This is one of Dostoevsky’s lesser known novels, which is a shame because it is very good – and a bit easier to get through in comparison to Crime and Punishment and The Idiot.
Most significant of the Russian novelist's early stories (1846) offers a straight-faced treatment of a hallucinatory theme. Golyadkin senior is a powerless target of persecution by Golyadkin junior, his double in almost every respect. Familiar Dostoyevskan themes of helplessness, victimization, scandal — beautifully handled in this small…
The story is narrated by Vanya, an aspiring author and centres around two main storylines. On one side you have Natasha and Alyosha – who have ran away together. On the otherside you have Nelly – a young orphan Vanya saves from prostitutism.
In the middle of these storylines is the absolutely horrible Prince Valkovsky, Alyosha’s father, who manipulates and humiliates people all for money and seemingly his own amusement.
Alyosha is an absolute idiot, a first class moron. In the book he is described as being innocent like a child, without malice or guile. He is absolutely unable to lie or hide anything – even if it is to effuse to Natasha about his new found love Katya, to her face.
Vanya is a very likeable character. He is kind and compassionate and thinks of others before himself. He sees an old man fall ill and then die and takes the time and money to arrange his funeral and seek out his relatives. Upon finding the granddaughter Nelly, he takes her in and tries to save her from depravity.
Natasha on the other hand runs off with Alyosha who she knows is a first class idiot but loves out of pity. She is so weak. Vanya, who is so good and kind loves her honestly. And she uses him and expects him to always be there to pick up the pieces all the time.