Part Three, Chapter Four, Sections 2-4
by Dennis Abrams
“The Last Decision” “That Shatov would denounce them out people all believed; but that Pyotr Stepanovich was playing with them like pawns they likewise believed…they felt they had suddenly been caught like flies in the web of a huge spider; they were angry but quaking with fear.” Pyotr’s lack of Romanness. Pyotr had been thrown off his tracks, he was “stunned and crushed” by Stavrogin’s flight to St. Petersburg. Stavrogin had fled without seeing anyone — even his mother, and had not been ‘inconvenienced’ by the authorities. Pyotr could not, as he wished, go chasing after Stavrogin, he had Shatov to deal with, which would also ‘cement’ the fivesome, “‘I can’t let it go for nothing, it might come in handy,’ So I suppose he reasoned.'” While Stavrogin had lied to the fivesome about Shatov’s denouncement (he had heard of no such thing), “he was as sure of it as two times two.” Pyotr walking down the narrow brick (or plank) sidewalk, leaving no room for Liputin to anything other than lag behind or walk alongside him in the mud. Liputin’s rage and resentment, “Let Pyotr Stepanovich treat our people as he liked, but him?” His knowledge that Pyotr could ruin him. His hatred of Pyotr for the “haughtiness of his treatment.” “…if he could somehow have killed Pyotr Stepanovich now, before tomorrow, he would certainly have killed him.” Pyotr, much to Liputin’s dismay, stops in a tavern for a beefsteak. Pyotr’s silence, “It was possible for him to do both things at once — to eat with relish and to be deep in thought.” Pyotr presents Liputin with a new tract, and orders him to print it on Shatov’s printing press and distributed it throughout the winter. Liputin initially refuses, “”And yet take it you will. I’m acting on instructions from the central committee, and you must obey.” Liputin doubts the cause, contemplates leaving “I’ll turn and go back; if I don’t turn now, I’ll never go back,” but “he did not turn and did not go back.” The pair arrive at Filippov’s house, and to make sure Shatov doesn’t know they’re there, they climb through the fence after Pyotr removes a board, “This was that secret way by which Fedka used to get to Kirillov.” Kirillov, on his sofa, having tea, is informed that the next day will be the one when commits suicide after Pyotr dictates his suicide note. Should Pyotr be present when Kirillov kills himself? Pyotr to Kirillov: “I’ve never understood a thing about your theory, but I do know that you didn’t make it up for us, and so you’ll carry it out without us. I also know that it was not you who ate the idea, but the idea that ate you, and so you won’t put it off.” Pyotr starts to leave, but discovers the Fedka is in the kitchen, where he finds him, eating a light snack, and already “slightly tipsy.” Pyotr and Fedka have words. Fedka: “‘…here firstly you must understand that you’re at a noble visit with Mr. Kirillov, Alexei Nilych, whose boots are always there for you to polish, since he’s an educated mind before you, and you’re just — pfui! And he jauntily spat over his shoulder.” Does Fedka have his passport and money? Fedka accuses Pyotr of having deceived him from the very beginning, that he’d promised him “big money for innocent blood,” and has doubts “in my mind that you’re sending me to Petersburg to revenge your wickedness with whatever you’ve got on Mr. Stavrogin…And do you know what you deserve now by this sole point that in your depravity you’ve cased to believe in God himself, the true creator? The same thing as an idolater, and on the same lines as a Tartar or Mordovian.” Pyotr points out that Fedka has stripped icons, and is now preaching God, but, “…I only took the pearlies off, and how do you know, maybe the same moment my tear, too, was transformed before the crucible of the Almighty…” Fedka calls Pyotr a liar, and points out that “Mr. Stavrogin stands before you like on a ladder, and you’re yapping at him from below like a silly tyke, whereas he regards it as doing you a big honor even to spit on you from up there.” Pyotr, furious, threatens to turn Fedka over to the police, Fedka jumps to his feet, Pyotr pulls his gun, but before he can aim Fedka hits him in the face four times, knocking him unconscious to the floor and makes his escape. Coming to, Pyotr warns Kirillov not to run off like Stavrogin and points his revolver directly at his forehead before recovering his senses. Pyotr and Liputin leave, Pyotr’s parting words, “Well, know that he was drinking vodka for the last time in his life. I recommend that you remember that for your further considerations…” Liputin at home, considers running away, either before or after Shatov is killed. At eleven o’clock he learns that Fedka was found murdered, “found with his head smashed in, had by all tokens been robbed…” Police immediately suspect that his murderer was the Shpigulin man Fomka, who they believe had killed and set fire to the Lebyadkins. Liputin remembers Pyotr’s last words to him, and goes to the place fixed for meeting Shatov, with his passport in his pocket.
Darker and darker, more and more twisted.
1. Fedka the Convict, speaking the truth to Pyotr about his relationship with Stavrogin.
2. I’m guessing that there’s some significance to the fact that first Stavrogin gets slapped by Shatov, then Pyotr by Fedka…any guesses?
3. This line from Kirillov regarding his suicide for the ‘group,’ “And I’ll have to take all your vileness on myself,” playing up, of course, the Christ-symbolism.
And finally, this from Steiner, picking up where he left of yesterday, with Liza’s early morning self-destruction at the home of the murder victims:
“From that harrowing dawn until nightfall, Pyotr rushes about seeking to persuade everyone that he has played a noble part in these events. At two o’clock news of Stavrogin’s departure for St. Petersburg, flashes through the town. Five hours later, Pyotr meets with his cell of conspirators. No one has slept for two nights, and Dostoevsky admirably suggests the consequent blurring of reason. Once more this small town Robespierre cows his mutinous agents into obedience and compels upon them the necessity of murdering Shatov. but, inwardly, Pyotr is a hollow vessel; Stavrogin’s flight has destroyed the pivot of his cold, mad logic. Pyotr leaves with one of his followers, and the manner of his going is a symbolic image of his state of mind. Literally, in the language of Kenneth Burke, it is the ‘dancing of an attitude’:
‘Pyotr Stepanovich walked in the middle of the pavement, taking up the whole of it, utterly regardless of Liputin…He suddenly remembered how he had lately splashed through the mud to keep pace with Stavrogin, who had walked, as he was doing now, taking up the whole pavement. He recalled the whole scene, and rage choked him.’
Exasperated by Pyotr’s contempt, Liputin blurts out his belief that ‘instead of many hundreds of secret cells in Russia we are the only one that exists, and there is no network at all.’ But Pyotr’s tyranny has destroyed the will in lesser men and Liputin tags along like an angry dog.”
‘small town Robespierre…” Brilliant.
Part Three, Chapter Five, Sections One and Two