The House of the Dead

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 2: Chapter 8 Summary

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During his early days in the prison, Aleksandr primarily associates with the other noblemen who lived there. Of the three other Russian noblemen, he speaks only with Akim Akimych, although the man often bores him. He also speaks with some of the Polish noblemen, whose names he anonymizes with dashes: “B–ski,” “M–cki.” There are eight of these, and they mostly treat the Russians with contempt, though they have appreciation for the Muslim mountain tribesmen and for Isay Fomich, the Jewish prisoner.

As noblemen, both Polish and Russian prisoners are treated somewhat differently than common people in the prison. Although Aleksandr belongs to the “second category,” the convicts who are under military supervision, he and the other noblemen are still treated with a bit more respect, specifically concerning corporal punishment. They would, he says, have been flogged if they had really done something wrong, but they are never flogged for no reason. And though they are generally not given a lighter workload, there are some exceptions to this. At one point Aleksandr and one of the Polish prisoners are allowed to serve as clerks in the engineer’s office, thanks to a beloved and respected lieutenant-colonel who was commander of the prison. They were eventually informed upon and had to stop, however.

One of the Polish prisoners, M–cki, is released after a petition from his mother. The major is forced to resign in disgrace, for reasons that Aleksandr does not explain.

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Part 2: Chapter 9 Summary