Amalia Karlovna Guishar, the Russian-French widow of a Belgian engineer, arrives in Moscow with her two children, Rodyon(Rodya) and Larissa (Lara). Larissa attends the same girls' high school as Nadya Kologrigova. With money left by her husband, and on the advice of a lawyer named Komarovsky, Amalia buys a dressmaking shop with an adjoining apartment.
Lara has a fully formed figure at 16, and she is graceful and beautiful. She does well at school, motivated by the fact that the best students pay reduced fees. She is aware of Komarovsky looking at her strangely, and when her mother is ill he takes Lara to a dance in her place. They dance a waltz, and he kisses the young girl.
In the autumn there is unrest among the railway workers. Kuprik Tiverzin, one in a long line of railway workers, sees the foreman Khudoleyev hitting his apprentice Yusupka and tries to protect the boy. A fight nearly ensues, but both men are restrained. Angrily, Tiverzin storms out and goes to blow the horn of the engine repair shop, starting a strike. He goes home and Yusupka's father tells him he should spend the night somewhere else to evade the police. His mother, Marfa Gavrilovna, tells him that the czar has signed a manifesto changing the society for the better. Pasha Antipov, whose father was arrested in the strike, comes to live with the Tiverzins. He and Marfa Gavrilovna join the general demonstrations, and the strikers are attacked by army dragoons; one of them strikes Marfa with a whip but does not injure her. Nikolay Nikolayevich (Kolya), recently arrived from Petersburg, sees the demonstration from his window. He is staying with his friends the Sventitskys. He is asked to speak on behalf of political prisoners at a school, and he reluctantly agrees.
Komarovsky lives in a large apartment in the Petrovka section of Moscow, and on Sunday mornings, he walks his dog. He realizes he is in danger of becoming obsessed with young Lara. Lara is at first flattered by his secret romantic insinuations, but they also horrify her. Ashamed and confused, she goes to church for comfort, although she is not religious. Meanwhile, the Presnya Uprising begins and Lara knows two boys, Nicky Dudorov and Pasha Antipov, who are connected with it. Fearing that their house might be shelled, her family moves back to the Montenegro Hotel. There, Amalia tries to commit suicide by ingesting iodine. A doctor, Tishkevich, is summoned from a concert hosted by Alexander Alexandrovich and Nikolay Alexandrovich Gromeko, two brothers; Misha Gordon and Yura are in attendance there, and they ask to come along. Waiting for the doctor to emerge, they see Lara and Komarovsky exchanging a familiar glance. As they are leaving, Misha tells Yura that Komarovsky is the lawyer from the train--the man who caused the elder Zhivago's death.
The action moves from location to location and character to character at this point, only to be brought together at the close of Chapter 2 by a single scene. In this way, the many threads of plot and character development--Lara's struggle to deal with Komarovsky's advances, the death of Yura's father, the labor strikes--that at first seem wholly unrelated are revealed to be different facets of the same story.
The political implications of the strikes, and the various characters' involvement in them, are not altogether clear at this initial stage. Madame Guishar is called a member of the aristocracy, but she is dependent on Komarovsky for her well-being and financial stability. Lara feels that she is enslaved by the lawyer, and Yura immediately senses Komarovsky's power over her. The Guishar family is not enmeshed in the political changes taking place, but Lara's association with the young rebels and her family's fear of attack shows the all-encompassing power of the imminent societal changes rumbling below. There is a sense of impending and wide-sweeping transformation taking place, though some feel that the final resolution lies in the czar's manifesto. The connections between all the various plot lines seem to imply that there is no action that is not tied to others, and there is no life that stands independently. At the same time, Pasternak creates the sense that all of the diverse movements leading up to Madame Guishar's attempted suicide exist largely to bring Yura and Lara together.