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Literature / The Echo

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"The Echo" is a short story written by J. Nagibin. The narrator, now a grown man, recalls a story that happened to him many years ago when he, as a 10-year-old boy, had a summer vacation in Sinegoria, a part of Krim. There, the narrator befriends a girl, also 10 years old and on vacation. The girl (who insists on being called "Vitka", rather than "Vika") is an outspoken tomboy, a good swimmer and a climber. Since they are both outsiders, she considers him a friend and reveals the secret echo in the nearby mountains, that only she knows how to produce. But unfortunately, when she is harassed by bullies, the narrator does not live up to her expectations, thus losing all respect from her. Though she does reconcile with him in the end, their deep relation is gone.While the story itself is not well known, the film adaptation has achieved the status of Cult Classic, seen as one of the best Soviet movies from the 60-s

This story provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: The girl insists on being called Vitka, even though this is actually a boy's name.
  • An Aesop: "Mountains answer only to honourable and honest." Hammered in extremely unsubtly.
    • A strong anti-bullying Aesop is also present.
  • Blithe Spirit: Vitka, before her breaking (see below)
  • Break the Cutie: The girl's harassment by bullies clearly has this as a result. She is much sadder now, withdrawn and distrustful.
  • Children Are Innocent: Vitka. Others, not so.
  • Collector of the Strange: Vitka collects echoes and strange phone numbers. The protagonist also "collects" cars of unusual models.
  • Coming of Age Story
  • The Corruptible: the protagonist.
  • Defeat by Modesty: not in fighting sense, but Vitka's humiliation is purely due to the fact she was naked.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Vitka, who is barefoot throughout the story.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten:: Vitka does forgive the young narrator, but she doesn't trust him anymore.
  • Free-Range Children: Both the girl and the young narrator. The spend the whole day without adult supervision, and this includes swimming in a sea, wandering alone and climbing mountains - without bothering to tell anyone where they are, of course. Even for that period, climbing mountains alone was a biggie.
  • Heroic BSoD: Vitka's behaviour after her harassment.
  • Innocence Lost: both the narrator and the girl, though in a different way.
  • Kick the Dog: The bullies, towards Vitka.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The bullies, at least.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: the protagonists' betrayal of Vitka backfires on him completely.
  • My Greatest Failure: The narrator sees the whole story as this.
  • Naked First Impression: When the protagonist first meets Vitka, she is naked from her Skinny Dipping.
    Hey, what are you doing sitting on my underpants?
  • Naked People Are Funny: subverted / deconstructed. Surely it is funny to pick on somebody who is naked, but the naked person definitely has no fun in it.
  • One of the Boys: the narrator sees the Vitka as this. We actually see this is not quite the case.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: The reason the narrator betrayed the girl is his wish to fit in with the locals, not simply fear.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: the protagonists reaction to Vitka's nakedness. A constant source of subtle irritation between the narrator and the girl.
  • The Reveal: The echo's secret.
  • Sadistic Choice: for the narrator - whether to help Vitka or side with the bullies. And possibly for Vitka, who probably could abandon her clothing and swim away, but chose not to.
  • Sarcasm Failure: Vitka during her harassment.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Vitka at the end, when wearing her "special occasions" dress, is extremely pretty, even though before she appeared homely.
  • Skinny Dipping: Vitka does this all the time. Ultimately, this brings her in trouble when the bullies start harassing her because of this.
  • Tomboy: Vitka.
  • Tragic Mistake: the protagonists decision to side with the bullies.