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Great Short Works Summary & Study Guide Description
Great Short Works Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
Semyon Ivanovitch Prohartchinappears in Mr. Prohartchin
This is one of the main characters of the first stories. In the story he is an old man. The story is about his final days. He is ill during this time. He has been 'retired' or otherwise badly disposed towards many people. He was in the military, but it is pointed out that he was of low rank. What his rank was is not specified. He suffers alone for some time, then behaves rather strangely and desperately. Once he does a number of others surround him and show that they care. Essentially, they had forgotten all about him when he had not asserted his needs, but they not really intentionally neglected him; it was closer to the truth to observe that they not even realized he had need of them.
Semyon is a rather disgruntled figure. He is typically very quiet, except when he is rather harsh towards young people, including young men. The majority of his social contact occurs by being at home: he lives in a boarding house - one well known form of shared housing there in Russia in the 1800s. He likes to call the young men 'puppies' as part of his reactions and corrections of them.
Semyon is known to be on excellent terms with the landlady and to pay far less rent than the others. He is very vocal about the fact that he is financially poor. It also shows in his eating habits.
Semyon is known to have one friend who is a drunkard.
Semyon dies during the story after a fierce fever and while suffering from delusions and even hallucinations. After he has died it turns out that he had somehow managed to save up over 2,000 roubles. Within the context of that environment, this is viewed as a lot of money although in other contexts it would not be.
Ustinya Fyodorovnaappears in Mr. Prohartchin
This is the landlady in the story. She is a very important figure. She runs a boarding house. She harbors a number of male lodgers. Nowhere in the story is it written that she only takes in male lodgers, but it is suggested that she does. It is made clear that as the boarders are also respectable gentlemen she is entirely safe and everyone behaves with proper decorum and propriety. More bluntly stated, she is not romantically involved with any of them nor do they harass her in any effort to make it so that she is.
That being clear, the lady is also known to have favorites. Mr. Prohartchin is one of her favorites. This is shown in two major ways during the story. She lets him stay for less than what she charges the others. The other is that they actually move together. When she expands her business to a larger house with more numerous lodgers, Mr. Prohartchin is one of the tenants at both locations even thous he is far from the best paying. Dostoevsky makes it clear that those whom she does not strongly favor she would not permit to be around if they did not help her with money.
The position of women in Russian society has quite a history, and its current state shows in Dostoevsky's work. The landlady works in one of those fields that is open to women in Russia during the 1800s. She is not married. Everyone views her with respect.
Drunken cadgerappears in Mr. Prohartchin
This man appears multiple times in the story. He is a strange friend of Mr. Prohartchin's, and is obviously socially defined by his all-too frequent drunken condition. He seems to have had some role in something that isn't entirely ethical in the story but the details of this remain hidden. When it is realized that Mr. Prohartchin is actually dying, the drunken cadger is one of the people who is found and brought to him. He is permitted to spend the night as a guest because of his intimacy with the protagonist.
Ordynovappears in The Landlady
Ordynov is the young man who is the main character is the story The Landlady. He is a Russian man in St. Petersburg. He does not have much money, and is single, so he opts for shared housing. He kept the same address for some time, but when his landlady leaves St. Petersburg he moves. He moves into a very small place that already has: an old German, a young woman - apparently his daughter, and an aged Russian lady who is surviving as a cheap servant to the old German.
Yaroslav Ilyitchappears in The Landlady
This is an important second character in the story. He is a young man who knows both Murin, and Ordynov. He spends time with all of these characters in the story.
Murinappears in The Landlady
This is Katerina's father and husband. It is quite strange because while he is actually her father, he never held the social role of father in her life as she had remained with her mother and mother's husband. Until she was a young woman, she had believed that her stepfather was her real father. As such, she did not relate to Murin after the manner of a father, ever.
Murin was a Tatar and a professional crook. He was apparently both a thief and a murderer. Fortunately, he was no rapist, but he was also a seducer, with no aversion to incest, even with his own daughter. In fact, he comes into custody of his daughter when she has blossomed into young womanhood, and he cuts a deal with her. He accepts that they won't have sexual relations because he isn't willing to force himself on her, but he wants her anyways and offers to take her away with him. She chooses to run off with him, instead of getting her father to get rid of him.
He learns that his young wife, who is his mostly grown daughter is tempted to run off with or to have romances with other men - usually respectable gentlemen her own age. He is adept at thwarting these attempts, and tolerant of these tendencies up to a point. He is often absent from her but also often with her.
When he grows old, he is ever more reliant upon her loving care, despite the lack of sex life. He is very set upon keeping her. He makes this clear to the St. Petersburg Russian Ordynov, who is yet another of these young men her own age with whom she has some kind of affair. As has become his custom, Murin tolerates this up to a point, from love and understanding of his daughter-wife Katerina, and then gets rid of the young man.
His brigand colleagues appear repeatedly but are not ever present. They lie to explain his financial situation when they are amongst perfectly respectable people; people who are not professional criminals.
Ordynov aka Vassily Mihalitchappears in The Landlady
This young man is the main character in The Landlady. The story is no written entirely nor exclusively from his point of view, but it does follow him as the main character. He is characterized mainly as young and heterosexual and rather poor, at least in the beginning part of the story. At the same time, it is presumed that there is nothing 'wrong' with him.
Osip Mihalitchappears in Polzunkov
This man is a story teller. The narrator also calls him 'a rag,' meaning that he will do for others, anything that is needed rather indiscriminately.
Arkady Ivanovitch Nefedevitchappears in A Faint Heart
This is one of the main protagonists in this story. He is a young Russian man, with a low rank in the military. He has a best friend and there is a woman who he falls in love with during the story.
Vasya Shumkovappears in A Faint Heart
This is a main character in the story A Faint Heart. He has Akrady Ivanovitch Nefedevitch for a best friend of the same gender kind. He is a Russian, and a young man. He suffers disillusionment over the course of this story.
Madame Lerouxappears in A Faint Heart
This is a lady who runs a shop and sells the young men a cap. She is treated with respect, admiration and affection. She is a bit doting, and kisses on of the young men, but in a manner that is viewed as being within reason for their relationship.
Lizankaappears in A Faint Heart
This is a young woman who has the affections of two men. The challenge is caused by the fact that the two men are best friends to one another. One of them is called Vasya. He has been welcomed into the family and accepted as a suitor. She has gone so far as to agree to marry him. He invites her to meet his best friend, Arkady. Arkady is smitten and falls for her immediately. She is central in an indirect way to the story. The dismay that results from the efforts of all three to come to terms with this reality leads her to be forced to marry another, which, by the end of the story, she has done.
Stepan Nikoforovitchappears in An Unpleasant Predicament
This is a general; he is the man throwing a party in the story. He is a Russian who has been involved in creating and implementing some government reforms. These reforms are discussed within the context of a small group of close friends.
Akim Petrovichappears in An Unpleasant Predicament
Akim Petrovich is a "Petersburg Russian" rather than a "regular Russian." This means that he is very focused on what he can buy from the local shops as a benefit of his pay and his job. He refers to the newspaper as the "Academic News" and harbors virtually no interest in what is going on in Russia at large. He also uses the German word Fruhstuck rather than the Russian term for breakfast. These qualities distinguish him from regular Russians whether they are in St. Petersburg or not. The St. Petersburg Russian is not interested in events outside of St. Petersburg.
Semyon Ardalyonovitchappears in Bobok
This is the first character introduced into this story. He engages in conversation with a friend of his, who he wishes would sober up. They begin to converse about professional writing. Semyon tells his friend a great deal.
Ivan Ivanovitchappears in Bobok
This man is a drunkard. He is also a friend of Semyon Ardalyonovitch. His name is used by Dostoevsky more than once. It is not clear whether this is ever the same man or not, or if Dostoevsky has created a kind of stereotype for the purposes of Russian 19th century literature.
Patron Nikolaevitchappears in Bobok
This man is a philosopher, local to St. Petersbug. He appears in the story during a funeral celebration of a distant relative that Ivan Ivanovitch has found and attended in order to be socially included by others.
Lukeryaappears in A Gentle Spirit
This is the household servant of the pawnbroker and his wife. She has a very minor but steadily important role in the story. At the end of it, after the pawnbroker loses his wife he asserts repeatedly that he will not let Lukerya go. This is more a testament to his acknowledgment of the importance of the personal connection over and above her functional role as his servant.
Mephistopholesappears in A Gentle Spirit
Though God goes without much of a mention on this occasion, his highest level subordinate and rival is directly mentioned. He comes up along with a discussion of Faust. The question of ethics in relation to the belief in God or in atheism is mutely brought up.
Platon Nikolaevitchappears in Bobok
This man is described as being a philosopher and a scientist in the story. He is rather socially prominent. He is an example of some of the best that St. Petersburg Russia has to offer in the 19th century.
Nastenkaappears in White Nights
This is a main character in the story. She is in her late teens when the story begins. Part of her background is that she is an orphan. She has something of a romance of some kind with another character in the story but it is on the border of something. One day they do press one another's hands, but another day they don't. In this sense, they are as furtive as very young or otherwise extremely inexperienced people in the art of love.
Matronaappears in White Nights
This is another of the important female characters in the story. She is cited as receiving admonitions in some cases, and endearing encouragements at other times. She is the household servant of the main male character.
Elena Ivanovnaappears in The Crocodile
This is one of the main characters in this story. She is married to the man who ends up inside the crocodile. This was actually a provoked attack by the crocodile. She is noted as being legitimately concerned about the security of her husband's salary, as this is the main source of her income. She is viewed as being an attractive woman. She is not particularly pleased when another character suggests that she go ahead and climb into the crocodile in order to be together with her husband while he goes through this. She does not care, but she is evidently not completely 'mad for him.' If she were, she would probably cast aside common sense and willingly climb into the crocodile so that they would be united in meeting their fate. Still, she is portrayed as having genuine compassion for him although she has her own interests well in mind.
Ivan Matveitchappears in The Crocodile
This is the name of the man who ends up inside the crocodile. Apparently, he teased the creature and then was suddenly grabbed and eaten. However, he has strangely survived and is in fact able to chat with the others from inside the beast. He assures them that his digestion will come slowly as it has a hollow interior and that there is room for another person or two in there with him including his wife and one of his best friends.
Godappears in Another Man's Wife, or the Husband Under the Bed
This being is most famed for being the Creator of the Universe, which is why there is some hope that this is not simply 'the Big Bang' of the physicists, although that would explain a lot. Most loved for being benevolent to mankind and most feared for being angry and regretful towards humanity, this entity is referred to manly as an exclamatory during the chapter, as in "Oh my God!" (p. 255).
Glafira Petrovnaappears in Another Man's Wife or the Husband Under the Bed
This is the main wife having the extramarital affairs in this short story. There is another wife who is having an affair but Glafira only meets her when he bursts into her home in a passionate search for Glafira and ends up tucked under a bed along with the other woman's other lover hiding - on the basis of some bizarre instinct, from the other woman's husband. She does actually have extramarital affairs, but is somehow also able to remain at least reasonably sincerely devoted to her husband. It is not clear whether his and her jealousies drive the relentless affairs or whether it is more caused by her naivete about the true nature of men. At one point some man, one of her lovers, exclaims, "Glafira! Where are your vows?"
This section contains 2,670 words
(approx. 7 pages at 400 words per page)