The House of the Dead

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 2: Chapter 1 Summary

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Soon after Christmas, Aleksandr is taken ill and sent to the military hospital where the convicts receive treatment. He explains the circumstances under which convicts are admitted there and the living conditions within the hospital. The clothing and bedding they receive are filthy, as are the other items in the room.

Just as has happened in the prison itself, Aleksandr immediately encounters someone who designates himself to serve the supposedly helpless nobleman—in this case, a man named Chekunov. Aleksandr finds this tendency annoying but feels powerless to reject it. Curious, he begins to examine the other men in the prison, categorizing them according to their illnesses and symptoms.

A man comes in who has just been beaten with rods. Depending on the circumstances of their crime, some such men are accorded great respect when they enter the hospital. From experience, the other men know how to treat these wounds, and they do so.

Aleksandr is disgusted by the effects of the regulations concerning toilet use. However, he is careful to state that he does not blame the doctors, who tend to be sympathetic, for this problem. It is the responsibility of the guards, who enact this arbitrary punishment, even though, Aleksandr says, there is no point in punishing a man who is already sick. Similarly, he finds it odd that the patients are required to keep on their prison fetters, even though they have nowhere to go and the fetters are bad for their recovery. Reflecting on this reminds him of a man who died in the hospital while he was there. Only after the man’s death were his fetters removed.

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Part 2: Chapter 2 Summary