Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Arkady Makarovitch Dolgoruky

Arkady Makarovitch Dolgoruky (ahr-KAH-dee mah-KAH-roh-vihch dol-goh-REW-kee), the narrator and “raw youth” of the title. He is a boy of some talents but no social polish, and his attempts to strike a course for himself in life are hampered by his confusing social position and his unorthodox family situation. He is the legal son of a servant, the natural son of an aristocrat, and a volatile character, even by the standards of Russian literature. He is an exemplar of the dual nature, combining in himself a craggy, low selfishness with high principles and a warm, effusive love of others. The personality built on this cracked foundation is unformed and ill-directed. He is as likely to break out in shouted insults, or to remain haughtily silent, as to be gushingly affectionate. Arkady has a powerful talent for solitude. His ambition is to become a “Rothschild,” a man of immeasurable wealth and influence. Like his natural father, he is neither good nor bad but has a double nature and can be pulled both ways. Although he has this dual nature, he is good, because he understands that he is divided and must struggle to support his better self. The knowledge that he is divided, that he has no true strength over his own soul, gives him humility, which, in the eyes of the author, is close to true holiness.

Andrei Versilov

Andrei Versilov (ahn-DRAY vehr-SIH-lov), Arkady’s natural father, a nobleman. He is a figure in society, with a questionable reputation. In...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Fyodor Dostoevski’s novels tend to emphasize characters rather than plot; many of his works seem to be character studies with only a veneer of action to glue the various personalities into a coherent whole. At the beginning of A Raw Youth, Andrei Versilov is a complete mystery to his son and to the reader. As Arkady begins to unravel the complex personality of his father, the reader begins to comprehend the enigmatic Versilov.

The first clue to Versilov’s character is a childhood remembrance of Arkady’s, as he eavesdrops upon his father practicing lines from a play. The child adores the rehearsing father, who appears as a heroic figure revolting against the hypocrisy, anti-intellectualism, and gossip of high society. As Arkady grows older, however, these feelings are balanced by a long period of parental neglect and ostracism by schoolmates, causing the boy great emotional distress. As a result, he begins a period of solitary dreaming and growing hatred toward his father.

When Arkady rejoins his family as a young adult, he gradually becomes close to Versilov and his hatred is balanced by his worship of the good qualities in Versilov’s character. Eventually the hatred is extinguished as Arkady realizes that his father is also consumed by an idea: a paradise without God, an earthly utopia. The sympathy and respect which Arkady and the reader feel for Versilov at this point are indications of the author’s sympathy for the...

(The entire section is 588 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Jones, John. Dostoevsky, 1983.

Leatherbarrow, William J. Feodor Dostoevsky, 1981.

Mochulsky, K.V. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, 1967.

Rzhevsky, Nicholas. “The Adolescent: Structure and Ideology,” in Slavic and East European Review. XXVI (1982), pp. 27-42.

Wasiolek, Edward. Dostoevsky: The Major Fiction, 1964.