Netochka Nezvanova Summary
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Netochka Nezvanova Summary

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Netochka begins her story with a brief account of her stepfather’s life, a narration, she explains, which is intended to help the reader understand her own story. Netochka is to learn of the short and disappointing career of her beloved stepfather much later, from a fellow musician known only as “B.” Netochka’s story begins with her earliest memories of living in a crowded garret with her stepfather and her ailing mother, who is too embittered to show her little daughter any affection. Yefimov is a talented, arrogant, but failed musician; he blames his lack of fame and success on his sick and ill-tempered wife. Closely observing everything around her, Netochka also lives in her imagination and fantasy, siding with her stepfather, who makes wild promises to her. The musician begs money from everyone to support his drinking habit. He even forces Netochka to give him the few kopecks with which she has been sent to the store. Yet Netochka loves him and tries hard to please him, and she fears her miserable mother, whose only sign of tenderness and affection toward her daughter is given shortly before she dies, when she calls her by a pet name.

The first part of Netochka’s memoir ends when her mother dies in such strange circumstances that the reader must suspect that she was murdered by her husband, though Netochka is too horrified and bewildered to grasp fully what is happening. The child and Yefimov rush out of the garret, he tricks her into going back to retrieve something, and she then sees him rushing away from her. Yefimov dies shortly thereafter in a fit of madness.

Prince Kh-—-y happens to be nearby when Netochka is running after her stepfather. The Prince has long been interested in the troubled musician, has tried to help him, and, pitying the little girl, takes her into his home. The abrupt and extreme change of environment and the numerous shocks that she has experienced cause Netochka to fall ill. She recovers too slowly to be a satisfactory companion to Princess Katya, who abuses Netochka, tormenting and teasing her and even allowing her to suffer severe punishment for a misdeed that she herself actually committed. Gradually, however, the two girls become friends, and a strong relationship develops between them, so passionate that Katya’s mother, who has never liked Netochka, separates them. Soon afterward, the family moves to Moscow, and Netochka is sent to live with the Prince’s older daughter, Aleksandra.

The third and final part of the memoir concerns Netochka’s quiet and serene life, as she becomes devoted to the gentle and loving woman whose abrupt changes of mood, inordinate devotion to her husband, and evident misery puzzle the young girl. She...

(The entire section is 694 words.)