“He got the upper hand with her only by yessing her with all his might from the very beginning in her dreams of influencing society and the ministry; by entering into her plans, devising them for her, acting through the crudest flattery, he entangled her from head to foot, and became as necessary to her as air.”

Part Three, Chapter Two, Sections 1-2
by Dennis Abrams

“The End of the Fete” The narrator goes to see Stepan Trofimovich, but “He did not receive me,” and would only speak to him through the door, telling him he is writing a letter to Darya Pavlovna. The narrator: “You think you smashed someone there? You didn’t smash anyone, but you yourself broke like an empty glass.” Is Stepan plotting something else? “I shall remind you of a long-standing thought of mine: that in our Russia a vast number of people occupy themselves with nothing else but attacking other people’s impracticality, fiercely and with special persistence, like flies in summer, accusing all and sundry of it, and excluding only themselves…let us part from each other as Karmazinov did from his public — that is, when he begged his former readers so very much to forget him…are you likely to remember a useless old man for long??…I do not wish you much happiness — it would bore you; I do not wish you trouble either…I will simply repeat: ‘Live more’ and try somehow not to be too bored…” Was Stepan vexed with the narrator? The narrator: “…this man who had apparently changed so little as compared to usual was certainly not disposed in that moment towards anything tragic or extraordinary. So I reasoned then, and, my God, how mistakenly! I had lost sight of two many things…” Stepan’s four pages letter to his one-time fiancee, Darya Pavlovna, apologizing, asking her not to forever think of him as “an ungrateful fool, boor, and egoist…” The narrator goes to Yulia Mikhailovna’s. “There I found myself witness to an outrageous scene: the poor woman was being deceived right to her face, and I could do nothing.” Yulia in tears, with eau de Cologne compresses, and a glass of water. “Beside her stood Pyotr Stepanovich, who was talking nonstop, and the prince…With tears and little cries she was reproaching Pyotr for his ‘apostasy.’ Pytor is “almost serious, as if preoccupied with something.” His excuse for not being at the reading? He had been sick with a headache and was vomiting at Gaganov’s. Yulia’s desire to be deceived. Would the ball still take place? Yulia will not agree to go, but secretly or not so secretly wanted Pyotr to compel her to go, “But he had no intention of leaving: he himself needed with all his might that the ball take place that day, and Yulia Mikhailovna absolutely had to be there…” Pyotr yells at Yulia, “You absolutely must make a scene? Vent your anger on someone? Go ahead, vent it on me…We messed it up with the reading; we’ll smooth it over with the ball…” The extraordinary impoliteness of Pyotr Stepanovich’s tone. The narroat rejects the gossip that there had been a liaison between Yulia and Pyotr, “There was not and could not have been anything of the sort. He got the upper hand with her only by yessing her with all his might from the beginning in her dreams of influencing society and the ministry…” Yulia sees the narrator, asks him to confirm that there was “a base, cunning conspiracy, to do all possible evil to me and to Andrei Antonovich…” The narrator agrees, and turns in his usher ribbons, “Forgive my heat, but I cannot act to the detriment of common sense and conviction.” Pyotr responds, “I think you all must have eaten something that has made you all delirious. In my opinion, nothing has happened, precisely nothing, that has never happened before and could not always have happened in this town here. What conspiracy? It came out ugly, stupid to the point of disgrace, but where in the conspiracy?” Pyotr blames Yulia for indulging them, protecting them, forgiving them right and left for all their pranks, despite his warnings. Liputin: Conspirator or did he come out with the aim of making everybody laugh and have fun? “…if I had taken part in any conspiracy — understand this at least! — it wouldn’t have ended just with Liputin! Was it Pyotr who arranged for Stepan to speak? Didn’t he try to stop it? Pyotr suggests sending two doctors to Stepan’s tomorrow to get a medical excuse for his speech. Was it Pyotr who foisted Karmazinov on Yulia? Will the Lembkes be replaced? Pyotr insists that the ball still take place, and, despite her fears, everyone will still come, “And what about all those dresses made, what about the girls’ costumes?” Yulia: “Infamy, disgrace — that’s what has happened. There was, I don’t know what, but something, after which it’s impossible for me to enter.” Pyotr responds, “Isn’t it rather the public, your venerable elders, your fathers of families, who are to blame? It was for them to restrain the scoundrels and wastrels — because all we have here are wastrels and scoundrels, nothing serious…” Pyotr adds that Yulia must attend to show that she’s not crushed, and walk in arm in arm with Andrei Antonovich. Pytor adds the news that after the reading, the marshal’s wife brought Lizaveta Nikolaevna and Mavriky Nikolaevich to the house of Liza’s mother, where there was a carriage waiting — Liza ran directly into the carriage, called out “Spare me” to Mavriky Nikolaevich and the carriage flew to Skovershniki, the home of Stavrogin — whether Stavrogin was in the carriage or his valet is still unknown. Pyotr says he knew nothing about what was going to happen, but the narrator blurts out, “You set it up, you scoundrel! You killed the whole morning on i t. You helped Stavrogin, you put her into it…you, you, you! Yulia Mikhailovna, he is your enemy, he will ruin you too! Beware! the narrator runs out of the house and notes that “I had guessed perfectly: it had all happened almost exactly the way I said, as turned out afterwards.” The obviously false way in which Pyotr reported the news. “The catastrophe struck me to the very heart. It pained me almost to tears.” Liza was now “ruined, utterly ruined,” but the narrator was “decidedly unable to comprehend the psychological side of the matter.” The narrator attempts to see Darya but is not received, visits Shatov, is told to go to Liputin, but does not, and decides to go to the ball after 9:00, “to have a look at Yulia Mikhailovna, if only from afar.”

Fallout from the fete…Pyotr covering his ass and convincing Yulia to continue with the second part, and then…the bombshell. I appreciate the way Pyotr played the revelation, and the narrator admitting that he didn’t understand the psychology behind her action, especially given that just the day before, she had learned that Stavrogin was indeed married to Marya Timofeevna. I’m anxiously anticipating how this is all going to play out, although, obviously, it’s not going to be pretty.

And finally, I’d like to start sharing with you the essay “Dostoevsky’s The Devils: The Role of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky, by R.M. Davison:

“Discussion of this subject might seem to be unnecessary since Dostoevsky himself tells us in his notebooks why Stepan Trofimovich is in the novel: to bring about a meeting between the two generations of Westernizers, ‘the pure ones and the nihilists.’ This may well be true, but we can still usefully examine the way Dostoevsky uses Stepan Trofimovich, and certain aspects of his character deserve scrutiny… [Dostoevsky] wrote, rather confusingly, that Stepan Trofimovich was ‘secondary’ but ‘the cornerstone.’ The confusion can be reduced if we judge that Stepan Trofimovich’s personal ideological contribution puts him in most respects in the second rank of characters, whereas his circle is ‘both ideological and structurally the source of the public events that follow.

In arguing that our interest in the novel flags only when Stepan Trofimovich is off the stage, Carr and Simmons go too far, but at least they do not underrate him. It is easy to underrate him because frequently he is presented through the gossiping and malicious narrator who may count himself as Stepan Trofimovich’s friend but is not notably sympathetic to him. On other occasions, the image comes to us through the distorting vision of Mrs. Stavrogin whose sense of porpoition is, to say the least, unusual. When, for instance, she announces that Stepan Trofimovich is a man of ‘low habits’ she is probably agitated and outraged by nothing more reprehensible than his tendency to sputter when he talks. However, it is impossible to overlook that it is Stepan Trofimovich who unmasks the generation of the sons — a central proposition of the novel — and ‘two negative ideas…place him firmly in the center of the novel as the author’s mouthpiece.’ these ideas concern the Gadarene swine and the angel of Laodicea. On the positive side How has noted that it is Stepan Trofimovich ‘who is allowed the most honorable and heroic end.’

More to come…

Thursday’s Reading:

Part Three, Chapter Two, Section Three


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