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Katusha, full name Katerina Maslova, is a young woman who was forced into prostitution due to unfortunate circumstances. She was an illegitimate child who was lucky enough to be taken in by two kind women who gave her an education. In her teens she worked as a maid, only to be seduced and impregnated by her employer's nephew, Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff. Losing the baby, her life went into a downward spiral, until she became a prostitute. At the beginning of the story, she is on trial for murdering an abusive client and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia.

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Prince Dmitri Ivanovitch Nekhludoff is the novel's central character. He feels guilty for what he did to Katusha and while serving on the jury during her trial, seeks to help her. He ends up learning much about the lower classes and social undesirables during this episode of his life, prompting a spiritual awakening in himself. He pursues Katusha to Siberia, wanting to right all the wrongs he heaped upon her by marrying her and rescuing her from her suffering. However, things do not turn out the way Dimitri plans.

Valdemar Símonson completes the love triangle. He is a political prisoner who falls for Katusha. Katusha ultimately marries him, feeling she has more in common with him than she does with the noble Dimitri.

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Prince Dmítri Ivánovitch Nekhlúdoff

Prince Dmítri Ivánovitch Nekhlúdoff (DMIH-tree ee-VAH-noh-vihch neh-KHLEW-dov), a gentleman. At a trial in which he is serving as a juror, he is astonished to see that the defendant is the falsely accused Katúsha Máslova, whom he had seduced in the past. When Katúsha is sentenced to hard labor in Siberia, his pity for her in the life to which he has driven her leads him to a period of self-examination, from which he emerges regarding his life as empty and degenerate and feeling a need to cleanse his soul. Determined to follow the prisoner to Siberia and marry her, he feels himself purged when her sentence is lightened to exile and she elects to stay with Valdemar Símonson, who loves her.

Katerína Mikháelovna Máslova

Katerína Mikháelovna Máslova (kah-teh-REE-nah mih-KHAH-ih-lohv-nah MAH-sloh-vah), called Katúsha (kah-TEW -shah), an illegitimate girl. Seduced at sixteen by Prince Dmítri Ivánovitch Nekhlúdoff, she becomes a prostitute and later is falsely accused of complicity in murder. At her...

(The entire section contains 630 words.)

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