Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russia, 1821)
"Dvoinik/ Double/ Sosia" (1846) +
"Khoziaika/ The Landlady" (1847)
"Belye Nochi/ White Nights/ Notti Bianche" (1848) +
"Dyadyushkin Son/ Uncle's Dream/ Sogno dello Zio" (1859)
"Stepanchikovo i Ego Obitateli/Village of" (1859)
"Unizhennye i Oskorblennye/ Insulted and Injured/ Umiliati e Offesi" (1862) is a minor work. The first half creates tension and suspense, and the general theme of the pride of poor oppressed and betrayed people is powerful enough, but the second half's plot is frequently amateurish (for example, the protagonist realizes that Yelena is the daughter of the prince long after the reader already has) and further marred by a melodramatic reconciliation. The central tenet itself is hardly credible: that two wonderful women would compete for the affection of a miserable idiot whose only asset is to be the son of a prince, and one of them would completely ruin her family for such a man. This parable is however more complex than it appears because the evil man gets what he wants, the idiot gets a beautiful wife and money, whereas the "humiliated" ones all lose: the legitimate daughter dies, the protagonist is dying, the betrayed woman is ruined, her parents are broke. Their pride does not yield any material reward.
The second chapter reveals that these are his memories. He just started writing them from the hospital where he is dying, at the young age of 25, not having achieved the literary masterpiece he was dreaming of back then. His memories start with his happy childhood in the countryside: an orphan, he grew up with the daughter of a neighbor, Natasha. Natasha's father was a wealthy man who had lost most of his fortune at cards, but then had been hired to manage the vast property of prince Valkovsky. For many years this arrangement had worked to the benefit of both, and both had respected each other. One day the prince, another man who had lost his fortune but regained it by marrying the ugly illiterate daughter of a rich merchant and had had a child from her before causing her to die of heartbreak, sent his teenage son to the province to punish him for his misconduct in the capital. The son was then a handsome boy who charmed everybody, and it was a mystery was crime he had committed (despite rumours of a duel over a lady). One year later an anonymous letter had informed the prince that his trusted estate manager was scheming against him. The town gossiped that Natasha had been encouraged to seduce the prince's son Alyosha. The prince rushed to the estate, fired the manager and even sued him for some dubious transactions. Before the innocence of the manager and of Natasha could be proved, the two men were at war, and the manager risked losing his fortune in the fight against the much more powerful prince. Natasha was not even aware of the whole gossip.
And so it was that Natasha's father decided to move to the capital, taking his wife and daughter with him. Meanwhile, the protagonist (who is finally named), Vanya, had completed in secret his first novel and obtained ecstatic reviews from important scholars. His step-parents and Natasha were proud of him, and the financial success meant that he could finally hope to marry Natasha. He proposed, and Natasha accepted; but her parents asked them to postpone any decision by one year. Vanya had neither a government post nor friends in the aristocracy, the two things that really mattered. The parents were practical people and first wanted to see how a writer could support a family. One year later they were proven right: Vanya's literary career was a failure. Meanwhile, Alyosha had come to visit them, but this had further angered his father, the prince, and therefore made the situation of Natasha's father even worse. They were being driven to poverty by the bitter prince simply because the price's son liked them, while the prince was still accusing them of using Natasha to seduce his son.
Vanya went to visit them after a long hiatus, looking pale and sick, and found a completely different Natasha: she confessed to him that the gossip was true, that she was indeed secretely in love with Alyosha, that in fact they had agreed to elope and get married, her love so great and so insane that she was willing not only to ruin herself but to ruin her own parents, because the prince could now prove publicly that his theory had always been right. Then Natasha confessed an even worse side of the story: that Alyosha was a simpleton incapable of real love, that his father wanted him to marry a rich and beautiful woman, and that Alyosha might just do that if Natasha did not agree to leave her parents. In other words, Alyosha was not madly in love at all. It was Natasha who could not bear the thought of losing Alyosha. Alyosha had told his father: therefore Alyosha's father had always been right in fighting the friendship between his son and Natasha's father. The story as viewed from Natasha's parents was a story of cruel injustice, but viewed from the prince it was a silly love story and an obstacle to a good marriage. Vanya tried in vain to change Natasha's mind: she was just too determined to get Alyosha, no matter what. However, Natasha also confessed that she loved Vanya as a brother, and maybe more than she loved Alyosha, just in a different way. Then Vanya confronted Alyosha, who proved to be a naive and lunatic character, hopeful that his father would forgive him, that all would end well, but with no real plan. Natasha was entrusting her future to a dreamer, but there was nothing to stop her.
Back to the present, Vanya is now getting sicker by the day in the old Englishman's room, which is even worse than his previous lodging. Natasha's father reproaches him for having chosen the literary career, which is taking him to the grave. Natasha's parents, having lost both Vanya and Natasha, are now thinking of adopting an orphan. Vanya happens to meet the granddaughter of the old Englishman: she comes looking for him and Vanya tells her that he died. Vanya guesses that the mysterious address is probably the address where the girl lives.
Natasha is in trouble. As expected, the prince has never consented to the marriage and Alyosha is now leaning towards marrying the other girl. Natasha's mother has already learned the whole story: the prince had an affair with a penniless countess who demands to get married, but the prince has counteroffered to marry her stepdaughter and Alyosha. This marriage would bring in money through a relative of the countess. Alyosha had told Natasha that he was falling in love with the countess' stepdaughter.
Natasha's father is all but ruined by now. He is further devastated in hearing that Natasha is about to be abandoned. But this gossip is not completely true. Alyosha has indeed wasted all his money, and even cheated on Natasha, and Natasha has been willing to accept anything out of love. She forgave him, she moved to a cheaper place by herself, she started working to make money, and now she tells Vanya that she is willing to leave Alyosha in order to give him the freedom that he needs to marry the rich girl and solve all his problems.
They are surprised by Alyosha, who announces that he has just told Katya (the rich girl chosen by his father) that he is in love with another woman. Katya (still an adolescent) now refuses to marry him. Just then the prince in person walks in. He tells Natasha that he has been keeping an eye on her, and has come to respect her. He now believes in the innocence of her father and in the sincerity of her love. Given that nothing would change Alyosha's mind, he is now willing to forgive and approve the marriage between them. He is also gracious towards Vanya, who has witnessed the visit, but is struck by the address where Vanya lives.
Vanya meets the poor girl again, the granddaughter of the old Englishman. Her name is Yelena. Vanya follows her and finds out that she is an orphan adopted and enslaved by an evil drunk woman, Bubnova, to whom her mother owed money before dying. When the woman starts beating the poor child, Vanya comes out and confronts her. The terrified Yelena has an epileptic fit. Later Vanya meets his old friend Filip, a drunkard who now occasionally works as a detective and therefore knows something about everybody. He knows that Bubnova is running a prostitution ring and they visit Bubnova just in time to save Yelena from her first sexual encounter. Vanya takes Yelena to his place and takes care of her while she is sick. He even buys her new clothes with borrowed money.
Vanya senses that something is wrong with Natasha, and eventually the maid tells him that Alyosha has disappeared.
Natasha's father, having heard of the planned marriage, decides to challenge the prince to a duel. Vanya is shocked that the man would destroy his daughter's chance of happiness, but her father is certain that the marriage is a trap, that the evil prince would have never consented to it unless he had a hidden motive, and he is determined to restore his honor anyway now that his lawsuit is definitely lost.
When Vanya falls sick from all this excitement, it is Yelena to take care of him. Despite being still a child, she behaves like his faithful maid. Yelena tells me the story of her grandfather, which bears striking similarity to the story of Natasha's father: he too never forgave his daughter when she ran away with an aristocrat, Yelena was born abroad, then her mother was abandoned by the seducer and lost everything, returned to Russia only to become a beggar and never see her father again anyway, and eventually died of consumption, but the old Englishman died of poverty and loneliness too. And Yelena, the fruit of that illicit passion, hated her grandfather. All of this because the old Englishman never forgave Yelena's mother, just like Natasha's father refuses to forgive Natasha.
Vanya is invited when the prince comes back to visit Natasha. Finally, Alyosha shows up. His justification for neglecting Natasha is that he has joined a group of intellectuals who want to change the world, and Katya has promised to be their benefactor. Natasha, hurt that Alyosha has spent days with Katya and not a minute with her, accuses the prince of having consented to the marriage only to buy time, hoping that Alyosha, mentally a child, would fall more and more in love with Katya, which is precisely what is happening. The prince, who been laughing at his son's idealistic feelings and mocking him for wasting his time with the intellectuals, protests that Natasha is just a hysterical jealous woman and leaves.
Vanya finds out that Filip visited Yelena while she was home alone. Filip also asked to see him for some important business. Vanya finds the prince at Filip's place, and guesses that there must be some business deal between them. Filip, however, sends him away and asks him to come back later for some important revelations. Vanya comes back and Filip has nothing to tell him. This is all very strange. Filip gets drunk, as usual, and hints that the prince once stole money from an Englishman and seduced his daughter, causing both to get ruined. Filip swears he is being a friend to Vanya, although he admits being a scoundrel in general, and warns him that the prince is a treacherous person, just like Natasha suspects; but Filip cannot be more specific.
Vanya walks back home and finds the prince there, and Yelena terrified. The prince is inviting him to go and meet Katya's mother, the countess. Vanya senses that Filip's visit to Yelena while she was alone and now the prince's visit while Filip was keeping Vanya out are related, and that somehow they have to do with the prince's past. Yelena refuses to say why she is scared of the prince.
Vanya takes the opportunity to finally meet with Katya. He finds her to be still a child, but a good person overall. Katya sympathyzes with Natasha and takes her side whenever Alyosha does not realize the ruined woman's situation. Katya too knows that the price is an evil man and is scheming to get her money. Katya realizes that the prince is brainwashing his idiot son to believe that life with Natasha will be a nightmare, that she is selfish and jealous. Katya and Vanya, however, have reached the same conclusion: that Natasha will not be happy with Alyosha. Katya can't wait to meet Natasha and tell her what she thinks. She is not trying to steal Alyosha from Natasha, but only to save them from making a mistake.
The prince has a chat alone with Vanya and reveals the depth of his depravity. He basically offers money to Vanya if he marries Natasha, and threatens Natasha of massive retaliation if she stands between Alyosha and Katya, admitting frankly that he is determined to get Katya's money.
Filip, meanwhile, continues to visit Yelena when Vanya is not home. Then suddenly Yelena, who is just recovering from yet another epileptic fit, repeatedly tries to leave Vanya for unknown reasons.
The prince has won. Alyosha has recognized that he loves Katya better than Natasha and Natasha has accepted it. Alyosha is to leave town with his father, the countess and Katya. Satisfied that his plan is working, the prince also decides to give back the money that he won in the lawsuit against Natasha's father. The father, however, takes this as a personal insult and tries in vain to challenge the prince to a duel. He is even arrested for a few days and then goes delirious, swearing to curse his daughter forever.
Natasha and Katya finally meet and exchange tender words. They are concerned about who will make Alyosha happier, and Alyosha behaves like a helpless idiot as usual. Natasha generously wishes them all the best, but is devastated by the breakup. The prince makes it worse by showing up with the money that her father did not accept and trying to buy her (now a ruined woman) for an influential old count who can also help her father. She reacts just like her father, and Vanya, alerted by her screams, kicks the prince out. Vanya, worried about Natasha's future, then begs Yelena to help him convince Natasha's father to forgive.
The trick works: both parents are moved to tears by Yelena's account of how her grandfather caused her mom to die of heartbreak in utter poverty. They don't need to go to Natasha's because Natasha is coming to them. She is forgiven and they all move in together.
Vanya completes his novel and makes some money. Natasha's family decides to move out of the capital, but Yelena refuses. Yelena is very sick and frequently delirious. The doctor thinks she will die soon. Filip has kept visiting her and one day he finally explains to Vanya his motive: he guessed a while back that Yelena might be the daughter of the prince, and even a legitimate daughter. Filip blackmailed the prince not to publicize the matter, and the prince paid him handsomely, but now Filip has regrets and would like to help the poor girl. Alas, Yelena dies before they can investigate the matter. Before dying she begs Vanya to marry Natasha and she gives Vanya a letter that her mother wrote to the prince: in the letter the mother clearly states that Yelena is the legitimate daughter of the prince, but the proud Yelena never used the letter to claim what she was entitled to, preferring to die poor. Natasha meditates on how happy she and Vanya could have been if she had not betrayed him. (The novel ends without returning to the hospital from which apparently Vanya has been writing this story while dying).
"Zapiski iz Mertvogo Doma/ The House of the Dead/ Memorie da una Casa di Morti" (1862)
"Zapiski iz Podpolia/ Notes from Underground/ Memorie dal Sottosuolo" (1865) +
"Prestuplenie i Nakazanie/ Crime and Punishment/ Delitto e Castigo" (1866) ++ is a psychological novel (almost the entire action of the first two sections takes place in the protagonist's mind - even the scene after the murder, when people find the dead body, is told through his imagination) but also a message-oriented novel (against "ideological intoxication" as caused by manic depression and as a cause of crime) The plot roughly resembles the stereotype made popular by Honore de Balzac's Rastignac and Stendhal's Julien Sorel (the innocent soul corrupted by the city). However, the tone is much darker. There are frequent Biblical references, notably the role of Sonja, who is basically the equivalent of Mary Magdalene (Sonja pledges to follow Rodja to prison the same way that Mary Magdalene followed Jesus who was carrying the cross), and Rodja might indeed die to save the rest of humankind (or at least his immediate relatives and friends, who can now live a happier life), with Porfiry being the Pilate who judges him in the name of the establishment. Dostoevsky's novels pioneer the "stream of consciousness" and psychological introspection three decades before Freud. The novel frequently uses dreams to analyze the soul's torment; and one of the leitmotifs is the psychological chess game between the murderer and the inspector.
While taking a stroll in the street, Rodja notices a drunk girl who is being followed by a depraved man and alerts a police officer. The cop, however, is not very interested in saving the girl's reputation.
Rodja has been living off his valuables by pawning them with Alyona, the old pawnbroker. After a terrible dream, Rodja has a premonition that he will kill the old woman. He interprets it as a sign that he accidentally overhears a conversation telling him at what time Alyona's sister Lizaveta, a simple-minded spinster, will leave their flat. Another sign is that he accidentally overhears a conversation in which one of Alyona's angry customer states that Alyona does not deserve to live.
At the time when Lizaveta is supposed to leave the flat, Rodja walks there with an axe and kills Alyona. He then steals a few things but is interrupted by Lizaveta, who has returned earlier. Rodja kills her too. At this point he is almost found by two men who come to visit Alyona. Luckily they both walk downstairs to warn the concierge that something is wrong (the door is clearly locked from the inside). Rodja gets out and briefly stops in an empty flat that is being painted. He walks outside the building and into a courtyard where he hides the stolen goods. Then he returns home.
The following day Rodja is alarmed by a notice to appear at the police station, where he meets officer Ilya and clerk Zametov, a friend of Rodja's friend Razumikin. He fears that the police have already found out that he is the murderer. Instead, it's about his landlady's intimation to pay overdue rent.
Rodja visits his best friend, Dimitri Razumikin, whom he has not seen in four months. But Rodja's behavior is so erratic and unfriendly that he only manages to upset his generous and caring friend. On his way back home Rodja is almost run over by a coach.
Back home he gets delirious, and his landlady's faithful servant Nastasja takes care of him. His conditions get quickly worse. He doesn't recognize his friend Razumikin, who comes to visit him in the company of Zametov, and resents Razumikin's help when he pays his debt with some money sent by his mother (the money increases his depression). Razumikin calls a doctor, Zosimov. When Rodja gets better, Razumikin invites him to a party, but Rodja rudely declines.
Rodja learns that the police have arrested one of the two painters, Nikolaj, who was working in the empty flat where he briefly stopped. The evidence is an object belonging to the murdered woman that Rodja must have dropped while hiding there. Razumikin, however, has guessed the truth: that the painter is innocent and the real murderer got away undisturbed. He also guesses correctly that the murderer is an amateur, a beginner.
Luzin visits Rodja while Razumikin and Zosimov are still there. Rodja offends him and then kicks everybody out of his flat.
When he meets Zametov again, Rodja plays cat and mouse with him, hinting that he himself might be the murderer of Alyona. He laughs hysterical at his own recklessness.
Later he witnesses a police officer saving the life of a girl who tried to drown herself. He is indifferent to the event. He has decided to surrender himself to the police and confess his crime. On his way to the police station, however, another extraordinary event changes his mind. He witnesses the accident in which the drunkard Marmeladod is killed by a coach. He has him carried to his family's place and personally pays for a doctor, and then leaves some money for the funeral.
Now Rodja wants to live. He walks to Razumikin's party, where the friend gets drunk. They walk together back to Rodja's apartment where they are surprised to find Rodja's mother Pulcheria and Rodja's sister Dunja, just arrived to the city for the engagement. They haven't seen him in three years and are shocked to find him so ill. Razumikin is drunk but manages to reassure them that a doctor is taking care of Rodja. He also falls in love with Dunja, and gets extremely jealous when the doctor, a notorious womanizer, makes a comment on her beauty. Razumikin, instead, tries to set up Zosimov with Rodja's landlady, Praskovja, except that she shows no desire for male company.
Razumikin visits Dunja and Pulcheria and learns that Luzin has sent a letter demanding not to see Rodja ever again. Luzin has also learned that Rodja gave money to a prostitute, Marmeladod's daughter Sonja, and points out that the money was painfully saved for him by his mother: clearly the son is ungrateful.
Razumikin tells Dunja and Pulcheria the story of how Rodja almost got married to Praskovja's daughter before the girl died. However, Razumikin believes that Rodja is not capable of loving.
Mother and sister, always escorted by Razumikin, visit Rodja again in the morning. They tell him that Marfa has died and that she gave an expensive watch to Dunja. Rodja feels a lot better, and they hope that he changed his mind about Luzin. Instead, he coldly threatens his sister that he will repudiate her if she goes ahead with this wedding. Nonetheless, the women invite him to attend the meeting with Luzin, and Dunja invites Razumikin too. While they are still in Rodja's flat, Marmeladod's daughter Sonja walks in. Humble and ashamed, she thanks Rodja for the money and invites him to the funeral.
As Sonja walks back home, she doesn't realize that a middle-aged man is following her. Coincidentally, he lives next door to her family's flat, and tells her that he just arrived in town.
Rodja, who is now much calmer and more lucid, asks Razumikin for a favor (after teasing him for being madly in love with Dunja). He confesses that he had pawned objects that are dear to his mother (his father's watch and her sister's ring) and now would like to file a claim with the detective in charge of the murder, Porfirij, who happens to be a relative of Razumikin. Razumikin gladly escorts him to Portifij's place, where they also find Zametov. Rodja quickly realizes that he is the object of Portifij's investigation. Porfirij already knows that Rodja was pawning objects with the old lady, and Porfirij is also familiar with an article that Rodja wrote, in which he basically claimed that extraordinary men can bypass the law and commit a crime in the superior interest of humankind. Porfirij is not particularly subtle in insinuating that Rodja might have decided to follow that principle and kill the pawnbroker. Razumikin himself is shocked when he understands what is going on: they suspect Rodja.
Later a stranger shows up at Rodja's building and asks the concierge if Rodja lives there. But then he leaves before the concierge can call Rodja. Rodja chases him to find out what it was about. The man, a craftsman, stares and him and simply tells him: "murderer". Rodja is paralyzed by terror and lets the stranger walk away. Rodja returns home: he is delirious again.
When he wakes up a new stranger is standing in his flat. He introduces himself as Svidrigailov, the man who tried to seduce his sister, Marfa's widower. He claims that his love for Dunja is sincere and that he would like to elope with her to another country. He is aware of Luzin's marriage proposal and thinks lowly of the man. He intends to donate quite a bit of money to her, although he is not rich himself. He just doesn't want Dunja to marry Luzin. Svidrigailov seems to have no moral scruples. He almost admits that he has led his wife to commit suicide, but feels no remorse whatsoever. His wife rescued him from jail when he had lost all his money with his gambling activities, and then he felt that he had become her "prisoner" because she owned his debt. He became very angry at his wife when he learned that she was the one who had arranged the marriage between Dunja and Luzin. Now he sees apparitions of Marfa's ghost, but is not scared. He is a corrupt and lazy man but at least he is honest and does not try to deny it. In a sense, he is the "extraordinary" (i.e., amoral) man that Rodja described in his article. He also informs Rodja that Marfa in her will left a sum of money for Dunja. Finally, he reveals that he is planning to get married soon with another woman, and therefore he is no threat to Dunja's reputation.
Rodja and Razumikin attend the meeting between Luzin and Rodja's mother and sister. Luzin knows that Svidrigailov has come to the city looking for Dunja. Luzin relates some terrible stories of this scoundrel's past: a deaf and mute teenager hanged herself after being raped by Svidrigailov and so did a servant who was psychologically abused by him. Rodja then calmly tells them that Svidrigailov has just visited him, and also tells them that Marfa has left money for Dunja. Rodja and Luzin then get into an argument about Sonja: Luzin has insinuated that Rodja left money to Sonja (Rodja left it to the whole family for the funeral of Marmeladod) and Rodja replies that he respects Sonja. In fact he admits that he introduced her to his mother and his sister. His mother and his sister are shocked, but Luzin's arrogant attitude eventually gets on their nerves and they too turn against him. Dunja kicks him out and breaks the engagement. After he has left, Rodja informs Dunja that the depraved Svidrigailov wants to leave her an even greater amount of money than Marfa did. Razumikin, who is devoted as usual to Dunja, has an idea: they could put all their money together and start a publishing house. Rodja likes the idea and encourages Dunja to accept, but then suddenly his mood collapses and he leaves them rudely, asking to be left alone.
Rodja visits Sonja, who is surprised and ashamed. He gets more evidence of Sonja's good heart. She is not angry at her stepmother for forcing her into prostitution. On the contrary, Sonja feels pity for her. Rodja informs her that most likely the stepmother will die soon of tuberculosis. She immediately worries about the three children. Rodja cynically suggests that the little girl, Polecka, will probably become a prostitute too. He then kisses Sonja's feet. Sonia has a copy of the Bible that Lizaveta (the murdered pawnbroker) gave her. Rodja asks her to read the episode of Lazarus. Before leaving Rodja tells Sonja in a sinister tone that he knows who killed Lizaveta.
Rodja and Sonja do not know that Svidrigailov has taken a room in the same building and has eavesdropped on their conversation.
Rodja walks into Porfiry's police office with the excuse of delivering the certificate that he pawned a watch with Lizaveta. Rodja is less and less sure about what is reality and what is hallucination.
Always speaking in a pleasant and friendly tone, as if he was trying to become a friend, Porfiry plays cat and mouse again, hinting that he knows everything about Rodja and describing the behavior of a typical murderer in a way that mimics precisely what Rodja is doing. Rodja understands (or thinks he understands) Porfify's strategy for making him confess and eventually loses his temper, screaming that Porfiry only has conjectures against him and challenging him to find any evidence (and de-facto admitting that he committed the murder). Rodja insults Porfiry and is about to run out of his office when Porfiry asks him to wait for a surprise. However, the one to be surprised is Porfiry himself, because Nikolaj, the painter who has been arrested for the murder, bursts into the office and confesses he is indeed the murderer. Porfiry is annoyed by the confession, that he understands not being honest, and Rodja smiles realizing that Nikolaj is simply a victim of Portify's psychological torture, the same torture that Porfiry has been using against Rodja. Rodja walks home without knowing what was the surprise that Porfiry had for him, but such surprise shows up at his flat: it's the craftsman who had called him "murderer". This mysterious man had seen and heard Rodja when he went back to the murder scene, and deducted his guilt and reported it to Porfiry. He was in the room next to Porfiry's office just when Rodja walked in. Now that he has heard Nikolaj's confession he has come to apologize to Rodja for suspecting him. Rodja feels relieved that Porfiry does not have any evidence against him.
Rodja's mood keeps swinging between self-destructive (an impulse to turn himself in and end the torture) and fight (the desire to stand up to the powerless investigators), two poles that are manifestations of his view of himself, one pathetic and one heroic, that compete for control of his mind.
Luzin regrets the end of his engagement with the pretty Dunja (we hear his stream of consciousness). He also regrets that he spent money on a new home and its furniture, money that will be wasted if there is no wedding. He is staying in the flat of his old pupil Lebeziatnikov, that happens to be located in the same building as the Marmeladov's. Luzin has been invited by the widow, Katerina, to attend the memorial after the funeral, but has already declined like most of the neighbors because of Sonja's bad reputation. Luzin decided to stay with Lebeziatnikov because this young man is a liberal, affiliated with the anarchists and nihilists, and Luzin is anxious to find out what exactly they want, whether they have power, how they could harm him or how he could benefit from them. However, Luzin soon realizes that Lebeziatnikov is a mediocre man who dreams of unrealistic and childish communes. Lebeziatnikov has even tried to redeem Sonja and educate her by lending her books. In his commune there will be no prostitutes because there will be no marriages, only free unions among men and women. Lebeziatnikov explains that virginity is an obsolete value.
Luzin asks Lebeziatnikov to summon Sonja. Luzin behaves like a generous man: he offers to organize a charity for the family and gives Sonja some money. Sonja is grateful and Lebeziatnikov, who thought Luzin was a heartless miser, is pleasantly surprised.
Later the reception in Katerina's flat is a disaster, as Katerina is humiliated that so many people declined her invitation and blames their German landlady Amalia, when in fact Amalia has nothing to do with it and the cause is obviously Sonja's profession. The two women eventually start yelling at each other, and Amalia, insulted, asks Katerina (who still hasn't paid rent) to move out. At that moment Luzin enters the apartment, claiming that Sonja stole money. Sonja protests her innocence, but her own mother finds the stolen bill in her pockets. Luzin has humiliated Sonja in front of everybody, but suddenly Lebeziatnikov stands up and tells everybody what he saw: he saw Luzin putting that bill into Sonja's pocket, and thought Luzin was being generous and didn't want to embarrass Sonja with his generosity. Now it's Luzin who is humiliated in front of everybody. Rodja, who has watched silently, explains that Luzin was probably trying to humiliate him, Rodja, knowing that Rodja had befriended the girl. The result of the fracas is that Amalia evicts Katerina and her children while Lebeziatnikov evicts Luzin.
Rodja meets Sonja and confesses his crime, and even tells her where the loot is hidden. Although terrified, Sonja is ready to follow him anywhere. They are distracted by another fracas: Katerina is gone mad. They find her in the streets, where she makes a scene until she collapses. She dies after a brief agony in Sonja's room.
Svidrigailov tells Rodja that he overheards enough of his conversation with Sonja that he knows Rodja's secret. However, Svidrigailov does not seem to have any evil intention towards Rodja. In fact, he reveals his good side by donating his money to Katerina's orphans (the money that he wanted to give to Dunja).
Porfiry comes to visit Rodja. This time he doesn't play games, or he plays the mother of all games: he admits that he suspects Rodja of the murder, despite Nikolaj's confession. He has analyzed the murderer and analyzed Nikolaj, and Nikolaj does not match. Rodja, on the other hand, is the perfect match. However, Rodja regains his will to fight whenever he has to deal with the authority, and therefore insists he is innocent. Porfiry even hints that Rodja might be considering suicide, in which case Porfify begs Rodja to leave a note revealing where he hid the loot.
Rodja suspects that Svidrigailov might be planning to blackmail Dunja now that he knows Rodja's secret, so Rodja meets Svidrigailov to threaten him with death if he ever tries that strategy with his sister. Svidrigailov is a degenerate man but he doesn't sound proud at all of his life. He admits that he lusts for young girls and confesses that he plans to marry a 16-year old girl. Rodja realizes that Svidrigailov is still fantasizing about his sister Dunja, and is determined to prevent him from haunting her.
But Svidrigailov outsmarts Rodja. He lures Dunja to his apartment with the promise of revealing her brother's secret. Then he does precisely what Rodja feared: he shows her how he eavesdropped on the conversations between Rodja and Sonja, he tells her what he heard (Rodja's confession), and he offers to use his influential connections to save Rodja if Dunja accepts to be his mistress. Dunja tries to run away but Svidrigailov has locked the door, and he shows to her how desperate her situation is: she voluntarily entered his apartment, she cannot call the police because he would immediately turn her brother in, and there is nobody in the building to defend her. Dunja accuses him of being a murderer (she knows that he poisoned his wife Marfa) and pulls out a pistol. As he moves towards her, she shoots but misses him. Then she pulls the trigger again but the pistol fails. Now Svidrigailov could easily rape her but suddenly he wants her to want him, or at least to give him a chance. When she firmly rejects him, his conscience wakes up after a long hybernation and he lets her go. Svidrigailov puts the pistol in his pocket and spends the rest of the night getting drunk in horrible dives. He gives money to Sonja, who would like to refuse it butunderstands she might need it if she really wants to follow Rodja when he gets sentenced to a prison in Siberia (the usual sentence for murderers). When he falls asleep, Svidrigailov has a nightmare in which a little girl turns into a prostitute. When he wakes up, he walks out, pulls out the pistol from his pocket and shoots himself.
Rodja visits his mother telling her (who probably already understood the truth) that he is leaving on a trip. His mother is devastated and seems to go mad. He then finds Dunja waiting for him and tells her that he has decided to confess. Dunja thinks that he is feeling guilty, but instead Rodja screams that he did not commit any crime, that he killed a vile being who deserved to die. Rodja is ashamed of himself only because he is not strong enough to live with his belief. Lastly, Rodja visits Sonja to tell her that he is heading towards the police station. Sonja pledges to follow him in his trip to Siberia, which will be Rodja's Calvary. At the police station Rodja almost changes his mind but then learns that Svidrigailov shot himself and somehow the shocking news does it: Rodja admits to both murders.
Rodja is sentenced to eight years of hard labor in Siberia. Sonja follows him, as promised. Razumikin marries Dounia, but Rodja's mother never recovers from her delirious and eventually dies.
In Siberia neither the physical nor the mental health of Rodja improve. He is still a nihilist at heart, who does not look forward to his future. He will still be young when he gets out of prison. When Sonja falls sick, though, he finally finds a reason to live: he realizes how much he loves her. They are now both waiting together for those seven years to go by and for their life to begin. Rodja opens the copy of the Gospel that Sonja gave him, the one from which she read him the resurrection of Lazarus.
"Igrok/ The Gambler/ Giocatore" (1867)
"Idiot" (1869) ++ is the parable of a naive man who only sees good but is surrounded by evil, a sort of Jesus who has to sacrifice himself to redeem the rest of humankind. It is his simple, caste and pure love that redeems the female sinner. The simpler his view of the world, the thicker and more twisted the world is, an orgy of duplicity and deception. The society that Dostoevsky depicts is greedy and narrow-minded; materialistic and amoral. At the same time, though, the protagonist of this allegory is indeed an idiot (a man of little intelligence who can hardly express himself and control himself), whereas the people around him are mostly very intelligent, so the novel also feels like exposing the inevitable evil that follows from human intellect. Goodness is to be found only in simpler, dumber people. Humankind is doomed to self-destroy because it is doomed to be so intelligent. Human intelligence begets greed, envy and revenge, which are the recurring themes of the story; while the idiot's limited intelligence begets love and compassion. The novel overflows with characters, as if as huge crowd were needed to show how derelict an innocent being can be. The plot thickens and shifts all the time, as a result of the continuous deception and intrigue carried out by each of them. The irony of this savior is that he causes the unhappiness (even the death) of both the women he likes, of both Mary Magdalene and the divine angel.
The general Yepanchin has three beautiful daughters, ranging from Alexandra to Adelaida to the youngest, Aglaya, of whom everybody is fond. The prince has a long discussion with the valet who is supposed to announce him. The valet gets suspicious because the prince does not behave like a prince at all, and is dressed quite poorly, and candidly admits being poor. The prince even befriends the poor servant, narrating stories and explaining his opinions on a number of subjects.
The wife of the general, Lisaveta, and Lev are the last Myshkin princes left, although not closely related. The price meets the general and does not hesitate to admit that he is penniless and has no idea how to survive in the capital. The prince tells the story of his life and admits that he, being an orphan since childhood, has no idea why his benefactor Pavlishtchev wsa paying for his sanatorium. The prince is introduced yet again to the name of Nastasya. The general and his secretary and friend Ganya are getting ready for her birthday party. The general seems much more excited about the event than Ganya, who seems to merely obey the general's orders.
The general is kind to the prince. After seeing his skills at calligraphy, the general promises a job. He sends the prince to Ganya's mother, who rents rooms from her house to make ends meet. The other room is rented to a certain Ferdyshchenko, who (adds the general towards Ganya) pretends to be a relative of Nastasya. At the same time the general discourages the prince from associating with Rogozhin. The news of Rogozhin's return annoy both the general and Ganya.
The general's fortune were growing exponentially. His daughters were therefore both beautiful and rich. This attracted the attention of the 55-year old Afanasy Totsky, who asked to marry the elder, Alexandra. The general viewed favorably the union of their fortunes. There were two problems, though, and they both related to Nastasya. The first one was that the wife of the general, Lisaveta, disapproved of Totsky living with Nastasya. The other one was that Totsky was afraid of Nastasya's reaction to the engagement.
Totsky had adopted Nastasya when she was a child and a poor orphan. He had paid for her education. She had grown to become not only a gorgeous woman but also a very independent mind. He had seduced the teenager. When she became a woman, upon hearing that he was about to marry, she travelled to the capital to prevent the marriage. She had spent the next five years living with Totsky, both seducer and seduced. Totsky had become fearful of her motives. She was proud and jealous. She had a few friends: the civil servant Ferdyshchenko, the moneylender Pritsyn, and Ganya. The general and Totsky had worked out a plan to get rid of Nastasya: she would be married to Ganya. Totsky was willing to give her quite a bit of money. Nastasya had accepted the deal. Ganya had reacted with mixed emotion, feeling that they were "buying" him to marry a fallen woman, albeit a very beautiful one. His mother and sister disapproved. To further complicate the matter, the general himself had fallen in love with Nastasya. His wife Lisaveta was aware of his infidelities and was aware that he had just spent a fortune to buy a birthday present for Nastasya. That's why the general was being so nice to the prince: the general wanted to distract his wife with the news of this destitute relative of hers.
Lisaveta and her three daughters meet the prince. Lisaveta Yepanchin is conquered by the innocent who can be so perspicacious. The prince describes a painting that struck him in Switzerland (Holbein's "Christ"). He then tells them the story of a man sentenced to death but reprieved at the last moment and the story of a poor village girl, Marie, who had been shunned by everybody after being seduced by a traveller (the prince helped restore her reputation so that, when she died, she was surrounded by all the children of the village). The prince is struck by how similar Aglaya is to the portrait he has seen of Nastasya.
Ganya begs the prince to deliver a love letter to Aglaya. Aglaya asks the prince to read it aloud. Ganya is begging Aglaya to accept him, so that he can refuse the hand of Nastasya. Aglaya is offended that Ganya would first make sure he has one rich bride before he gives up the other, and realizes that Ganya is a vile and greedy young man who puts money first. Her reply is to ask the prince to return the letter with no reply. Aglaya also warns the prince that Ganya is a dangerous man. And in fact Ganya immediately displays envy at the prince who has already managed to become such a close and trusted friend of the family after only two hours.
However, the general himself has advised the prince to stay at Ganya's place. Ganya introduceds him to his unhappy mother, to his sister Varya (who is busy being romanced by Ivan Ptitsyn) and to his brother Kolya.
The prince meets a fellow boarder, Ferdyshtchenko, who warns him not to lend him money, and then Ganya's father, a retired general and an old fool who spins the most implausible stories pretending to know everybody. Ganya's mother asks the prince to pay his rent directly to her, not to her husband, who is obviously not trusted by the family. They have to rent rooms to boarders because he failed in life. There is tension between Ganya and his family about his marriage with the fallen woman, Nastasya. His parents and his sister Varya think it's a disgrace. Suddenly Nastasya appears in person, mistaking the prince for a servant. She has come to invite the family to her party. Ganya's father starts his routine, trying to impress her with a story that she recognizes is simply a paraphrase of an article published in a magazine. Just then Rogozhin and Lebedev break into the house with some friends, all of them drunk. Rogozhin has just hear the rumour that Ganya is engaged to Nastasya and is furious. It is Ganya who ruined him, and now it is the same Ganya who steals his love from him. But now Rogozhin has money and offers it to Nastasya in front of everybody. He basically tries to buy her, increasing the sum of money. Varya is disgusted by the scene, that proves what kind of woman Nastasya is. She argues with her brother and she spits in his face. When the prince tries to protect her, Ganya slaps him in the face. Everybody consoles the prince and Ganya is ashamed of his action. The prince makes Nastasya feel ashamed too. Before leaving, she does apologize to Ganya's mother. Both Varya and Kolya are conquered by the prince's meek manners. Ganya himself apologizes to the prince. He dreams of becoming rich and powerful.
Ganya's father sends a note to the prince inviting him to a meeting. The drunkard wants money and promises to take the prince to Nastasya's place. The truth is that he has no idea where Nastasya lives. When the prince runs into Kolya, Kolya tells him the correct address. Kolya wants the prince to meet his friend Ippolit, a chronically sick young man who is ashamed of his mother: Kolya's mother and Kolya's sister Varya give Ippolit money because they know that his mother neglects him and his siblings. Kolya would like that the prince, Ippolit and himself moved together into a flat. Kolya accepts to show the prince where Nastasya lives. The prince has decided to show up at her birthday party even though he was not invited and even though he does not have clothes to dress adequately.
Nastasya is kind enough to welcome the uninvited guest. The guests are asked to confess the worst crime they ever committed. Ferdyshtchenko confesses that he stole money. General Yepanchin confesses that he stole from a woman. Totsky caused the death of a friend with a cruel joke.
Nastasya abruptly asks the prince whether she should marry Ganya or not. The prince begs her not to, and Nastasya so decided, shocking everybody by trusting the advice of a complete stranger. She vows to start a new life: for the first time in her life she will become her own mistress. Rogozhin enters the apartment followed by his rowdy friends and carrying the huge some of money he had promised, more than the dowry that Totsky had promised for her marriage to Ganya. Nastasya tells Ganya openly how much she detests him: she is a shameless woman, but he is even more shameless when he sacrifices his honor and his family's honor for money. Ferdyshtchenko then realizes that the prince is more hurt than anyone else by what is going on. The prince in fact is willing to marry Nastasya, as she is, and for zero money. Then he reveals what he has been waiting to announce: that he has received a huge inheritance, a sum to dwarf Rogozhin's. Nastasya initially seems to accept his offer, but she's just mocking the audience: she has no intention of ruining the innocent soul of the prince the way Totsky ruined hers. She is also convinced that eventually the prince would come to regret having married such a courtisan. She admits publicly that she has been Totsky's concubine. She tells the prince that he should marry the good Aglaya instead. Nastasya chooses her kind: Rogozhin. She belongs to the streets and she resigns herself to that company. She doesn't want the money though, so she challenges Ganya: she throws the money in the fire and tells Ganya he can have it if he grabs it with his naked hands. Ganya walks out, although he faints before he can leave the place. The money is rescued from the fire and, before exiting with Rogozhin, she tells everybody that Ganya can still have it and do what he likes with it. She has started a new independent life, maybe the life of a low-class prostitute, but at least it will be her own life.
The prince stays in Moskow for six months to take care of the business related to the inheritance. Varya marries Ptitsyn. Ganya returns the gift of money to Nastasya. The marriage between Totsky and Alexandra is called off. Ferdyshtchenko disappears. Nastasya and Rogozhin get together, then part, then get together again, then almost get married, but she leaves him again. A newly arrived aristocrat, Prince Sh, falls in love with Adelaida and proposes. Another young man, Yevgeny, falls in love with Aglaya. Ganya's father is jailed for debt. Kolya delivers a letter from the prince to Aglaya in which the prince tells her how much he cares for her.
The prince finally returns to St Petersburg. The first person he meets is Lebedev, and he meets his nephew, a student who has to work at the railway, as well as his childish daughter. Lebedev discusses the murder of six people by a mad student.
The prince visits Rogozhin and they discuss Nastasya. The prince tells how Nastasya came to him begging him to save her from Rogozhin. She was very ill, both mentally and physically. Rogozhin narrates how Nastasya humiliated him by cheating on him publicly. Rogozhin has understood that Nastasya loves the prince, not him, but precisely because she loves him she does not want to ruin his life. The prince notices a Holbein painting of Jesus. This painting inspires him to tell four stories that have to do with religious faith: an atheist, a religious man who robs and kills a friend, a drunken soldier who sells a silver cross, and a nursing mother who compares her happiness with God's happiness when someone sees the light. Rogozhin invites the prince to exchange their crosses, a gesture that makes them brothers. Then Rogozhin promises to renounce Nastasya and "gives" her to the prince. The prince promises that he has no interest in seeing her.
Outside the prince has the feeling that he is being followed. The prince feels that he is about to have an epileptic fit. In his delirium he mixes all the people he has met that day, and has visions of Lebedev's nephew as the murderer of six people that Lebedev mentioned. And then even suspects Rogozhin himself of the murder. In a state of confusion the prince and looks for Nastasya but she is not home. He still feels that someone is following him. When he gets back to his hotel, those two homicidal eyes confront him: it is Rogozhin who has been following him the whole time. Rogozhin pulls out a knife and is about to kill the prince when the prince has an epileptic fit. Kolya, who was waiting for him, takes care of the prince. Lebedev decides to take him with his family to the countryside.
Lebedev tells the prince that Nastasya would like a secret meeting with the prince. According to Lebedev, Nastasya is afraid of Aglaya. Aglaya and her sisters come to pay a visit to the prince. Ptitsyn, Kolya, Ganya and Prince Sh also show up. It turns out that Prince Sh had met the prince before. They meet Lebedev's daughter Vera and her siblings, all of them orphans after their mother died six weeks earlier while giving birth. Aglaya recites a poem about a poor knight of high moral standards. General Yepanchin and a young man, Yevgeny, join them just in time to hear the poem. Aglaya intentionally changes the name of the protagonist to Nastasya's name to make fun of the prince. Yevgeny, who likes Aglaya, has just resigned from the army.
Then four insolent young men arrive: Antip, who claims to the son of Pavlishchev, Lebedev's nephew Vladimir, Ippolit, and retired lieutenant Keller. They claim that the prince is not the son of Pavlishchev, and that Antip, who is an illegitimate son, should be entitled to half of the inheritance. Keller has even published a satirical article in which he defames the prince. The prince, however, has already sent Ganya on a truth-finding mission, and has the proof that Antip's mother never had a son from Pavlishchev. The four now appear like scoundrels, but the prince is a meek and generous man: he still wants to give Antip the same amount of money that Pavlishchev spent on his stay in Switzerland. The prince believes that Antip acted in good faith (although he did not hesitate to insult his own mother in the hope of obtaining some money). The witnesses are shocked that the prince could be so naive after being insulted and almost robbed of his inheritance by a bunch of crooks. Lebedev's nephew Vladimir is still hostile to the prince, suspecting that the prince pretends to be naive and generous when in fact he is a calculating and manipulative man. Ippolit is no less insolent, despite being close to dying. He also discloses to the crowd that Lebedev in person has contributed to the article defaming the prince.
The wife of general Yepanchin and Aglaya are particularly upset by the whole incident. As they are leaving with Yevgeny, they overhear a woman reassure Yevgeny that Rogozhin has bought his debts. Yevgeny is surprised and claims he knows nothing of this. The prince has recognized the voice of Nastasya. It is obvious that the woman, Nastasya, has tried to ruin Yevgeny's reputation in front of Aglaya and her mother. Aglaya's mother is furious with the prince for being so naive and gullible. Ganya later tells the prince that Yevgeny owns indeed a fortune but his business is not doing too well. Keller, the author of the defaming article, goes to visit the prince and beg for money. The prince not only forgives him but also gives him some money. Antip redeems himself by writing a letter in which renounces any claim on the prince's fortune and even refuses the money that the prince offered.
The prince realizes that Lebedev has been part in the scheme to ruin Yevgeny's reputation, but then refuses to hear Lebedev's motives when he starts out by uttering Aglaya's name.
Kolya brings news of a major quarrel within the Yepanchin family: Aglaya fighting with her parents over Ganya and her mother expelling Varya from the house, and the whole thing having to do with some plot architected by Ganya and Varya. After a few days Aglaya's mother visits the prince to make peace. She is still furious at her daughter Aglaya and inquires about the prince's motives to send her a letter. The mother states clearly that she will never allow Aglaya to marry him. The prince protests that it was simply meant as a brother's letter, not a lover's. The mother also promises that she will never allow Aglaya to marry Yevgeny. The mother tells the prince that Ganya and Varya have been keeping in touch with Nastasya, and that Varya has introduced Aglaya to Nastasya. The mother cannot believe how dumb the prince is: everybody is deceiving him. The prince tells the mother that her daughter Aglaya has sent him a note asking him not to show up at their house. The mother takes it as a personal affront and immediately drags the prince to their house.
Yevgeny gives a speech that liberalism is anti-Russian.
Aglaya makes a scene in front of her sisters and her mother, protesting that she will never marry the prince, as if everybody wanted her to. The prince, surprised, confesses that he never even thought of proposing, which is half an insult, but is taken jokingly by the family. The family and the prince take a walk to the park. While Aglaya is being romanced by the handsome lieutenant Molovtsov, they meet Nastasya and her entourage. The prince has not seen her in three months. Nastasya flirts with Yevgeny as if he were an old and intimate acquaintance and then reveals that his uncle committed suicide after stealing public money. This further destroys Yevgeny's reputation. Kurmyshov, a friend of Yevgeny, tries to hit her, but the prince stops his hand, and Rogozhin drags her away. Mother and sisters and their friends leave the park. At home the general tells the prince that Yevgeny had proposed to Aglaya but the girl had rejected him. He also explains to the prince that Nastasya is plotting to disgrace Yevgeny so that Aglaya will consent to marry him, the prince. The prince is very surprised, as Aglaya has repeatedly displayed her annoyance at the prince's meek attitude and has made fun of him in public. Instead he receives a note by Aglaya who gives her an appointment in the park. Keller brings him another news: the officer offended by Nastasya is planning to challenge the prince to a duel because it was the prince who stopped his hand.
The prince does not want to admit to himself that he is in love with Aglaya, and that Aglaya is in love with him. Rogozhin shows up. They haven't met in a long time. Rogozhin hates the prince because Nastasya loves him. Precisely because she loves the prince so much she is trying to arrange the marriage with Aglaya: she has understood very well that the prince is in love. Rogozhin reveals that Nastasya has been corresponding with Aglaya. Rogozhin tells him that he has been sent by Nastasya: she wants to meet with the prince in person. The prince wants Rogozhin to be his brother and invites him to celebrate: it's the eve of the prince's birthday.
Nastasya loves the prince but knows that she could ever make him happy. Therefore she's willing to sacrifice her love, and conspire to make the prince marry the woman who can make him happy.
At the prince's place in Lebedev's house they find that a crowd of friends has already assembled to celebrate his birthday. During a philosophical discussion presided by Ganya's father the talkative general, Lebedev warns that the apocalypse is near because of the growing materialism of society. Yevgeny himself is there, asking to become a friend of the prince and bringing the news that Kurmyshov has given up on his homicidal plans. Even Ferdyshtchenko is there, reappearing after a long time.
Ippolit reads a letter that he has written to all as his intellectual testament.
The prince is interested in capital punishment, and Ippolit feels like a man
sentenced to death. Besides long meditations on life, Ippolit confesses that he
had visions, in particular of
Rogozhin visiting him after he (Ippolit) had visited him and admired the same
Holbein painting of Jesus that had struck the prince.
Somehow this course of events convinced him that the logical thing to do is
to commit suicide, which he intends to do at sunrise.
The prince's birthday party turns into Ippolit's personal show, as he continues
to read his "confession", a self-glorifying meditation on life and death.
His argument is that, having been told by the doctors that he only has a few
weeks to live, he has been de facto sentenced to death: then why wait for the
last breath of life? The wait sounds to him like a torture, an additional
cruelty. He also meditates that he could kill a dozen people, and society
could not punish him adequately, since he only has a few weeks to live.
He bequeaths a copy of his "confession" to the prince and one to Aglaya,
and requests that the manuscript be published.
His "confession" mostly bores and annoys the guests. Ganya is openly indifferent
to the suicide plan. Others laugh.
Rogozhin wants to leave.
Only a few people, starting with Keller,
take his threat seriously. Lebedew, whose house it is, is frightened at the
idea that Ippolit will shoot himself right there.
When the sun rises, Ippolit gets up, pulls out a pistol from his coat and pulls
the trigger... but the pistol is defective and there is no explosion.
Most of the witnesses laugh, thinking it another bluff.
The prince insists that Ippolit stays with him, but
Yevgeny warns the prince that Ippolit is dangerous and advices the prince to
get rid of him as soon as possible.
Lebedev tells the prince that someone stole his wallet with a huge sum of money. The only possible suspect is Ferdyshtchenko, who left the party early. Lebedev suspects that Ferdyshtchenko needs money to romance the woman he likes, the widow of a captain.
At last the prince meets Nastasya. She has come to bid farewell. She is leaving with Rogozhin. She wanted to see him one last time. She asks him if he is happy and he doesn't answer her. When Rogozhin asks him the same question, the prince cries that he is not. Nastasya is now a humbled and generous woman who is suffering for love, the ghost of the earlier arrogant femme fatale. And this change has been caused by an idiot who is simply honest and trustworthy.
Varya, who was still hoping to arrange a marriage between Ganya and Aglaya, learns that Aglaya has accepted a marriage proposal by the prince and that the family is throwing a party to announce the engagement. Ganya is disappointed and feels that their father, the drunkard, might be one reason why he had no chance: Ganya and Varya know that their father is the thief who stole Lebedev's money and think that everybody knows. The sick Ippolit is now Varya's guest and he is quite insolent with them: he assumes that they have been nice to him because they hope that he can have an influence on Aglaya's decision. Ganya still has a chance though: in a secret letter Aglaya has invited him and Varya to a secret meeting, in the same place where she met the prince. Ganya cannot stand his father's behavior anymore. After another quarrel, the old drunkard decides to move out of their house and into Lebedev's.
Lebedev recounts how he found his wallet in his house. The thief had restored the wallet after one day. Lebedev knows that the thief is the general (Ganya's father) because they searched the room together and the general kept missing the wallet. Eventually Lebedev found the wallet inside the pocket of a coat, but still wouldn't tell the general that the wallet reappeared, so as to tease and torture the general. The general, very distressed by the humiliating episode, meets with the prince and makes up a story that he met Napoleon in person. His speech becomes more and more delirious and eventually he has a stroke in front of Kolya.
A flashback explains what has happened before Ganya received Aglaya's note. The prince visits Aglaya's family. The family is apprehensive about what is truly going on between the prince and Aglaya, given that there is so much gossiping about their meeting and letters. Aglaya, annoyed, asks the prince to publicly declare if he wants to marry her or not. The prince is forced to propose in front of everybody and admit that he loves Aglaya and only Aglaya. The moment he does so Aglaya starts laughing at him: it was all a cruel joke. She leaves him more humiliated than ever. However, the whimsical behavior of the girl convinces her parents that she is indeed in love with the prince, and the parents resign themselves to accept destiny.
Ippolit has moved in with Aglaya's family. When he meets the prince, he is bitter about the fact that everybody wanted him as a guest when they thought he was about to die, but now that he is getting better nobody wants him anymore.
Lebedev, half drunk, informs the prince that he is the secret correspondent who has kept Aglaya's mother informed of Nastasya's movements. He just now received a letter addressed by Aglaya to Ganya. He offers to open it and read it to the prince, but the prince is disgusted that Lebedev would be willing to do something so mischievious. This is the letter that Ganya boasts about with her sister. His father has the stroke just when Ganya was so happy.
Back to the present, the prince is escorted by Aglaya's family to a party with highly influential people. Aglaya warns him not to ruin the evening, and in particular not to break an expensive Chinese vase. The guests of the party are very friendly and the prince slowly becomes relaxed and confident. One of them is a relative of Pavlishchev, the prince's benefactor. The prince, however, is shocked to learn that Pavlishchev converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit. The prince hates Catholicism, which he considers un-Christian, merely a continuation of the Roman Empire that persecuted real Christians. The prince suddenly explodes in an ideological tirade about how Russian civilization is the true Christian embodiment. He gets more and more excited about it, and the guests get more and more embarrassed. Aglaya's father is about to interrupt him when the prince accidentally breaks precisely the expensive Chinese vase that Aglaya warned him about. The guests try to laugh the matter away, but this only increases the emotional state of the prince, who now goes into a verbose apology. Suddenly he has an epileptic fit. The party is over and the engagement too: Aglaya's mother swears she would never let her daughter marry a sick man, and Aglaya herself declares that she never accepted the prince's proposal.
Ganya's father dies and Ippolit is closer than ever to dying. Ippolit comes to the prince to tell him what happened between Aglaya and Ganya. Aglaya had taken him, Ippolit, to the meeting with Ganya and Varya, where Ganya had been disappointed to hear that Aglaya simply wanted his friendship. Ippolit has more important news though: he has helped Aglaya secure a face-to-face meeting with Nastasya. Aglaya actually comes to fetch the prince on her way to Nastasya: the capricious and impulsive girl wants him to be present. Aglaya keeps a very hostile attitude against Nastasya from the very beginning, accusing her of never having loved the prince, of having tortured him. Nastasya understands that Aglaya is madly jealous, and wants to make sure that the prince loves her, Aglaya, more than Nastasya. This is the test that the prince has to pass. Aglaya wants the prince to choose her, Aglaya, over Nastasya in front of Nastasya, i.e. humiliate Nastasya. Nastasya is the one who is being tortured. The prince, who has always been worried about her suffering and her madness, sees how much Nastasya suffers, out of pride and out of love. When Aglaya walks out of the house expecting the prince to follow her, the prince hesitates a few seconds, then tries to follow Aglaya. That move breaks the heart of both women: Aglaya does not forgive him the hesitation, and Nastasya is mortally offended that he would follow Aglaya.
Being afraid that Nastasya would go completely mad or even die, the prince chooses to marry Nastasya. Nastasya, in fact, sends Rogozhin away. This generates an even bigger scandal in town. People gossip that the prince might adhere to an ideology that rewards independent women, so that a fallen woman is worth more than a woman who has not fallen. (Dostoevsky the author states that he shares the public indignation). However, the prince is marrying Nastasya only because he is sorry for her. He loves both women, but of a different kind of love. He's "just getting married" to Nastasya, whereas he truly loves Aglaya. The prince is torn between primal but impossibly strong instincts: on one hand he cannot stand Nastasya's face (a face that to him exudes desperation) and on the other hand he cannot stand the thought that Aglaya will never know how much he loved her. The prince is sacrificing his happiness to save Nastasya from suicide, the way earlier Nastasya was willing to sacrifice her happiness to save him from an unhappy marriage. Somehow, after meeting with Aglaya in person, she has become selfish and has no scruples inducing him into an unhappy marriage.
Keller, that the prince has chosen as best man for the wedding, warns him that Lebedev is plotting against him, trying to prove that the prince is not in possession of his faculties (which would result in all his assets to be confiscated). Ippolit, instead, warns him that Rogozhin will take revenge on the prince by killing the woman he really loves, Aglaya.
However, the wedding never happens: on the very wedding day, while the prince is already waiting for her at the church, Nastasya sees Rogozhin in the crowd and elopes with him, asking him to save her.
The prince chases the couple all the way to Rogozhin's house but Rogozhin is pretending not to be there. The prince searches the entire town, but nobody has seen Nastasya. Then Rogozhin appears and drags the prince to his place, admitting that Nastasya is there, even though everybody told the prince that neither of them was there. Rogozhin confesses that he has killed Nastasya. He has used the same knife that almost used to kill the prince. He is delirious and the prince just sits lifeless next to him. That's how the police find them: the prince has regressed to the state of idiocy in which he was when he went to Switzerland.
Ironically, in order to save Nastasya from killing herself or going mad, the prince has involuntarily caused her homicide by a jealous lover.
Rogozhin is sentenced to a labor camp in Siberia, while Yevgeny arranges for the prince to be sent back to the clinic in Switzerland. Aglaya has a love affair with a Polish (and Catholic) aristocrat in France and is married in a hurry to him to avoid the scandal. The aristocrat, however, turned out to be penniless.
"Besy/ Possessed/ Demoni" (1873) ++ is the story of two young sociopaths, Nikolai Stavrogin and Pyotr Verkhovensky, who are both introduced well into the novel. Basically, first Dostoevsky introduces corollary characters and their confused relationships, then he finally introduces the two protagonists, and then capitalizes on the psychological scaffolding that he has created to set in motion a terrifying collision.
Varvara has one son, Nikolai Stavrogin. She was already separated from her husband when the child was ready to go to school, and Stepan was hired as the tutor. Stepan, therefore, became a sort of second father for the youth. Later he became an official in the army and began to live in the big city, where he rapidly plunged into a decadent lifestyle and associated himself with scoundrels, prostitutes and destitutes. His mother supported him generously but he showed no gratituted. When he returned for six months to his mother's town, they realized that he was an epileptic, which explained some evil behavior (he even bit the ear of the governor). Later Nikolai went abroad and Varvara next heard of him from an old friend, Praskovia Drozdov, who has a daughter, Liza, who too was a pupil of Stepan when she was a child. Varvara took her protege Dasha and traveled to Switzerland to meet with the old friend.
Meanwhile, Stepan's situation got worse. A gambler who lost huge sums of money, he began to drink and became cantankerous.
Praskovia returns to Russia and visits Varvara, telling her a confused story in which Varvara's son Nikolai, her daughter Liza and Varvara's protege Dasha seem to have been involved in a love triangle, with Liza becoming very jealous and Nikolai moving back to Russia (but to St Petersburg). Varvara decides to preempt any trouble by having her protege Dasha marry her Stepan. It turns out that Dasha too had been a pupil of Stepan. Dasha, now twenty, accepts Varvara's will, especially since she also promises to back her financially. Stepan, on the other hand, is shocked to hear that Varvara wants him to marry another woman. Varvara's design is obviously to clear the path for Nikolai to marry Liza.
Stepan heard accusations that his son Pyotr Verkhovensky would be a revolutionary.
The gossiper Liputin brings a new guest to Stepan, the construction engineer Aleksei Kirillov, who is friend with all the expats: Pyotr, Nikolai and Liza. Kirillov is going to live in the same house where Shatov and his wife live, the house of a former captain, Lebjadkin. Liputin relates how Lebjadkin, another friend of Nikolai, a violent drunk who beats his crippled sister, received a payment from Nikolai (a monthly payment to make up for the seduction of the poor cripple) via a girl who must have been intimate with Nikolai; except that the girl delivered only a fraction of the money, and is therefore accused of being a thief (besides being a slut). Stepan understands that Liputin is talking about Dasha, and that his marriage to Dasha is meant to "cover" Nikolai's sin. Liputin also relates that Varvara is beginning to suspect that her son Nikolai is mad.
Stepan meets Liza, who is escorted by her silent and older friend Mavriky. Liza is jovial and gorgeous, and fondly remembers her old tutor Stepan. Liza needs an assistant and is thiking of hiring Shatov.
Kirillov is writing about why people don't commit suicide. After chatting with him, the narrator draws the conclusion that the writer is mad. Liputin reveals that Lebjadkin is now in love with Liza, and has become rich because Nikolai just sold him a large estate. Stepan, ever more disturbed, writes a letter to Nikolai to check his feelings for Dasha, and eagerly waits for his son Pyotr as if Pyotr could save him from disaster.
Liza approaches Shatov with the pretext of compiling a book of magazine articles. Shatov declines. Liza later asks the narrator for help to meet Lebjadkin's crippled sister. She is eager to find out the truth about the poor girl and Nikolai. The narrator finds Shatov alone, and Shatov tells him the story of when he and Kirillov went to America. Penniless, they needed money, and they received a sum from Nikolai. The narrator now remembers that he heard gossip about Shatov's wife and Nikolai just about at the time when Shatov must have been in America. Shatov takes the narrator to see Lebjadkin's crippled sister, Marya. Marya talks like a madwoman, recounting how she got pregnant and had to drown the baby in a pond. She refuses to name the man who got her pregnant, but refers to him as a "husband". When Lebjadkin arrives, he is drunk as usual and shouts his love for Liza. Even drunk, he refuses to reveal the name of the man who caused Marya's troubles and who now pays him to silence the past.
The narrator (Alexei Govorov), Shatov and Stepan meet at Varvara's house. Meanwhile, Varvara has attended mass. Liza has gone to mass with the wife of the new governor, Julija. Upon leaving church, Varvara is approached by a deranged crippled beggar, who turns out to be Marya. Varvara takes her with her, and Liza asks permission from Julija to go with Varvara. Liza calls her "auntie". Therefore Stepan is surprised to see the three ladies arrive together. Shatov tells Varvara that Marya lives in the same house as he with her brother Lebjadkin. Liza's mom Praskovia also arrives. She is not in friendly terms with her childhood friend Varvara because she thinks that Varvara has involved her Liza into a scandal. Dasha arrives and clarifies that she delivered the correct amount to Lebjadkin, as instructed by Nikolai. Then Lebjadkin arrives, relatively sober but still madly in love with Liza. Varvara, who has been tipped by an anonymous letter, demands an explanation of the insinuations that Marya is married to her son Nikolai. Lebjadkin refuses to answer and just then the two young men arrive: Pyotr, who declines the affectionate hug of his father Stepan (a father who has not seen him in ten years), and his friend Nikolai, who denies any marriage with Marya and tenderly accompanies her home. While Nikolai is away, Pyotr tells his version of the facts. Nikolai met Marya by accident several years earlier. She fell madly in love with him. He was moved by the poor girl who was being abused by her brother, and decided to give her a yearly pension. Kirillov at the time thought that maybe Nikolai was making fun of the girl. Varvara interprets her son's actions as mandated by a compassionate soul, and pledges to adopt the insane Marya. Lebjadkin managed to take her money, which he used to pay for his drinking addiction. Lebjadkin, humiliated and finally sober, admits that it is all true and asks permission to leave. As he is leaving, Nikolai walks back in. Pyotr then proceeds to embarrass his father in front of Varvara. Pyotr reveals that his father Stepan sent him a letter asking for help against the marriage, and implying that the marriage is meant to cover a sin committed by Nikolai. Stepan is left speechless. Varvara coldly tells Dasha that she is free to decide either way about the marriage. Shatov slaps Nikolai in the face, and Nikolai does not react. Liza faints and is carried out. The following day the whole town is gossiping that obviously Shatov must have felt her sister Dasha had been seduced by Nikolai, and that Liza must have felt humiliated. The surprise of the party was Pyotr, who came out as a strong character. Word on the street was that he had been a revolutionary but then repented, turned in some comrades to the police and was therefore forgiven by the state and given letters of recommendation that he was now using to introduce himself to the high society, starting with the governor and his wife Julija.
Liza announces her engagement to Mavriky.
Pyotr visits Nikolai and confesses that he has chosen to behave like an idiot. Nikolai tells him that he promised Varvara to ask for Liza's hand. Pyotr pledges to serve Nikolai, but Nikolai simply yawns. Pyotr also mentions an escaped convict, Fjedka, who happens to be a friend of his, and would be available if Nikolai needed him. Nikolai then visits Kirillov and tells him that he wants to challenge to a duel a Gaganov who has been insulting him publicly because he still hasn't forgiven how Nikolai offended his father four years earlier. They discuss suicide: Kirillov says that he is happy and that he wants to commit suicide precisely because he has reached a state of happiness. Finally Nikolai visits Shatov, who has been living in fear of being assassinated after slapping Nikolai in front of everybody. Nikolai has no such intention. Nikolai knows that Shatov did not hit him because of the affair with his wife, and did not hit him because of the rumor that Nikolai seduced Dasha (Nikolai denies any truth to this). Shatov hit him because he was disgusted by Nikolai's cynical behavior towards the poor Marya. Shatov has become a close friend of Marya, and in fact Nikolai has come to ask him to watch over her if anything should happen to him (Nikolai). Nikolai also pledges to tell everybody that Marya is indeed his legitimate wife. Nikolai denies any rumor of children revealing that Marya is still virgin. Nikolai has also come to warn Shatov that the secret society of which he is a member has charged Pyotr with a murder: murdering Shatov himself. Shatov used to be one of them, but then repented and left the society. Now they want to silence him forever. Shatov then goes into a lengthy explanation of why he abandoned the secret society. He is a very religious and very patriotic man, who equates Christianity and Russia. Shatov is attached to Nikolai because Nikolai was his first spiritual godfather. Nikolai is always cold and indifferent. He never smiles. Shatov says that he loves Nikolai, but Nikolai replies that he cannot reciprocate. Only Kirillov seems to interest him.
Outside Nikolai is approached by Fjedka the convict, who begs him for money. Nikolai sends him away with harsh words. Nikolai then visits Lebjadkin. He tells him that he has decided to recognize his lawful wife, despite the fact that he married her while drunk and only for a stupid bet. Lebjadkin is frightened at the prospect that Marya will now be accepted at the mansion of Varvara while he will lose his power to blackmail Nikolai. He also warns Lebjadkin that Liputin has told Pyotr of something he said while drunk: that he (Lebjadkin) intends to write a letter to the authorities about the secret society. Finally, Nikolai enters Marya's room. She is asleep. When she wakes up, she is afraid of him: she thinks that he is an impostor sent by Varvara to kill her. Nikolai walks out angry. Fjedka has been following him and approaches him again. Nikolai is entertained by Fjedka's cynical thoughts (he even robbed a church). Fjedka tells Nikolai that he could have robbed Lebjadkin countless times, since the drunk leaves the door open and all the money very visible, but Fjedka kept waiting for the day that Nikolai would give him more money to... kill Lebjadkin! Fjedka tells Nikolai the amount of money he wants to murder both Marya and her brother, thus removing an obstacle to Nikolai's future. For the first time, Nikolai laughs. He is so amused that he gives Fjedka all the money that he has in his wallet. Consciously or unconsciously, Nikolai has just let Fjedka believe that the deal is struck.
Gaganov chooses Mavriky as his second. The day of the duel both Kirillov (Nikolai's second) and Mavriky tried to dissuade Gaganov, but he wants the duel, thinking that Nikolai is a coward for not reacting to Shatov's slap in the face. Nikolai offers to apologize publicly for the offense of four years earlier, but Gaganov interprets it as another insult and gets even angrier. The duel begins: Gaganov misses, and Nikolai shoots high. Gaganov, again, interprets it as an insult. But Gaganov misses the next two shots, and Nikolai always aims high. Gaganov is humiliated.
Nikolai is secretely visited by Dasha. We now learn that there is indeed a relationship between them, despite Nikolai's denials. Nikolai mentions that he has been approached by Fjedka to murder his wife Marya.
Now the novel shifts its attention to Pyotr. Pyotr has been offending his father Stepan, calling him a "parasite" for obtaining money and protection from Varvara. Pyotr made sure to destroy their friendship by showing Varvara a personal letter that Stepan sent him. Stepan realizes that Pyotr is a monster and bans him from his house.
Andrei Lembke had been a humble career man of humble origins, whose only hobby was to build realistic replicas in paper (a theater, a train), before meeting the ambitious and wealthy Julija. He married her when he was already over 40 and she managed to have him promoted to provincial governor. Pyotr Had become a favorite of Julija, but Andrei had learned to dislike him. Pyotr had a sneaky, sleazy way to gain Andrei's confidence for unknown purposes. The vain Andrei had shown him a novel whose contents were a bit political, and Pyotr had borrowed the manuscript and never returned it. Then Andrei had shown him his collection of foreign political manifestos, and again Pyotr had borrowed them and never returned them. Pyotr accused him of wishing the destruction of church and government without having the guts to actually do it.
Julija takes under her protection a humble servant, Ljamsin, who specializes in satire and pranks. (The narrator is clearly annoyed by this clown). Fjedka commits a sacrilege by robbing a church. Liza and others visit the holy Semjon, who actually sounds a bit demented and enjoys humiliating Mavriky, thus upsetting Liza. Liza also accidentally meets Nikolai and almost slaps him in the face. Varvara asks Stepan to get out of town. She offers him a large sum of money, but he, offended, refuses the money. She accuses him of having been selfish and false. In particular, she resents that he never told her about the "new ideas" that were spreading both abroad and in Russia.
Lembke is now officially jealous of Pyotr, given how much Julija likes him. Pyotr, however, returns the manuscript of Lembke's novel. Pyotr also tells the naive governor that Shatov is responsible for the revolutionary leaflets that have appeared in the region, and that Kirillow is his accomplice. Lembke is worried because he has received an anonymous letter warning him that a revolt is imminent. Pyotr, now that he has his trust, takes the letter and promises to find the author. When Pyotr leaves, Lembke is approached by his trusted German advisor, Blum, who insists that the police should carry out a raid in the house where the revolutionaries meet, Stepan's house. Blum thinks that Stepan is the leader of the revolt. Lembke is skeptic about the plan. Meanwhile, Pyotr visits the famous writer Karmazinov, a selfish dumb man whom Pyotr despises. Karmazinov knows that Pyotr knows about the revolt and is only interested in knowing if he has time to sell his property before the revolt begins. Then Pyotr visits Kirillov. Pyotr wants to make sure that they still have a deal: Kirillow, still determined to take his life, has promised that he will leave a signed note taking responsibility for whatever criminal act Pyotr commits. Pyotr then visits Shatov, and we learn that Pyotr himself, and not Shatov, is behind the leaflets, and that Shatov refused to help him but now Pyotr has found a way to implicate him. Pyotr then walks to Nikolai's place. Nikolai is talking with Mavriky, who has discovered Liza's love for Nikolai and has come to ask Nikolai to marry her. Mavriky is a good man who simply wants Liza to be happy. Nikolai scorns him and confesses his marriage. Mavriky leaves disgusted. Pyotr prepares Nikolai for a meeting of the revolutionaries that is going to take place at Virginsky's place. Pyotr wants to introduce Nikolai as a foreign agent who has come to help organize the revolt. Pyotr has created a central committee for the secret society: Liputin, Ljamsin and Virginsky are part of it, as is the writer Shigalyov, whose book proposes a utopian society. At the meeting Pyotr demands who is faithful to the cause. They all swear except Shatov, who leaves the house, thus admitting publicly that he is ready to turn them in to the authorities. Nikolai also does not swear. He leaves after an enigmatic answer, causing embarrassment to Pyotr in front of his committee. Pyotr follows Nikolai outside and addresses him like a madman. Nikolai accuses him of trying to have Lebjadkin murdered by Fjedka with his (Nikolai's) money. His suspicion is confirmed when Fjedka appears behind them. The delirious Pyotr begs Nikolai to stay on his side, arguing that he needs Nikolai: Pyotr's plan is to replace the czar with Nikolai himself! Nikolai is disgusted by the whole scene.
Nikolai visits a monastery and meets a legendary monk, Tikhon. Nikolai has written down a confession of a terrible crime that he committed in the past, and wants Tikhon to read it before Nikolai will distribute them to friends, family and authorities. The document relates how Nikolai lived a wild life in the capital. He had two lovers, a woman (Shatov's wife?) and her own maid. He received them in two different apartments. One was rented from a woman who constantly beat her daughter. Nikolai felt pity for the girl, Matrjosa but also felt morbidly attracted to her. One day he found himself alone with her and raped her. The girl felt ill, and eventually killed herself. Then he decided to marry the ugly cripple Marya because he felt that it was the most disgusting thing he could do. Later in Switzerland he was tempted to marry another girl (Liza?), but was saved by the advice of another girl who knew his terrible secret (Dasha?). Having read the confession, Tikhon at first recommends that Nikolai spends a few years in a monastery, but then realizes that Nikolai's evil side has a plan to stop Nikolai's good side from delivering the confession: Nikolai is about to commit an even bigger crime that will give him an excuse not to confess the rape. Nikolai leaves upset, admitting to himself that Tikhon understood the truth.
Blum carries out the inspection of Stepan's apartment and confiscates books and letters that seem to show his sympathies for the revolutionaries. In town the workers of a factory are protesting lay-offs and Lembke is worried that it might escalate into riots. The governor suspects that Pyotr is a conspirator but his wife Julija is still defending him, and this only increases his hatred for the young man, Stepan is taken to Lembke's mansion where he is accused by Lembke of being the inspirator of the revolt, but Lembke soon realizes that the old professor is unlikely to be in the same league as his son Pyotr. To further embarrass him, Julija and all her friends arrive. They ignore the governor and start socializing with Stepan. Karmazinov, Liza, Mavrinsky, and Varvara herself ar all on Stepan's side. Lembke eventually loses his temper and leaves after threatening to "take action" against Stepan. Nikolaj arrives and is confronted by Liza, who tells him how Lebjadkin is writing letters to her about a secret in Nikolaj's life. Then Nikolaj coldly admits in front of everybody (including his mother) that he is married to Marya. The only one who is not shocked by the news is Stepan, who is too happy to be released and has even been invited by Julija to read something at her next party.
Julija's magnificent benefit party consists of a series of presentations on stage and then a ball. The first part is spoiled by the ignorant mob that buys a ticket to attend it. They are amused by a drunk Lebyadkin who walk on stage uninvited, then bored to death by Karamazinov's poem, and disgusted by Stepan's delirious speech in which he accuses the young generation of being idiots while admitting that his time is over. Finally, a young fanatic steps on stage and rants about the sad state of Russia. At the end of the speeches, there is complete chaos.
After embarrassing himself publicly, Stepan writes a pompous and pathetic farewell letter to Dasha. Julija hears from Pyotr that Liza has left Mavrinsky and eloped with Nikolai, but the narrator (Alexei) guesses correctly that Pyotr was not at the morning's speeches because he was plotting that very scandal. Julija is under Pyotr's spell and, before leaving them, Alexei warns her that Pyotr is a dangerous man.
In the evening a buffet and the ball take place to complete Julija's grand party. Suddenly, people start screaming that there is a fire on the other side of the town. Lembke immediately accuses his own wife of having architected the party in order to distract attention from the fire. It is quickly learned that the fire was set by Fjedka and three disgruntled workers. Next to the neighborhood that burned down there is also another house that was set to fire, but this looks like an independent fire. Inside they find the dead bodies of Lebyadkin and Marya, whose throats have been cut. The crowd gossips that the house was rented by Nikolai for them before he seduced Liza and eloped with her.
Liza has spent the night with Nikolai but now regrets it and decides to leave him. She has realized that he doesn't love her, and she relates the fact to what Pyotr told her about Nikolai being devoted to a higher cause. It was Pyotr who took Liza to Nikolai in the first place, to please him (and perhaps to later blackmail him). Pyotr arrives to visit the two and brings the news of Lebyadkin's and Marya's murders, explaining that he gave Lebyadkin a lot of money, Lebyadkin got drunk and boasted about the money, and Fjedka heard of it. Of course, this was all very predictable, especially since Fjedka had also received money from Nikolai that Fjedka interpreted as payment to murder precisely those two. The bodies did not burn, which means that the whole city now knows that they were murdered and did not die of the fire. Nikolai suspects that Pyotr set the fire, but Pyotr blames the fire on workers who could not wait any longer to take their revenge. Pyotr tells Nikolai that the whole city suspects him of killing his wife in order to marry the rich Liza. Pyotr also reveals that Mavrinsky, devastated but still devoted, spent the night at the gate. Nikolai tells Pyotr that Liza is leaving him, having realized that he doesn't love her. Liza overhears them and Nikolai, confronted, takes responsibility for the murders: he knew that they were going to be killed and didn't do anything to prevent the killing. She is terrified to learn that people have been killed so that she can marry Nikolai, and that she is Nikolai's alibi (he spent the night with her). She feels guilty. Liza, delirious, walks outside escorted by Pyotr, but then runs away when she sees the faithful Mavrinsky. She falls and Mavrinsky helps her, while Pyotr carefully disappears. Just then they meet a heartbroken Stepan, who has decided to leave town. Liza is determined to see the dead bodies. There is a crowd in front of the house. When they see her, they attack her and she is killed by the mob.
Pyotr is shocked to hear that Nikolai has left town for St Petersburg. He then chairs a meeting of the conspirators: Liputin, Ljamsin, Virginsky, etc. He tells them that he is sure Nikolai had nothing to do with the murders, that it was just Fjedka's idea to steal the money. But the death of Lebyadkin is a relief to him because he had sent the letter denouncing them to Lembke. On the other hand he accuses them of having pressured the workers to set fire to the town. They deny it. Pyotr then convinces them to kill Shatov, painting him as a dangerous traitor. He explains that Kirillov is ready to take responsibility in his suicide letter. Pyotr then orders Liputin to dig up the printing press that Shatov has buried in order to print new propaganda flyers. Pyotr and Liputin visit Kirillov to make sure that he is still willing to commit suicide. At his house they find Fjedka. The murderer is mad at Pyotr because he has not made the money that Pyotr promised him and has realized that Nikolai had not ordered the murders. Pyotr obviously ordered the murders. When Fjedka becomes too threatening, Pyotr pulls out a gun but Fjedka runs away. The following day Liputin learns that Fjedka has been found murdered and that the police suspects one of the workers who is accused of setting the fire. Liputin is terrorized by the events and is ready to elope.
Shatov receives an unexpected visit: his wife Marie, They were married just two weeks in Switzerland before she eloped with Nikolai. She is pregnant and gives birth in her husband's house to Nikolai's child. Shatov still loves her and goes out of his way to help her, even promising to adopt the child. She is initially arrogant and impatient towards the dumb husband who does not understand her condition (until she tells him) and does not seem to have pride (he begs her to stay instead of kicking her out). While Shatov is busy helping his wife, a conspirator comes to tell him that he is expected to deliver the printing press to them in the morning. In the morning he obeys but it is a trap: all the conspirators are waiting for him, they seize him and Pyotr shoots him dead. Then they dump the body in a pond. Virginsky, whose wife has helped Shatov's wife, tries in vain to plead that now Shatov, a father, would not go to the police. Pyotr cannot be stopped. Ljamsin panics and has to be gagged. Liputin asks Pyotr if it is really true that there are cells of conspirators all over Russia, and understands that it was a lie: they are not part of a huge movement, just pawns in Pyotr's madness.
Pyotr visits Kirillov to close the deal that will provide an alibi for the conspirators. Kirillov is angry that the victim was Shatov. He realizes that Pyotr simply took revenge on a harmless man who had once insulted him publicly (in Switzerland). Kirillov calls him a liar and a coward. At the same time Kirillov is still tempted to kill himself just because his philosophy drives him to it. Evnetually, Kirillov signs the confession that he killed Shatov and locks himself in a room to commit suicide. Pyotr waits outside. Not hearing any noise, Pyotr enters the room and tries to kill Kirillov, but Kirillov bites his finger and Pyotr has to run away. Then Pyotr hears a shot. He returns to the apartment and finds Kirillov dead.
Pyotr then leaves town and flees to a foreign country.
Meanwhile, the mad Stepan has left town on foot. He walks the whole night until he meets peasants who give him a ride and give him shelter in their humble farm. He gets ill and becomes delirious. One of the peasants recognizes him and tells Varvara. Varvara rushes to the farm and personally takes care of him until he dies in her arms. She says that now she has nobody in the world, thus implying that Nikolai is no longer her son.
On learning of the murder, Shatov's wife goes mad in the street: she dies and the baby dies too shortly afterwards. Kirillov's suicide note is not believed. Pyotr's plan fails because Ljamsin tells the police what really happened. The authorities issue a warrant for the arrest of Pyotr and arrest all the conspirators. Meanwhile, Nikolai returns to the town and writes to Dasha a desperate letter, asking her to be her nurse again as she was in Switzerland, and to relocate there with him. Dasha is ready to run to him. She shows the letter to Varvara and she decides to go with her: her life is now pointless and she'd rather emigrate with the couple. However, they find him dead: he hanged himself.
"Podrostok/ Youth/ Adolescente" (1875)
"Bratia Karamazovy/ Brothers Karamazov" (1880) ++ is a philosophical novel narrated by an "omniscient" invisible character. It is overlong and several episodes seem to have been improvised just to make it more convoluted. The final speeches at the trial are redundant just like many other lengthy discussions.
Grigory and Marfa are the two servants who have raised Fyodor's children. One day they had to take care of yet another child: the idiot of the village, Lizaveta, who had gotten mysteriously pregnant, delivered a boy in their bathroom. The gossip in the village was that a drunk Fyodor got her pregnant after swearing to his drunk friends that even such an ugly being could be sexually attractive. Fyodor's first wife had just died and Fyodor was at the peak of his decadent lifestyle. Lizaveta died giving birth. The boy, Smerdiakov, grew up to become Fyodor's most trusted servant. Smerdiakov is ungrateful and selfish, indifferent to the two old servants who raised him, indifferent to just about everything including girls.
Meanwhile, Katerina sent Aliosha a message asking for a meeting. Dmitri stops Aliosha while the young brother is going there and confesses the whole story: he has indeed fallen in love with Grushena and is not worthy of Katerina, and therefore wants Aliosha to tell her that she is free. Dmitri had conquered Katerina by lending her the money that her father needed to avoid bankruptcy. A grateful Katerina felt that she had to accept his marriage proposal. However, Katerina had later become rich thanks to the inheritance from a relative. Now it's Dmitri who needs money: he has spent some money that Katerina gave him to mail to a relative. Dmitri also wants Aliosha to get the money from their father. Dmitri knows that their father has an envelop full of money ready for Grushenka is she returns to him. Dmitri wants that money so that he can pay Katerina.
At his father's house, Aliosha hears Smerdiakov proclaim his selfish and cyincal ideology. Smerdiakov does not believe in religious or patriotic values. His evil words break the heart of his adoptive father Grigory. Aliosha's father is drunk. He discusses the existence of God with Ivan, who does not believe. Dmitri arrives, furious, convinced that Grushenka is hiding in his father's rooms. Dmitri attacks his own father, who whines like a child. They both shamelessly love the same fallen woman. That woman is in Katerina's house. That's where Aliosha goes to deliver Dmitri's message to Katerina. The noble and generous Katerina thinks she found a friend in Grushenka, who seems willing to talk sense into Dmitri and surrender him to Katerina, but Grushenka reveals her true feelings in front of Aliosha: she was just playing cat and mouse with Katerina, with no intention of letting Dmitri go. Katerina expels her from the house, but Grushenka laughs in Katerina's face. Outside Aliosha meets Dmitri and tells him what just happened at Katerina's house. Then Aliosha returns to the monastery, where he learns that the old monk Zosima is dying. In his cell Aliosha reads a message that Liza sent him: it's a love letter in which she confesses that she has loved him since they were children.
Aliosha visits his father. His father tells him that Ivan has returned only to get money from him, but he won't get any: his father is determined to save money for the day that he will be ugly and women will not come to him unless he buys them. His father does not believe in life after death, but only in the pleasures of this life. In his opinion Ivan is terrified at the idea that the old man might give his money to Grushenka and for this reason Ivan encouraged Dmitri to fall in love with the slut. This way he would make sure that Grushenka does not get the money of the old man and at the same time will be able to marry the rich Katerina. In his opinion Ivan is a selfish monster who loves nobody. Leaving his father's house, Aliosha meets a group of children who are throwing stones at a lonely child. Aliosha initially tries to defend the child, but soon learns that it is the lone child who is the evil one: the child begins to throw stones at Aliosha, and even bites his finger, for no apparent reason. When Aliosha refuses to counterattack, the child starts crying and runs away.
Aliosha tells Liza that he is ready to marry her but she is ashamed of her bold gesture and pretends she was only kidding him.
Aliosha is now convinced that Katerina is in love with Ivan but feels obliged to be in love with Dmitri. Katerina tells him that she is ready to spend her whole life being faithful to an unfaithful Dmitri. Ivan is there and confirms that he true believes Katerina is telling the truth. Ivan has decided to leave since there is no hope for him. Aliosha tries in vain to convince everybody that Katerina is just acting. Katerina is more interested in placating a captain who was injured and insulted by Dmitri so that he does not sue Dmitri, and begs Aliosha to pay this man some money on her behalf.
Aliosha visits the captain and finds out that he is the father of the child who attacked him, Iliusha. Now the child's motive is clear: he was trying to avenge his father by hurting the brother of the offender. The captain, Snegiryov, lives in extreme poverty with his ill wife and their crippled daughter Nina, while his healthy and intelligent daughter Varvara had to sacrifice her studies in St Petersburg to help the family. It turns out that the whole trouble that led to the confrontation with Dmitri was caused by some shady business that the captain was carrying out on account of Fyodor, Aliosha's father. Aliosha is all too happy to deliver Katerina's money to the good man and his family, so that the two ill women can be cured, the intelligent one can return to school and the captain can move the family to another town. The captain initially accepts the money like the solution to all his problems, but then pride prevails and he throws it away.
Aliosha visits Liza and tells her that, after all, the visit to the captain went well: now that the captain refused the money it will be easier for him to actually accept it. Instead of a beggar, he is now a peer to them. Liza confesses that she meant what she wrote in the love letter and they kiss. Liza's mother eavesdrop and then confronts Aliosha swearing that she will not allow such a marriage. Liza is still just a silly child while Aliosha is a mixture of a very naive man and a mature man. Aliosha tells Liza that he is afraid of losing his only friend, the dying monk, and that he is no longer sure of believing in God. Liza's mother is also taking care of Katerina, who is still delirious.
Aliosha, looking for Ivan, overhears Smerdiakov serenading a girl, Marja. Smerdiakov is bitter about life: he wishes he had never been born, hates Russia and wishes that Napoleon had won the war. Aliosha finds Ivan, who has decided to leave as soon as possible for Western Europe and is more nihilistic than ever.
Ivan tells Aliosha about his poem, which is really just a parable. It is set in Spain at the time of the Inquisition. Jesus has returned to Earth and performed more miracles. The Inquisition, however, considers him a heretic and sentences him to burn at the stakes. The very old Grand Inquisitor confronts him and explains to him why he has become a danger to the Church: when Jesus resisted the three temptations of Satan, he opted for freedom, but the Church thinks that was a mistake because humans cannot be trusted with freedom. In fact, Jesus condemned humankind to eternal suffering. Jesus does not object: he simply kisses the old man. The Grand Inquisitor releases Jesus but bans him from society. Ivan is on the side of the Inquisitor. Alyosha kisses Ivan.
Ivan meets Smerdiakov and feels disgust for the boy, who has become Fyodor's favorite servant. Smerdiakov is assigned to mount guard against Dmitri and to let Grushenka in, should she decide to visit the father. His father is terrified that Dmitri might be watching the place and kidnapping Grushenka before she reaches the house. Smerdiakov, however, is playing a dirty game, as he has told Dmitri what the secret signals are to announce the arrival of Grushenka. Later Smerdiakov is seized by an epileptic fit. Ivan decides to leave for Moskow as he told Katerina and Alyosha, and refuses to go further as his father would like him to (in order to keep him at a safe distance). But then does just that when Smerdiakov suggests it. Smerdiakov implies that a tragedy will befall on Fyodor and Ivan is better off behind away when this happens.
Zosima dies peacefully in his cell and Alyosha compiles his lengthy biography. Zosima, a rebel in his youth, became a monk after being challeged to a duel. Since we are all sinners, Zosima begged everybody to forgive the sins of others. Unfortunately, Zosima's corpse starts smelling immediately. His enemies in the monastery, led by the reclusive monk Ferapont, interpret it as a sign from God that Zosima was not the saint that the community believed he was. Alyosha too is shocked that God would offend his dead master. Rakitin realizes that he has a chance to corrupt the pure Alyosha and invites him to pay a visit to Grushenka.
Grushenka lives with her old lover and protector Kuzma Samsonov. She was dishonored and abandoned by a young officer who then married someone else, but now the officer is a widower and is coming back for her. It's him she is eagerly waiting for. She tells Rakitin and Alyosha. Moved by Alyosha's goodness, she confesses that she paid Rakitin to take Alyosha to her place so she could take his virginity and corrupt him. Grushenka bids farewell from Alyosha and leaves town.
Now that the monk Zosima is dead, Alyosha leaves the convent.
Dmitri is losing his mind. He is desperate to find Grushenka before she goes to see his father. At the same time he is desperate to find the money to repay the debt to Katerina. He is penniless and tries in vain to get money from Samsonov, who is puzzled to say the least that he would beg money from the protetor of the woman he wants to steal, from Bracco, the peasant who reportedly is arguing with his father about a piece of land, and from Liza's mother Khokhlakova (who instead advises him to get into the gold mining business). Ever more desperate, Dmitri finds out that Grushenka has disappeared from Samsonov's house. Dmitri fears that she went to his father's house and breaks into the house. He sees his father preparing money for Grushenka (exactly the amount of money Dmitri needs for Katerina). Dmitri doesn't know what happens next. He only remembers running away from the house, being chased by the servant Grigorij who screams "father's killer" to him, and killing Grigorij to get rid of him.
Still dripping blood from his hands, Dmitri looks for Grushenka. He has the pockets full of money (obviously the money that his father had ready for Grushenka), with which he rescues the pistols that he had pawned and buys good and drinks like he did before for an orgy with Grushenka. Delirious, he sets out to chase Grushenka and her officer. He catches up with them at the place where he had partied with Grushenka. Grushenka's officer turns out to be a Pole traveling with a fellow Pole and with Kalganov. Grushenka is initially afraid of Dmitri, but then her officer reveals his true soul: first he robs Dmitri of a lot of money by cheating at a game of cards, and then almost accepts Dmitri's offer of a lot more money to leave Grushenka to him. Grushenka realizes that the officer has returned only for her money. Dmitri, Grushenka, Kalganov and the innkeeper trap the two Poles in a room and then indulge in a party. (There is much anti-Polish racism in this chapter) Dmitri has now conquered Grushenka's heart but the police arrive to arrest him for the murders.
Dmitri confesses that he is guilty of killing Grigorij, but is surprised when the police chief accuses him of killing his father instead. Grigorij is actually alive, although badly injured by Dmitri's blow. Dmitri declares that he did not kill his father. When his father saw him outside, Dmitri ran away. He ran into Grigorij and thought he had kill him; but he swears that he never entered his father's house. The police chief is puzzled because the door was open: the old man must have opened it of his own will. Dmitri tells the chief that Smerdiakov was the only other person who knew the secret signal to announce Grushenka's arrival, the signal that would have prompted the old man to open the door in the middle of the night. However, Dmitri himself does not believe the vile Smerdiakov capable of killing, and the police found him in bed seized by an epileptic fit. Dmitri's version of the facts is already had to believe and it becomes even less credible when he refuses to tell the police how he got the money. The police count the money that he spent and what is left: the total is actually a lot less than the money that was in his father's envelope. Grigorij testifies that the door of the house was open when he saw Dmitri, a fact that further complicates Dmitri's position. Dmitri protests that it must have been Smerdiakov. The police chief finally gets a full confession from Dmitri: Dmitri still had some money left from the sum that Katerina originally gave him to send to her sister. He had kept that money all the time hoping to eventually return the whole sum. Having decided to commit suicide, Dmitri also decided to use that money for one last orgy with Grushenka (as he had done with the first part of the money). He still protests he did not kill his father.
Kolja Krasotkin is an amazingly intelligent 14-year old boy who is already a hardcore socialist. Kolja used to the Iliusha's mentor and protector, but then their friendship fell apart. Iliusha is gravely ill and Aliosha thinks he will die. Iliusha's biggest regret is that he caused the death of his loved dog Zucka by feeding it a deadly meal (an idea that came from Smerdjakov). Kolja surprises him twice, first by visiting him and making peace with him and secondly by bringing Zucka, that he found and obviously survived the meal. Katerina has paid for a doctor to visit Iliusha. The anti-authority Kolja is hostile to the pompous decorated doctor, who prescribes a cure in Sicily for he boy and a cure to the Caucasus for the wife and the sick daughter of the captain.
Alyosha visits Grushenka, who has moved in with the old harmless Maksimov. She tells him that she doesn't understand Dmitri who feels guilty towards a boy but does not want to reveal the name and why. She also tells Alyosha that there is some kind of secret between Ivan and Dmitri. Alyosha is even surprised that they are in touch at all after hating each other so much over Katerina's love. Alyosha then visits Liza Her mother Khokhlakova is upset that a newspaper published a false story of her being the lover of Dmitri. She thinks it's the doing of the evil Rakitin, who fell in love with her and was kicked out by her after offending a friend of hers. She has more shocking news for Alyosha: Ivan wants to marry Liza. Liza herself is even more upset. She is more childish than ever: she tells Alyosha that she wants to be unhappy. She wants someone who will marry her and the cheat on her and abandon her. She also feels an urge to do evil and begs Alyosha to save her from herself. She gives Alyosha a letter for Ivan.
Alyosha finds Rakitin with Dmitri. They just had an argument. Dmitri knows that Rakitin has been romancing Liza's middle-aged mother not out of love but just out of greed. Dmitri tells Alyosha that he feels reborn. He wants to live and now believes in god, and despises the atheists like Rakitin. Finally, Dmitri tells Alyosha the secret: Ivan is organizing an escape, so that Dmitri and Grushenka can start a new life in America.
Alyosha then visits his brother Ivan. Ivan tells Alyosha that Katerina has a letter that proves Dmitri is the killer of their father. Then suddenly Ivan becomes hostile, convinced that Alyosha has seen someone whom he has been hiding. Alyosha does not understand. Ivan, however, says that he never wants to see him again.
Ivan visits Smerdiakov three times. The first time he realizes that Smerdiakov is not sick at all. He is simply skilled at faking an epileptic fit. He fooled the doctor. Ivan confronts Smerdiakov: before Ivan left the town, Smerdiakov predicted the murder and even the day and the place. Not only does Ivan know about the incriminating letter that Dmitri wrote to Katerina, but Smerdiakov has a powerful alibi: his adoptive mother swears that he was in bed the whole night. During the second visit Smerdiakov slowly shows how guilty Ivan is of the murder. Ivan hated his father and wanted him to die in order to inherit his money. Even better if Dmitri were accused of the murder, as this would further increase Ivan's share of the inheritance. When he leaves Smerdiakov, Ivan admits to himself that there is truth in what the evil kid said. Full of remorse, Ivan has then decided to sacrifice part of his inheritance to organize Dmitri's escape. Meanwhile, Ivan's relationship with Katerina has become more turbulent than ever. Ivan loves and hates Katerina. Katerina denies that she loves Ivan but in fact she does. They are like enemies who are madly in love. During the third visit, Smerdiakov finally admits to killing Ivan's father and details how it went. He counted on Dmitri committing the murder and made it easy for Dmitri. However, Dmitri didn't, so Smerdiakov had to. To prove it, Smerdiakov pulls out the money that he stole from the old man. Grigorij's testimony happens to perfectly suit his plan. Smerdiakov interpreted Ivan's behavior as a mandate to kill the old man. Ivan, in fact, followed Smerdiakov's suggestion to get out of town. Basically, Smerdiakov believes that they had a deal: Ivan would get the inheritance, and Smerdiakov would keep the money he stole. However, now Smerdiakov does not want the money anymore and returns it to Ivan. Furthermore, Smerdiakov claims to have been converted to nihilism by Ivan's philosophy of life. Ivan swears that he never intended for Smerdiakov or anyone else to commit the murder and swears to turn Smerdiakov in to the police.
Ivan gets delirious. He has a vision of a devil that visits him and makes fun of his nihilism. Alyosha brings him the news that Smerdiakov hanged himself. Ivan, in pain, relates his nightmare to Alyosha. Alyosha feels that Ivan is fighting God in person, and that God is winning.
The trial becomes a show that draws the attention of all the gossipers. All the protagonists of the story are called as witnesses. Rakitin is discredited when Grushenka reveals that he is her cousin and has been taking money from her. Ivan insists on testifying despite his illness. He fully confesses Smerdiakov's crime and his own responsibility and returns the package with the money. However, a hysterical Katerina thinks that Ivan is accusing himself only to save his brother and only to save him because Ivan thinks that Katerina loves Dmitri, and so she produces the incriminating letter. She now hates Dmitri whom she believes always despised her for asking him the favor. Grushenka shouts in vain. Dmitri is sentenced to 20 years of hard labor.
Alyosha and Katerina discuss Ivan's plan to have Dmitri escape while en route to Siberia. Ivan is too sick to carry it out. Katerina then visits Dmitri and confesses that she hated him but never really thought he could be a killer.
Ilyusha dies of his illness. At the funeral Alyosha gives a moving speech to Kolya and the boys. There are 12 of them listening to his final sermon, just like the 12 apostles.