Definitions

expiative

The Insulted and Humiliated

The Insulted and Humiliated (better known in English as The Insulted and the Injured) by Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in 1861, is the trigger of the many tragic novels written by Dostoevsky that depict the harshness of human relations with a zest of blind kindness.

Plot introduction

Narrated by a young author, Vanya, who has just released his first novel which bears an obvious resemblance to Dostoevsky's own first novel, Poor Folk, it consists of two gradually converging subplots. One deals with Vanya's close friend and former love object, Natasha, who has left her family to live with her new lover, Alyosha. Alyosha is the saintly but dimwitted son of Prince Valkovsky, who hopes to gain financially by marrying Alyosha off to an heiress, Katya. Valkovsky's cruel machinations to break up Alyosha and Natasha make him one of the most memorable "predatory types" (a la Stavrogin in The Possessed) that Dostoevsky created. The other branch of the plot deals with the approximately 13-year old orphan Nellie, whom Vanya saves from an abusive household by taking her into his apartment, and whose deceased mother's story in some ways parallels that of Natasha. It's unusual to see a well-developed character as young as Nellie in a Dostoevsky novel, but Nellie may be one of his most moving creations, and she in particular shows the influence of Dickens (whom Dostoevsky is known to have read during the Siberian exile near the end of which this novel was conceived).

One of the most important themes throughout Dostoevsky's work is the expiative value of suffering, and The Insulted and Injured, with its tragically moving plot and characters, develops that theme.

Plot summary

Natalya leaves her parents' home and runs away with Aleyosha (prince Alexey) – the son of Prince Valkovsky who abuses her father. As a result of his pain, her father, Nikolai, curses her. The only friend that remains by Natalya's side is Ivan – her childhood friend who is deeply in love with her. Prince Valkovsky tries to destroy Alyosha's plans to marry Natalya, and wants to make him marry the rich princess Katerina. Alyosha is a childish young man who is easily manipulated by his father. Following his father's plan, Alyosha falls in love with Katerina. Eventually, Alyosha chooses Katerina over Natalya. In the meanwhile, Ivan picks up an orphan girl, Elena, and learns that her mother ran away from her father's (Smith) home with her sweetheart – Alyosha's father. Shortly after Elena was born, Prince Valkovsky abandoned her, took her money and the poor woman and her daughter came back to Smith asking for forgiveness. Elena's mother dies shortly before her father eventually agrees to forgive her. In attempt to make Nikolai (Natalya's father) forgive his daughter, Ivan persuades Nilokai and his wife to adopt Elena. By telling them her life story, Elena makes Nikolai's heart soften and he accepts Natalya. Shortly afterwards, Elena dies from epilepsy.

Characters in "The Insulted and Humiliated"

  • Ivan Petrovich – main protagonist
  • Nikolai Sergueych Ikhmenev – landlord of Ikhmenevka
  • Anna Andreyevna – Nikolai's wife
  • Natasha Nikolayevna – Nikolai's daughter
  • Mavra – Natasha's maid
  • Prince Valkovsky
  • Prince Alexey – Prince Valkovsky's son
  • Mr Smith
  • Elena (Nellie)– Mr Smith's grand daughter
  • Filipp Filippych Masloboyev – Ivan Petrovich's old acquaintance
  • Alexandra Semionovna – Filipp's wife
  • Katerina Fiodorovna – Prince Alexeï's future wife

External links

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