Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 344
Two characters monopolize the majority of the interactions in "White Nights": the unnamed narrator and Nastenka.
The narrator is a lonely bachelor who often takes to the streets of St. Petersburg for long evening walks. Dostoevsky paints him as a sensitive, fanciful man who yearns for acceptance from a woman. When the narrator meets Nastenka, he is overwhelmed by the profusion of emotions he feels for her.
Dostoevsky's narrator is also an idealist. He admits that he only finds one hour out of every day bearable: the hour when all his professional duties are finished at the end of the day. Similarly, he maintains that Nastenka represents the perfect woman, the one he has been looking for all of his life. Throughout the story, the narrator must try to reconcile his idealistic love for Nastenka with reality: Nastenka's apparent fondness for him was never an indication that she harbored romantic inclinations towards him.
In the story, Nastenka is the young woman the narrator falls in love with. Dostoevsky portrays her as the feminine version of the narrator. Like him, Nastenka is sensitive, fanciful, and idealistic. She believes that she can develop feelings of love for the narrator, despite her longing for her lover.
In the story, Nastenka wonders why she pines for her estranged lover. After all, he exhibits little of the narrator's saccharine goodness. During her interactions with the narrator, Nastenka veers from one emotion to the next. She feels it impossible to give up her fascination for her lover. In truth, his brooding character throws her into raptures, and she fancifully imagines that he harbors more tenderness than anyone gives him credit for. However, she also despairs that her lover will never return to her.
Meanwhile, the narrator tries to convince himself that he is content with Nastenka's ambivalent overtures. The truth about Nastenka is revealed, however, when she spots her lover on the street. Instead of hesitation, Nastenka rushes straight into her lover's arms. By all indications, Nastenka and the narrator manage to retain their idealistic natures as the story concludes.
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