The House of the Dead

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1: Chapter 9 Summary

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With Christmas approaching, the convicts are sent on a rare excursion to the bathhouse. Aleksandr describes Isay Fomich, the one Jewish man in the prison, who is particularly joyful at the prospect of a bath. Though Isay is somewhat ridiculous in his behavior, the others are fond of him and protect him. They do sometimes tease him, but they respect his habits of worship.

At the bathhouse, which is dark, crowded, and dirty, Petrov serves as an attendant to Aleksandr. He helps him undress, walks him into the room, and even washes him. Another man, Baklushin, brings them water. Aleksandr provides a detailed description of the men crowded into the bathhouse and the way they wash themselves.

After the bath, Aleksandr gives tea and vodka to Petrov, who leaves. Baklushin stays with him. They talk about the stage show that the men are going to put on for Christmas. This is sometimes forbidden, but it seems that this year it will be allowed.

Baklushin tells Aleksandr the story of the crime for which he was sent to prison. He was a soldier originally. Then he murdered the older man who was supposed to marry Baklushin’s lover, Louise. Entering the man’s house with a pistol when he and Louise (among others) were at dinner, he insisted on being offered hospitality. He threatened the older man and ultimately shot him. At first he was not caught and was able to be with Louise. Then the other witnesses gave evidence against him, and he was sent to trial. He would have received an ordinary sentence, but he shouted at his captain when the captain insulted him in court, which resulted in his being put in the “special category,” a life sentence for military officers.

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Part 1: Chapter 8 Summary

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Part 1: Chapter 10 Summary