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Changes for Love in Bunin's "Tania"

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All people have quirks that make up who they are. Some quirks are habits that can be changed while others create a permanent lifestyle. “Tania” by Ivan Bunin is a love story in which the main character falls in love with a servant girl. However, he finds that he simply cannot change his wandering ways to stay with her, a fact which raises the idea that you cannot change a person’s lifestyle for love.

Petrusha had always “lived the life of a wanderer,” finding that this was simply how he liked to do things (247)[1]. However, an encounter with Tania, “a short girl” with “small breasts slightly upthrust,” proves to give him more than he ever bargained for as he falls in love with her (246, 247). This means that for the first time he finds a reason to stay in one place rather than continue traveling. However, when confronted with whether or not he should leave, he decided that “he passionately wanted to be back in Moscow” and struggles over “how . . . to tell her” he would be “leaving soon” (255). He desperately loves her, but at the same time he cannot bring Tania with him as “all [his] life [he’s] been going from place to place,” never staying in one location for too long (261). He believes that bringing her with him would slow his travels, as he would have to take care of both of them. Petrusha finds it difficult to resist his wandering tendencies and remain in one place despite loving Tania and knowing the pain he would cause her upon his departure.

Before leaving for Moscow, he had promised Tania that he would “come back” to the house “for Christmas” (261). Christmas comes and passes and Tania “lived in an agony of waiting” during those days (261). Petrusha finally “came in February,” but “seemed different somehow” (262). Despite these changes and broken promises they “both tried to hide their feelings from each other” and continue their relationship as it had been before he left (263). Clearly Petrusha still loves Tania as he wishes to continue the relationship; however, his wandering ways meant that he became engrossed in wherever his travels had taken him, and Christmas had passed while he was out on his travels. Once again, Petrusha could not change his ways and stay with Tania as they quickly “approached the frightening hour of his departure” when he had only just arrived (263). When they had first come together, he had delayed his departure from autumn until winter. However, upon their second meeting he stays for a shorter length of time before continuing his travels. He has not been able to change his wandering lifestyle despite his love for Tania.

Finally, when Petrusha leaves for the second time, “never in his life was he to come back again” for Tania (265). Before he left, Tania suspects that he doesn’t “love [her] any more,” or at least he didn’t love her enough to stay (264). However, Petrusha still “terribly [loved] her” but couldn’t bring himself to throw away his traveller’s lifestyle (265). During the first meeting he tells her that he has “no home” and that he “shall never marry anyone” for it would limit his travels (261). As he is preparing to leave a second time, he reconsiders bringing her, but he is still worried that it would “tie [him] hand and foot, and wreck [his] life forever” (265). This is because a wandering lifestyle, with an unforeseeable future, would make their lives very difficult. Before he leaves for the second and last time, he promises that he will be back “in the spring for the whole summer” in a desperate attempt to make Tania feel better about his departure and to express his love for her (265). Despite this, Tania knows that Petrusha “won’t go anywhere with [her]” as it would change his lifestyle, nor would he be willing to give up his travels to stay with her (265). When Petrusha first decides to delay his travels, the settings darken as “clouds gathered” and “trees thrashed restlessly and anxiously as though they were trying to escape” highlighting the unrest that his choice causes (254). Petrusha would normally have left; however, Tania keeps him from leaving, resulting in an uncomfortable situation in which Petrusha cannot travel. His love confines him to the house, and he ends up daydreaming about the Grand Restaurant with its “now languidly sensual, now boisterously vivacious” music, reflecting his internal desire for adventure (256). In fact, he eventually finds it impossible to stay and ends up departing for Moscow, unable to “endure his secret agony any longer” (261). A sigh of relief is also depicted upon Petrusha’s final departure highlighting his internal preference for travel over Tania. He loves her dearly, but he feels “spring in the air” upon “the eve of his departure” illustrating how the world appears much brighter once he has been released from the confines of love for Tania (263). Thus, Petrusha cannot change his love of travelling and any attempts to change end up affecting him negatively.

“Tania” by Ivan Bunin develops the idea that there are certain aspects of a person’s lifestyle that simply cannot be changed, even for love. Petrusha clearly loves Tania but still feels much better about being on the road rather than staying with her. He attempts to come back and visit but realizes that the visits are not a solution, as they don’t make her feel better or give him the freedom of travel as he desires. His wandering lifestyle was what eventually severed their relationship. Likewise, no matter how much one may love another, people simply cannot change their age-old habits.

[1]All citations are taken from “Tania.” by Ivan Bunin. Raduga Publishers: Moscow. 2001.

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