Nadezhda Durova is a woman who left home at age twenty-three to join a regiment. Every since a young age Durova was interested in nature and things that were young men interest. It is believed that this stemmed from not being loved by her mother. She was attached to her father, who was a captain of a regiment, showed her the proper love.
When her mother did not want her, he kept her on his side and let her ride horses and played with pistols. The women in the eighteenth century Russia had little freedom. They could only participate in certain activities, they had to be chaperoned at all times, and they could never travel or live on their own. Durova had more freedom once she ran away from home, disguised herself as a man, and joined the cavalry. As a young girl Nadezhda always like to be in the woods and surrounded by danger.
For example, “One day Mama and some ladies went for an outing into the dense pine forest…this was the first time in my life that I had been taken out into the open where I could see dense forest…I could barely catch my breath for joy, and we no sooner came into the forest than I, out of my mind with rapture, immediately ran off and kept running…I ran, frisked, picked flowers, and climbed to the tips of tall trees” (6). This made her mother fly into a “violent rage” as she mentions. When she returned home her mother punished her and she had to sort bobbins and set pins.
Most girls her age had the skills to bobbin lace but she did not. Her skills were those of a male. When she joined her regiment wandering off and not being responsible or smart was look down upon, especially by her sergeant. Durova points out that, “My sergeant was losing his patience, and my comrades were angry with me. They all told me that they would abandon me on the road if I dismounted even once more”(46). They disapproved because when she would wander off she would sleep for hours and have to always catch up with squadron.
When Nadezhda Durova was able to live off of her father while growing up even when she married she left her husband and returned to her father. “After her husband was transferred to Irbit, Durova left him and returned to her father’s house” (15 insert 13). However, while in the army she had to depend on herself. She had to supply her own food and for her horse. “I am perishing from hunger! I try sleeping to forget how hungry I am, but it doesn’t help”(40). While with her father she was protected.
Freedom as a military officer also came with protecting herself and risking her life to protect artillery. “We were covering the artillery, which is a most disadvantages situation, because the insult is taken without response- that is, no matter what happens, you must stand your ground without moving”(42). The more freedom she has as a military officer the more she risked her life. Her freedom as a military officer was limited. When she was younger she dared not to ask permission to go into the wild she would just go.
I spent all my days either running around the forested parcels of my uncle’s estate or floating on the Udaj…had they known about this latter pastime, they might not have permitted it”(9). As an officer she had the freedom to go different place she just had to ask permission. For instance, “I asked the captain for permission to make a quick trip into Heilsberg…The captain permitted me to go, merely ordering me to return as quickly as possible” (42). Her freedom may have been limited but she still had more freedom than what she had when she was young.
Finally with her freedom came responsibility. She was responsible for taking in two young men. “My squadron commander got the fantastic notion of sending the youngest men to be orderlies, and under this disposition the choice fell on me” (93). Another responsibility Nadezhda Durova had taken place after she had transferred regiments. She and her group of men were responsible for getting hay. While out she decided to wander off to find her horse so she told the sergeant to lead the men to find the hay.
Stackelberg sent me for hay for the regimental horses…I charged the sergeant to lead the detachment at a walk to the forest nearby, and myself did not so much gallop as jolt my way as fast as I could to the village where I hoped to find our reserve horses”(149). The responsibility that young girls had in the eighteenth century was bobbin lace. “From morning to night I sat over worked which, I must confess, was the vilest imaginable because, unlike other girls, I could not, would not, and did not want to acquire the skill…my bobbin lace” (7). Even though she had more freedom her responsibility became more challenging.
Nadezhda Durova only was able to acquire freedom because she disguised herself as a man. She would not have never been in a regiment if did not dress and act like a man. The freedom in the eighteenth century was unequal when it came to men and women. The men had more freedom while the women had no freedom and was under strict rules. Nadezhda Durova enjoyed the freedom she observed her father had and desired to have that. The fact that her mother was strict and used the skills that she was to acquire as a young girl in the eighteenth century as a punishment only pushed her desire of having that freedom more.