Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Dostoevski’s works are marked by an emotional intensity not found in many other writers, and this intensity is usually focused on themes of the utmost significance in theology and the individual’s relationship to God and humankind. His concern with these harrowing topics is obsessive and gives his work great power, although in long stretches many readers will find him emotionally draining.

There is little that is distinctive about Dostoevski’s style in the translation of “The Peasant Marey.” He uses the convention of the flashback to frame the most important part of his tale. The story of Marey comes back to him in a reverie, almost a dream. The point of view is consistently first person, giving the account immediacy but limiting the reader’s perceptions to what goes on in the narrator’s mind. Dostoevski carefully builds the mood of the piece through accounts of the weather. He explains immediately that “the air was warm, the sky was blue, the sun was high, warm, bright, but my soul was very gloomy.” This contrast between the weather and his spirits is effective, and he resorts to the weather again in describing his mood at the time he heard the cry of “Wolf.” He recalls it was “a dry bright day but rather cold and windy.” Besides describing the weather and noting the season, Dostoevski also develops the scene of his childhood experience with some attentive description of nature. He remembers, for example, collecting beetles and other insects, and he refers to his love of mushrooms and wild berries, as well as his fondness for the smell of dead leaves and birch wood in the open forest. All these touches contribute to the texture of his account and bring back the childhood experience vividly.