(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Netochka begins her story with a brief account of her stepfather’s life, a narration, she explains, which is intended to help the reader understand her own story. Netochka is to learn of the short and disappointing career of her beloved stepfather much later, from a fellow musician known only as “B.” Netochka’s story begins with her earliest memories of living in a crowded garret with her stepfather and her ailing mother, who is too embittered to show her little daughter any affection. Yefimov is a talented, arrogant, but failed musician; he blames his lack of fame and success on his sick and ill-tempered wife. Closely observing everything around her, Netochka also lives in her imagination and fantasy, siding with her stepfather, who makes wild promises to her. The musician begs money from everyone to support his drinking habit. He even forces Netochka to give him the few kopecks with which she has been sent to the store. Yet Netochka loves him and tries hard to please him, and she fears her miserable mother, whose only sign of tenderness and affection toward her daughter is given shortly before she dies, when she calls her by a pet name.

The first part of Netochka’s memoir ends when her mother dies in such strange circumstances that the reader must suspect that she was murdered by her husband, though Netochka is too horrified and bewildered to grasp fully what is happening. The child and Yefimov rush out of the garret, he tricks her into going back to retrieve something, and she then sees him rushing away from her. Yefimov dies shortly thereafter in a fit of madness.

Prince Kh-—-y happens to be nearby when Netochka is running after her stepfather. The Prince...

(The entire section is 694 words.)