(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Icicle” is a structurally complex story. It is told by a first-person narrator to “Vasily,” who, the reader later learns, is a future incarnation of the narrator himself. In the story’s preface, the narrator urges Vasily to find and marry Natasha “before it is too late.” The narration that follows will explain this advice.

Shortly before New Year’s Eve, the narrator, who has yet to be identified, and Natasha are sitting outside discussing the unseasonably icy weather. During their conversation, the narrator attempts to push his memory as far as it will go and suddenly finds himself projected into what is apparently an Ice Age landscape. The unnerving experience lasts only a moment, but as the couple begin to walk home, they are approached by a large woman walking on the ice. The narrator fancies that he knows her life’s story and that in the near future she will slip and fall on the ice. His prediction comes true, and in the conversation that follows, his surmises about her past are confirmed as well.

Against his better judgment, the narrator is persuaded by Natasha to attend a New Year’s party at which her former husband, Boris, is also expected to be present. As the New Year approaches, the narrator compares the candles burning on the tree to a man’s life. He identifies with one particular candle, and as he whimsically attempts to guess how long he will live, he has a compelling vision of himself approaching death...

(The entire section is 591 words.)