(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

A Raw Youth is divided into three sections, each of which relates the events of three days. The narrator of the three sections is Arkady Dolgoruky; the narration takes the form of an autobiography unintended for readers.

The first section of the novel is in the form of a flashback as Arkady relates the events of the previous year. It contains a self-description of Arkady as a schoolboy, especially the evolution of his “idea”: to become a Rothschild. The acquisition of money, however, is not an end in itself; the power which accompanies money is the real goal. At this time Arkady makes his first real acquaintance with his father, Andrei Versilov.

Arkady is initially portrayed as resentful of his illegitimate birth, his father’s seeming indifference to the fate of his son, and the taunts of his peers concerning his low status on the social ladder. To make matters worse, he has heard rumors, confirmed by almost unimpeachable sources, that his father has behaved dishonorably on a number of occasions, thus bringing even more shame to the boy.

The section concludes, however, on a completely different note; Arkady realizes that his father not only is not guilty of the many misdeeds attributed to his name but also is a very good person with high ideals and a rigid code of honor. As the new image of his father takes shape in his mind, Arkady changes his attitude from hatred to boundless admiration for his father. Arkady discovers that his father was not the sire of an illegitimate child by the crippled daughter of Katerina Akhmakova, but only offered to marry the unfortunate girl out of love and compassion for her mother. Arkady also realizes that Versilov has not propositioned another girl, but was seeking to come to her aid during a period of extreme financial distress. Finally, Versilov’s voluntary surrender of an inheritance, won only after a lengthy court wrangle, convinces Arkady of the inherent goodness in his father. Arkady’s feelings of...

(The entire section is 813 words.)