(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

A student at the St. Petersburg University, Razumov, while not talkative or gregarious, is generally respected by the other students. His silences are attributed to profundity of thought, and his behavior inspires confidence and good opinion. Absorbed in his studies, Razumov remains largely indifferent to the impression he makes on his fellow students. He dreams of winning scholarly honors, and he has no wish to become involved in the revolutionary activities that occupy the minds of such acquaintances as Victor Haldin, a youth in whose company he occasionally spends some time. Razumov’s mother is dead; his father, Prince K——, acknowledges his illegitimate son only to the extent of sending him money secretly, through an intermediary. As a result, the unspent feeling that Razumov is unable to direct toward parents or toward family finds its way into other channels. He lavishes much of it on his country and feels, in his loneliness, that if he were not a Russian, he would not be anything.

The pattern of Razumov’s life is abruptly altered by a strange turn of circumstances. On a snowy morning in St. Petersburg, a sensational event occurs—a political terrorist assassinates a prominent government official and then escapes. An hour or two later, the unsuspecting Razumov returns to his apartment to find a visitor awaiting him. The guest is Victor Haldin. Presuming on his casual acquaintance with Razumov, Haldin selects the latter’s quarters as a place of temporary refuge. When pressed for an explanation, he confesses that he is the killer sought by the police. He asks Razumov to help him in making his escape from the city.

Razumov is dismayed and knows he will be compromised and ruined by Haldin’s visit if it ever becomes known. He goes, nevertheless, in search of...

(The entire section is 734 words.)