Between Tokarev, Tanya's brother, and Varenka, the contrast is complete. While still a student, he had accepted, with all the ardor of youth, the idea of duty, and he desired to give himself up to the cause of justice and truth; but, having encountered many obstacles, he felt, when he had reached his thirtieth year, that the sacred fire was going out.

The characters are, Tanya, a fanatic Marxist; her brother, Tokarev, whose soul is a field for spiritual battles; and Varenka, a village school-mistress. There are several eccentric characters around them, such as Serge, a young apostle of a somewhat Nietzschean egoism, Antsov and others.

Chekanhov, if he were living now, instead of being maltreated by the people, would certainly be their well beloved champion, and perhaps represent them in the Duma; the timid Tokarev, in spite of his aversion to the ideas of the revolutionists, could find a place in the liberal party of the Reforming Democrats, or at least among the Octobrists; the unfortunate Varenka would not be worn out by her work as school-mistress, for she would be supported by the peasants.

"I have a want-ad running in the Rifleman, and I've gotten a few: that Nambu, and that Japanese Model-14, and the Polish Radom, and the Italian Glisenti, and that Tokarev, and, of course, the P-'38 and the Canadian Browning; but it's going to take the devil's own time. I hope nobody starts another war, for a few years, till I can get caught up on the last one."

I read a great deal now, and I am directing my thoughts towards ethics. I try to give morality a solid basis and I try to make clearer to myself the various categories of duty.... And I blush to pronounce the word, 'Duty." Nevertheless, Tokarev tries, at times, to justify his inclinations towards peaceable bourgeois prosperity to the struggling youth who surround his sister Tanya.