmas Eve, Alyosha fell ill with smallpox. His grandmother took care of him, talking about his father, Maxim Peshkov. He was the son of a soldier, "promoted to officers and exiled to Siberia for cruelty to subordinates. Maksim was born in Siberia. His mother died, he wandered for a long time, then found himself in Nizhny Novgorod and became a skilled cabinetmaker. Varvara married him against her grandfather's will - he wanted to marry his beautiful daughter to a nobleman.

Chapter 12. Stepfather

Varvara soon married the younger Maximov, Evgeny.

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Evgeny Maksimov — Alesha's stepfather, tall, thin-footed, pale-faced, with narrow shoulders and a sharp black beard, arrogant and cruel.

After the wedding, his mother and stepfather left for Moscow, where Maksimov was to take an examination in "land surveying." Alyosha said goodbye to his mother again, and something in his "chest slammed tightly, closed." Grandmother began to drink out of frustration.

Everyone in the house became a stranger to Alyosha. He built a hut in the garden and lived in it all summer. Grandma would come to him at night. Lying in the hay, listening to his grandmother's stories and looking up at the starry sky, the boy felt the desire "to live in friendship with all the living around.

In the fall his grandfather sold the house, told his grandmother he would no longer feed her, and "rented two dark rooms in the basement of the old house. After the move, the mother and stepfather showed up and said that their house had burned down with all their belongings, but grandfather knew that the stepfather had lost and had come to ask for money.

The mother and Maximov rented a poor place and took Alyosha in. Varvara was pregnant, and the stepfather cheated the workers by buying up half-price credit notes for groceries, which were paid instead of money at the factory.

Alyosha was sent to school, where he was very unhappy. The children laughed at his poor clothes, and the teachers did not like him. The boy bullied and annoyed his mother. He was about to be expelled from the school when the bishop came there to give some lessons in theology. Aliosha told the bishop everything he had heard from his grandmother, he liked it very much and ordered the boy to attend all of his lessons. Alyosha was excited to meet the bishop and even agreed to keep his voice down.

A few days later, Aliosha was leafing through his stepfather's books, found a ruble in one of them and took it for himself. With this money he bought "'The Sacred Story' and two disheveled volumes of Andersen's fairy tales, three pounds of white bread and a pound of sausage," and shared the meal with his classmates. His mother discovered the disappearance and gave Alyosha a severe beating.

Life was getting harder and harder. Mom gave birth to a son, who quickly died. The stepfather had a mistress.

Soon Varvara became pregnant again. One day, Aliosha saw his stepfather beating his pregnant wife and rushed at him with a knife. Varvara managed to push him away - the knife only cut her clothes and slid down her ribs.

The author remembered these "leaden abominations of wild Russian life" because "it is a tenacious, despicable truth... which must be known to the root in order to tear it from memory and from the human soul. He believed that the soul of the Russian man is still healthy and will be able to break through the layer of this abomination to a bright, "human" life.

Chapter 13. Mother's Death. Grandfather sends Alyosha "out into the world"

Alyosha returns to his grandfather. The stingy old man divided the household into two parts. Even he and his grandmother took turns making tea. It was funny and disgusting for Alyosha to look at grandfather's tricks, but it was only funny for grandmother.

To earn her bread, Grandma embroidered and wove lace, while Alyosha and a group of boys collected garbage, robbed drunks, and stole firewood. My classmates knew what he was doing, and they bullied him even more.

When Alyosha was in third grade, Varvara, who was seriously ill, moved in with the newborn baby. The stepfather disappeared again. Grandmother had gone to a rich merchant's house to embroider a veil, and grandfather took care of the newborn, underfeeding it out of greed. Alyosha also liked to play with his little brother. The mother died a few months later without seeing her husband.

After the funeral, his grandfather said he wasn't going to feed him and kicked him out of the house - sent him away, "to the people".