Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time

By Joseph Frank; Mary Petrusewicz | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 44

History and Myth in Demons

Dostoevsky had in the past created fictional characters who, as the embodiment of certain social-cultural ideas and attitudes, could be considered “historical” in a broad sense, but not until Demons (Besy) had he ever based himself on actual events that were a matter of public knowledge. Obviously, his novel is not limited to the actual, rather insignificant dimensions of the Nechaev affair. If this had been the case, “the facts” would have given him only a rather pitiful tale of a distressing event that had occurred among a handful of students and hangerson in the student milieu, who had been duped by a revolutionary zealot into the useless murder of an innocent victim. Rather, this incident furnished only the nucleus of Dostoevsky's political plot, and he enlarged and magnified it, according to the technique of his “fantastic realism,” into a full-blown dramatization of the far more ambitious tactics and aims set down in the writings of Nechaev and his supporters.

What happens in Demons is thus myth (the imaginary amplification of the real) and not history, art and not literal truth—just as Raskolnikov may be considered a “myth” engendered by the “immoderate Nihilism” of Pisarev and Zaitsev. Much of what he learned from the documents at his disposal, in any case, hardly taught him anything new, for he could draw on recollections from his own days as a revolutionary conspirator when his secret group had worked in the shadows to manipulate the larger Petrashevsky Circle. Dostoevsky thus remained faithful to the spirit, if not the letter, of what his documentation revealed about the Nechaev affair.

It may seem, at first sight, as if this monster of deviousness, Peter Verkhovensky—who resembles Shakespeare's Iago as a destructive inciter of evil in others— would be light-years removed from any conceivable image of a nineteenthcentury Russian revolutionary or of the real Nechaev in particular. Yet the actions taken by Peter Verkhovensky with such masterful relish are exactly the same ones that Nechaev accomplished, or would have accomplished had it been within his power to turn desires into deeds.

An indelibly vivid portrait of Nechaev at work is sketched in a letter we are

-626-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 960

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.