Ivan Turgenev’s “First Love” unfolded like a great many Korean romance dramas: a feisty and gorgeous heroine rejected a sensitive and mild-mannered suitor constantly by her side in favor of a cold alpha male. Along the way, Turgenev unveiled for the reader a rich and intense emotional landscape similarly reminiscent of the drama genre—the sweet sensation of falling head over heels in love here, the agony of forbidden romance there, the wild emotions that tugged at the heartstrings as a character uncovered one appalling secret after another. It should probably come as no surprise that the novel was referenced in Big, a drama penned by South Korea’s famous screenwriting duo, Hong Jung-eun and Hong Mi-ran (“the Hong sisters“).
In what came across as a foreshadowing effect, just one episode after the male lead flippantly uttered a line from the novel (“My son, fear the love of woman; fear that bliss, that poison”) in oblivion to its possible relevance to him, the drama had him running across the night streets to go to the aid of a heroine eight years his senior, while ominous words played in the background: “Kyung-joon, do not go to Gil Da-ran. […] There is only one person in her heart. Even if you go after her, she won’t even look at you. By allowing your feelings to go to her even as she does not spare you a glance, you’ll end up badly hurt. When you wake up, forget all about her.” A parallel seemed to be drawn between novel and drama: just as Zinaïda dismissed Vladimir as a child and had eyes only for an undeserving married man, Da-ran subsequently laughed off the high schooler’s confession of love and continued to mope over her apparently two-timing fiancé. For a while, the sense that the boy was meeting his doom as a young victim of noble yet unrequited love was palpable.