Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In Netochka Nezvanova can be found the precursors of the memorable characters that people Dostoevski’s major works, such as Prestupleniye i nakazaniye (1866; Crime and Punishment, 1886) and Bratya Karamazovy (1879-1880; The Brothers Karamazov, 1912). In these later novels, he achieved much more control over his complex material and expressed with increasing clarity and depth the psychological and spiritual significance of his themes. Nevertheless, the potential for his later greatness is undoubtedly present in what must be recognized as an impressive indication of what was to come. As one critic has commented, “Netochka Nezvanova was the epilogue to Dostoevski’s literary youth,” but in it he established himself as “a portrayer of the dangerous path of the artist, creator, and seeker.”

One of the nineteenth century’s giants of Russian literature, Dostoevski has had no equal in his understanding of and compassion for the troubled, the weak, and the downtrodden; of men and women and especially children; and of the sources and nature of vice, as well as virtue. Although undeveloped and incomplete, Netochka Nezvanova is an important and valuable part of Dostoevski’s work. In itself, the novel must be recognized as a vivid, moving, and absorbing account of Russian society in the early part of the nineteenth century, as seen through the eyes of an appealing and unforgettable young girl.