Summary and Labov’s Narrative Structure of Mikhail Zoshchenko’s “PELAGEYA”

It was in Russia, while and after the Revolution of the country that Pelageya lived with Ivan Nikolaevich, her husband. Pelageya is an illiterate woman who couldn’t even write her name, while Ivan was a responsible Soviet official.

As an illiterate woman, Pelageya refused to learn how to read and write even though her husband insisted to teach her by himself. She never feels sorry that she couldn’t read until she found a perfumed letter from her husband’s jacket. She was afraid that it was a love letter. She even imagined that her husband had affairs with a well-educated ladies and made fun of her. Being anxious to find out about what the letter about, she started studying to read.


In the third month of studying, Pelageya finally mastered the art of reading. Hardly, she read the small handwriting on what she thought a perfumed love letter. She read it through twice and found out that the letter was from Maria Blokhina, her husband’s friend who supported him to liquidate illiteracy, and of course, his wife as the closest person should be free from illiteracy too.

The story tells us that there is no such thing as “too late” in learning about anything. Also, Pelageya gives a good example of not to judge something before we know the truth.


  • There are two narratives in the story. It has one narrative embedded within another framing one. The main narrative is one which tells us about Pelageya’s illiteracy. Another one, which is embedded, tells us about a conflict which was occurred by the illiteracy (the founding of a letter in Ivan’s jacket).
  • Through this short story, Mikhail Zoschenko is seriously trying to persuade us to liquidate illiteracy because it may give many problems to them who experience it (illiterate).

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