A Nasty Story Summary
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Start Your Free Trial

Download A Nasty Story Study Guide

Subscribe Now

A Nasty Story Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Actual State Councillor Pralinski, a forty-three-year-old man recently promoted to the rank of general in the civil service, is a bachelor from a good family. As the pampered son of a general, he was educated in an aristocratic establishment and is generally considered to be a gifted person. The third-person narrator calls him “a kind man and even a poet at heart,” one who is frequently overcome by painful moments of disillusionment. As the story opens on a winter evening in St. Petersburg, General Pralinski, while at a dinner party with two other generals, expresses his idealistic view that the privileged must have a love of humankind and must have consideration particularly toward their inferiors. This idea is in keeping with Pralinski’s satisfaction at being known as “a desperate liberal, which flattered him greatly.”

Leaving the dinner, Pralinski, who realizes that he is slightly drunk, begins to walk because his coach driver has disappeared. After going a short distance, Pralinski notes a wedding party taking place in a long, one-storied wooden house. When he inquires, he learns that this is the party for Porfiry Petrovitch Pseldonymov, a young clerk in his department. After briefly discussing with himself whether he should attend the party, he decides to do so. The narrator states that “he was being led astray by his evil star.”

Entering into this party of about thirty guests, Pralinski instantly becomes the center of attention, as he had foreseen. After an awkward, stunned silence, Pralinski is welcomed by the young groom, Pseldonymov, who does not know what to make of his presence. The situation is briefly saved by Akim Petrovitch Zubikov, the chief clerk in General Pralinski’s department. After Pralinski unsuccessfully tries to tell a humorous story, he is introduced to the bride. This seventeen-year-old girl, whose first name is never given, has a malicious look to her thin, pale face, a scraggy neck, and the body of a pullet. Her father describes her as having “seven devils.”

Pseldonymov’s mother, a very kind woman, makes the general at home by offering him a bottle of champagne, obviously intended only for the bride and groom. In his nervousness, the general consumes two bottles of the expensive champagne. By this time, the other guests return to normal, realizing that Pralinski is here only because he is drunk. As several young men begin to express themselves, Pralinski grows more uncomfortable. He manages to infuriate a young journalist, who also has had more than he is accustomed to drink.

Although he knows that he should leave before dinner, Pralinski allows himself to be persuaded to remain. Having never before drunk vodka, he drains “a huge wineglass of vodka.” After this, he is blindly drunk, and the narrator says, “From then on, events took their own course.” The bride’s mother appears, a spiteful-looking woman with an “irreconcilable hostility towards Pseldonymov’s mother.” At this time, Pralinski drunkenly decides to tell the guests some of his idealistic views, only to begin spitting on the table in his drunkenness. The young journalist can no longer contain his hatred, bursting out that the general has “disrupted everyone’s enjoyment” and insulting him openly. As the journalist is evicted from the party, General Pralinski passes out cold. It is now three o’clock in the morning.

At this point, the narrator explains what is really the “nasty” part of the story, as if the general’s embarrassment were not bad enough. Pseldonymov’s true story is presented. He and his mother are extremely poor, he suffers from a sketchy education, and she is forced to wash clothes for other people to support their miserable living conditions. Now Titular Councillor Mlekopitayev is presented, a man who was in some way indebted to Pseldonymov’s father. This Mlekopitayev, father of the bride, is “a vicious man”: pigheaded, a drunkard, a petty tyrant. He was “sure to be...

(The entire section is 1,015 words.)