Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Makar Dievushkin, an impoverished government clerk, lives in an alcove in a rooming-house kitchen. Even though his accommodations are unpleasant, he consoles himself that he can see from his window the windows of Barbara Dobroselova, an unhappy young woman whom he supports in her shabby rooms across the street. Makar and Barbara carry on a written correspondence; occasionally, they walk together when Barbara feels well. Makar, poor but honorable, maintains the gravest dignity in his relationship and in his correspondence with Barbara. In their poverty and loneliness, each has warm sympathy and understanding for the other.
Among the boarders in the house where Makar lives is a public relations man of literary pretensions whose style Makar greatly admires. Makar also knows a former government clerk, Gorshkov, and his family of four. Gorshkov lost his job through a legal suit and is deeply in debt to the homely, shrewish landlady. Across the street, Barbara’s cousin Sasha appears for the purpose of resolving a difference that has long existed between the cousins. Sasha questions Barbara’s acceptance of Makar’s charity.
Meanwhile, Makar sends gifts to Barbara and becomes poorer with each passing day. He pawns his uniform and, in his poverty, becomes the butt of jokes. Barbara, protesting somewhat weakly his sacrifices for her, sends him, in return, her life story, which she has written. The story reveals that Barbara is the daughter of the...
(The entire section is 1143 words.)
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