These two passages explore the failure of Olga and Oblomov’s love to come to fruition. Plagued by Oblomov’s lack of confidence and final surrender, Olga remains mystified as to the root cause of this seemingly useless struggle.
In the end, Oblomov answers the question himself, repeating Stolz’s earlier diagnosis. The scene demonstrates one of the central tensions of the text. For readers, Oblomov presents a challenge: Is Oblomov a character to be pitied? The contrast between the genuine agony of this failure of love—the cold and hot tears—and the comedy of Oblomov’s “disease” presents readers with a choice. Should we appreciate the sentimentalism of the text or accept the impossibility of Oblomov to get off his metaphysical couch and seize this love? Can we do both?
“Farewell, farewell,” burst from her between sobs.
He was silent and listened, aghast, to her tears, not daring to hinder them. He felt pity neither for her nor for himself; he himself was too much to be pitied. She lowered herself into her chair, pressed her handkerchief to her head, leaned on the table, and wept bitterly. Tears did not gush in an exploding hot stream, as from sudden sharp pain, as before in the park, but fell dismally, in cold streams, like an autumn rain mercilessly flooding the fields.
“Olga,” he said at last, “Why are you torturing yourself? Perhaps I am not worthy of happiness, but spare yourself! You love me. You won’t survive our separation! Take me as I am. Love what is good in me.”
She shook her head but did not look up.
“No,” she finally gathered the strength to say. “Fear not for me and my grief. I know myself. I will cry these tears and then will cry no more. But now, don’t keep me from crying. Go away. Oh, no wait! God is punishing me! It hurts, oh, it hurts so much—her in my heart.”
The sobs recommenced. (405-406)
It follows with one of the most poignant passages of the novel—and one that we chose to analyze in our Translation section of the Tumblr:
“What if you die?” he said, suddenly aghast. “Think about it, Olga.”
“No,” she interrupted, raising her head and trying to look at him through her tears. “I learned only recently that I loved in you what I wanted there to be in you, what Stolz pointed out to me, what he and I had invented. I loved the future Oblomov! You are meek and honest, Ilya. You are as gentle as a dove. You hide your head under your wing—and want nothing more. You are prepared to coo in the rafters all your life. But I’m not like that. That is not enough for me. I need something else, but what that is, I don’t know! Can you teach me, tell me what it is, what I am lacking, give me all this so that I—But tenderness…that is easy to find!” (406)
Goncharov provides an answer to this dilemma—this failure of love—on the following page. It isn’t a lack in her, but a manifestation in him.
““Why did it all dies?” she asked suddenly, looking up. “Who cursed you, Olya? What did you do? You’re so good, and smart, and kind, and noble…and… you’re dying! What destroyed you? There is no name for this evil.”
“Yes, there is,” he said, barely audibly.
She looked at him with eyes full of questions and tears.
“Oblomovshchina!” he whispered, and then took her hand and was about to kiss it but couldn’t so he pressed it firmly to his lips, and his hot tears fell on her fingers. Without looking up or showing her his face, he turned and left” (407).