Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Dostoevski skillfully organizes the story to place emphasis on his main theme. The focus at the opening is on Pralinski’s idealism; after scattering a number of references to it throughout the story, Dostoevski concludes with Pralinski’s sad realization that he has not lived up to his ideals. Dostoevski’s focus on Pralinski’s characterization also aids in presenting the idea because Pralinski often focuses on his introspective nature, his self-criticism, and his sense of shame.

Dostoevski also makes use of both revelations and the withholding of information in this story. Only after eighty percent of the story is finished is the “nasty” part of the story revealed: the miserable, arranged marriage of Pseldonymov. Pralinski’s part of the story probably will not strike most readers as nasty. He is weak, perhaps, in allowing himself to get drunk and to act foolishly. However, this may prove to be a rare mistake for him. On the other hand, this disastrous marriage is destined to last for many years, considering the youth of the couple. Although General Pralinski’s story parallels the Pseldonymov portion in its atmosphere of weakness and shame, it is the Pseldonymov marriage into the inhumane Mlekopitayev household that gives this story its title.