Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ivan Petrovitch

Ivan Petrovitch (ee-VAHN peh-TROH-vihch), the narrator, a young author. He has a selfless devotion to his friends; at a time when his own literary career is at a crux and he might be forgiven for indulging his own concerns, he immerses himself in the troubles of everyone around him. He becomes the universal confidant, and his is the common shoulder on which they cry. An orphan, he was taken in by the Ichmenyevs; he and Natasha had been reared together and fallen in love. Shortly before the main action of the novel, he had made a great success with his first novel and had become engaged to Natasha. The main action covers the period of Natasha’s love affair with Alyosha. Ivan never reproaches Natasha for her breach of affection and is only solicitous of her happiness. This novel apparently is his final work, a memoir he is writing from his sickbed, where, undone by the strains of all that happens, he is convinced that he will die.

Natalia “Natasha” Nikolaevna Ichmenyev

Natalia “Natasha” Nikolaevna Ichmenyev (nih-koh-LAH-ehv-nah ihch-MEH-nyehv), Nikolai Sergeyitch’s daughter, who is in love with Alyosha. She is a beautiful young woman, strong in her character, able to keep a calm understanding of herself and her situation, even when under the compulsions of her sometimes violent passions. Once engaged to Ivan, she has now fallen in love with the sincere but haphazard and weak Alyosha. Her love comes, perhaps, from her own excess of strength. She goes to live with him, thus making her social position forfeit and breaking her from her family, although she has no realistic hope of keeping his affections for long. It is only through the actions of the ever-generous Ivan that, having lost Alyosha, she is peacefully reunited with her family. Although she has this much of a happy ending, it is clear that she will live with her thwarted passion for a long time.

Alexei “Alyosha” Pyotrovitch Valkovsky

Alexei “Alyosha” Pyotrovitch Valkovsky (pyoh-

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Most of the novel’s characters are ruled by a conventional morality and a fierce sense of pride. Nikolai Ichmenyev is implacable in his adherence to high moral principle. Even Nellie, who has experienced the depths of degradation, proudly upholds her mother’s dictum that it is nobler to beg from strangers than to be beholden to acquaintances. When Natasha, like Nellie’s mother earlier, attempts to break with convention, the consequences are disastrous. Her intelligence and honesty are no match for the Prince’s philosophy of pure self-interest.

Alyosha’s naive, butterfly personality and his eagerness to please make him the perfect instrument for his father’s schemes. His breathless actions and his excited, ingenuous explanations to Natasha about the time he spends with Katerina are like those of an engaging young child. The rivalry of two intelligent women for the love of so weak a character would have stretched credulity to the breaking point if he had not been so persuasively drawn.

Fyodor Dostoevski works diligently to make Natasha’s relationship with Alyosha convincing. For example, Natasha attempts to analyze the quality of her love. “People say about him,” she tells Ivan, “that he has no will and that he’s not very clever. And that’s what I loved in him, more than anything else.” Nevertheless, she wonders if she would have loved him less if he had been “like other men.”

Alyosha’s behavior as a...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Fanger, Donald. Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism: A Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, 1967.

Jones, John. Dostoevsky, 1985.

Mochulsky, Konstantin. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, 1966. Translated by A. Minihan.

Wasiolek, Edward. Dostoevsky: The Major Fiction, 1964.

Woodhouse, C.M. Dostoevsky, 1974.