The House of the Dead

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1: Chapter 11 Summary

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On the third day of Christmas, the stage show is first performed. Aleksandr is not sure whether the major knows about the show or not, but it is allowed to go on. The senior duty sergeant understands that it can easily be stopped if necessary.

Proudly, the men discuss how excellent the show will be. Aleksandr outlines the pieces that will make up the show and the actors involved. He has not heard of the second one, Kedril the Glutton, which leads him to reflect on the great tradition of Russian folk drama and how it merits greater study and wider exposure in the world.

In the military barracks, the men are densely packed in to see the show. Aleksandr describes the setup in great detail, including the richly painted curtain the men have created. Petrov leads Aleksandr to one of the best seats, which he has been granted because he is a nobleman who can give them a significant amount of money. He contemplates the convicts’ sense of order in the world and the dignity of the Russian common people, which he says the educated people should take a lesson from.

There is music before the show, and the men are quiet and reverent as it is played. Once the show begins, the men laugh and react with delight. Aleksandr admires Baklushin’s acting. For each portion of the show, he explains the plot and evaluates the skills of the actors. Throughout the show, the audience is lively, with all the men greatly enjoying themselves. Afterward, the men go peacefully home, with no quarreling. In the night, Aleksandr awakes with a strong sense of his imprisonment, brought home to him by the rare freedom of seeing the show.

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Part 1: Chapter 10 Summary

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Part 2: Chapter 1 Summary