Summary of “First Love” by Ivan Turgenev


“First Love” is a novella written by Ivan Turgenev, a renowned Russian author. Published in 1860, it is considered one of Turgenev’s most popular and influential works. The story revolves around the theme of first love and its impact on the protagonist’s life.


The novella begins with the narrator, Vladimir Petrovich, reminiscing about his first love. He takes us back to his youth, when he was sixteen years old and living with his family in the countryside. One summer, a new family moves into a neighboring estate, and Vladimir becomes infatuated with their daughter, Zinaida Alexandrovna.

Zinaida is a beautiful and captivating young woman who quickly becomes the center of attention for many suitors, including Vladimir’s friend, Aleksey. Despite the competition, Vladimir is determined to win Zinaida’s heart. He spends time with her, engaging in conversations and walks in the garden, and gradually falls deeply in love with her.

However, Vladimir soon discovers that Zinaida is not as innocent and pure as he initially believed. She enjoys playing with men’s emotions and manipulating their affections. She engages in flirtations with multiple suitors, including Vladimir’s father, who is also infatuated with her. This revelation deeply disturbs Vladimir, but his love for Zinaida remains unwavering.

As the story progresses, Zinaida’s actions become more unpredictable and destructive. She marries a man she does not love, causing great distress to Vladimir. He is devastated by her betrayal and experiences a profound sense of loss. This pivotal event marks the end of Vladimir’s first love and leaves a lasting impact on his emotional well-being.

Years later, the narrator encounters Zinaida again, but she is now a changed woman, worn down by the hardships of life. Vladimir realizes that his infatuation with her was based on a romanticized image, and he finally comes to terms with the reality of their relationship. He acknowledges that his first love was merely an illusion, and he must move on from the past.


“First Love” explores several themes, including the nature of love, the loss of innocence, and the disillusionment of idealized relationships. Turgenev delves into the complexities of human emotions and the transformative power of first love. The novella also touches upon the societal expectations placed on individuals and the consequences of unrequited love.


“First Love” by Ivan Turgenev is a poignant exploration of the transformative power of first love and its lasting impact on an individual’s life. Through the story of Vladimir’s infatuation with Zinaida, Turgenev delves into the complexities of human emotions and the illusions we create in our romantic relationships. The novella serves as a timeless reminder of the bittersweet nature of love and the importance of accepting reality and moving forward.

Link for Full Book with Long Summary


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