“Only one thing puzzles me: you want to build our bridge, and at the same time you declare yourself for the principle of universal destruction.”

Part One, Chapter Two, Sections 7-9; Chapter Three, Sections 1-4
by Dennis Abrams

“Prince Harry, Matchmaking” conclusion. Varvara’s love for Darya, “Praskovya Ivanovna had justly called Darya Pavlovna her favorite.” Darya’s education, Stepan as tutor, Stepan as tutor to Liza, “He fell in love with the lovely child and told her some sort of poetic tales about the order of the world, the earth, the history of mankind.” Liza’s imitations of Stepan. When Darya turned seventeen, Stepan is struck by her comeliness, “and in the end suggested that he give her a serious and extensive course in the history of Russian literature.” Varvara arrives to tell Stepan the news of his upcoming nuptials. His reluctance, Varvara’s insistence. Stepan faints. Varvara gives him a day to “think” about it, “Stay home, and if anything happens, let me know, even during the night. Don’t write letters, I won’t read them. Tomorrow at this time I will come myself, alone, for a final answer, and I hope it will be satisfactory.” But, “Of course, the next day he accepted; and he could not have done otherwise…” Stepan Trofimovich’s estate for which he was merely the trustee for his son, the income he pocketed, the timber sold in secret. The estate was originally worth between thirteen and fourteen thousand, but now thanks to Stepan it’s worth less than five, and his son wants him to arrange the sale — hence Stepan’s agreement to marry Darya. Rumors about his son Petrusha — he had been hanging around St. Petersburg, then had “taken part in the composing of some anonymous tract and was implicated in the case” then had shown up in Geneva — had he been forced to flee? Petrusha was now in the south of Russia on some “private but important mission for something…” Stepan weeps to the narrator about the nuptials. “Next morning he expertly knotted his tie, dressed with care, and went frequently to look at himself in the mirror. He sprayed perfume on his handkerchief — just a tiny bit, by the way — and then, as soon as he caught sight of Varvara Petrovna through the window, he quickly took another handkerchief and hid the perfumed one under the perfume.” Varvara’s pleasure at his consent; Varvara takes charge of the wedding. Varvara tells Stepan there’s still a possibility that nothing will take place. Stepan worried what they’ll say at the club, and what Liputin will say. Stepan’s sacrifice.

“Someone Else’s Sins” A week went by. Stepan’s uncertainty as to whether he was engaged or not. “And yet all of it, all this rudeness and uncertainty, was nothing compared with his chief care. This care tormented him greatly, relentlessly; he kept losing weight over it, and his spirits declined. It was something he was ashamed of most of all, and which he by no means wished to speak about even with me…” Stepan’s need for Anton Lavrentevich (the narrator); the narrator’s wounded pride that Stepan didn’t tell his secret; his guess of what the secret was. Stepan’s belief that Varvara had changed. Stepan’s unwillingness to visit the Drozdovs, his rapturous memories of Liza, “He hoped to find some extraordinary being in Lizaveta Nikolaevna.” Anton’s desire to be introduced and recommended to her. Anton sees her riding in the street with “her so-called relative, a handsome officer.” The “group” had been notified that Stepan would be out of circulation for a bit, due to some urgent work he had to conclude. The narrator’s brief meeting with Liputin, his dislike, “Though I could not stand him, I confess he had a gift for making one listen to him, especially when he was very angry about something.” Stepan’s concern that Liputin “knows.” “…I am convinced that he not only knows all about our position in all its details, but also knows something beyond that, something you and I do not know yet, and perhaps will never know, or will find out only when it’s already too late, when there will be no turning back!…” One week after Stepan agrees to be engaged, the narrator has an amusing encounter with the writer Karmazinov. (Based on Turgenev, he was once loved for his novellas and stories, but has since fallen somewhat out of fashion. “…all these gentleman talents of the average sort, who are usually taken almost for geniuses in their lifetime, not only vanish from people’s memory almost without a trace and somehow suddenly when they die, but it happens that even in their lifetime, as soon as a new generation grow up to replace the one in whose time they were active — they are forgotten and scorned by everyone inconceivably quickly.” Varvara’s deep concern that Karmazinov will forget to pay her a call. Stepan’s red tie. Stepan informs the narrator that he is capable of walking out the gate, “Oh, you do not believe that I can find enough magnanimity in myself to be able to end my life as a tutor in some merchant’s house, or die of hunger in a ditch!” Anton refuses to answer the question. A note from Varvara telling Stepan to “Stay home,” he starts to leave but he hears the sound of footsteps in the hallway, “That’s Liputin, and I am a lost man!” Liputin enters, bringing with him a visitor, “I make so bold as to break in upon your seclusion. Mr. Kirillov, a remarkable structural engineer. And the main thing is that he knows your boy…” “He was still a young man, about twenty-seven years old, decently dressed, trim and lean, dark-haired, with a pale face of a somewhat muddy tinge and black, lusterless eyes.” Liputin was placed as how frightened Stepan was. Kirillov is staying at Filippov’s house, where Shatov is also living. Kirillov does not know the Russian people. According to Liputin, Kirilov, “…even rejects morality itself outright, and holds to the newest principle of universal destruction for the sake of good final goals. He’s already demanding more than a hundred million heads in order to establish common sense in Europe, much more than was demanded at the last peace congress.” Kirillov: “I can’t stand reasoning…I never want to reason…” Stepan: “Only one thing puzzles me: you want to build our bridge, and at the same time you declare yourself for the principle of universal destruction.” Kirillov laughs.


A couple of questions for the group:

1. Stepan’s “secret”: His feelings for Varvara or something else?

2. Any guesses as why Stepan cried out “I’m a lost man” when he heard that Liputin was coming? (I’m not sure if I’m missing something or this is something still be to be revealed…)

And finally, I thought this paragraph, of Varvara’s plans for Stepan’s wedding was pretty much perfect:

“However, there’s no need to rush thing,” she added, examining the knot of his white tie, “say nothing for the time being, and I will say nothing. It will soon be your birthday; I will come to see you with her. Prepare an evening tea and, please, no wine or appetizers; however, I’ll see to everything myself. Invite your friends — you and I will make the selection, however. You may have a talk with her the day before if need be, and during your evening we will not really make an announcement or some sort of betrothal, but simply hint or let it be known without any solemnity. And then in two weeks or so you’ll be married, with as little noise as possible…You might even go away for a while, right after the ceremony, let’s say to Moscow, for instance. Perhaps I’ll go with you as well…And above all, say nothing till then.”

There’s no need to rush…but the marriage should take place within two weeks. Prepare an evening tea…but I’ll see to everything myself. Invite your friends…but I have the right of approval…I might go with you to Moscow…It’s just great.

Monday’s Reading:

Part One, Chapter Three, Sections 5-7


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2 Responses to “Only one thing puzzles me: you want to build our bridge, and at the same time you declare yourself for the principle of universal destruction.”

  1. Ken Thompson says:

    You do an excellent job of summarizing these chapters, really draws me into the story.

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