Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Demons: Main Character

  1. #1
    The Brain Man mea505's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Ocala, Florida
    Posts
    157

    Demons: Main Character

    This information is very useful for those who may be interested and reading the book, "Demons." It explains the main character of the novel and a brief synopsis of his actions throughout the text:

    Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin is the main character of the novel. A complex figure, he has many anti-social traits that mark him as a manipulative psychopathic personality. He attracts both the best and worst characters in the novel who are fascinated by him. He inspires both good and evil. In a stirring and originally censored chapter, he confesses he is a pedophile and refuses to repent. At the very end of the novel, he commits suicide.

    Additionally, I found this information concerning the other charcters in the novel and their individual sigificance:

    Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky is the philosopher and intellectual that is partly to blame for the revolutionary ideas that fuel the destruction that occurs in the book, whose one famous work was based on the idea of Apocatastasis. He served as a father figure to Nikolai Vsevolodovich when Stavrogin was a child. His character may be based on the intellectual Timofey Granovsky.

    Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky is the son of Stepan and the cause of much of the destruction. He is at the center of what may be a vast conspiracy to overthrow the church, government, and the family across Russia. He is a nihilist and a master charlatan and manipulator. He despises family ties. Though he has followers and his revolutionary groups look to him for guidance, his only regard is for Stavrogin. His character may be based on the revolutionary Sergey Nechayev.

    Lizaveta Nikolaevna is a vivacious local beauty who becomes engaged to Mavriky Nikolaevitch, but is fatally attracted to Stavrogin.

    Alexei Nilych Kirilov (or Kirillov) is an engineer. He is a thorough nihilist, and has decided his own will is the ultimate reality. He means to commit suicide, and Pyotr Stepanovich means to use his suicide to further his revolutionary purposes.

    Shigalyov is a self-confessed anarchistic social theorist. He is a member of Pyotr Stepanovich's revolutionary His character is intended to embody everything that Dostoyevsky's image of Christ does not; he is, in essence, the antithesis of Christ.

    Ivan Shatov is a son of former serf, as well as a former university student and another intellectual who has turned his back on his leftist ideas. This change of heart is what attracts Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky to plot Shatov's murder. Shatov is based on I. I. Ivanov, a student who was murdered by Sergey Nechayev for speaking out against Nechayev's radical propaganda, an actual event which served as the initial impetus for Dostoyevsky's novel.

    Varvara Stavrogina is Nikolai's mother and is a rich lady who plays at being leftist.

    Captain Lebyadkin is the drunken former officer whose sister is secretly married to Nikolai.

    Fedka the Convict is a roaming criminal suspected of several thefts and murders in the novel.

    Mavriky Nikolaevich Drozdov is a visiting gentleman and guest of Ms. Stavrogin, and is Lizaveta Nikolaevna's fiancée. He is quiet, sensible, and traditional.

    Maria Timofeevna Lebyadkin is Captain Lebyadkin's sister, rumored to be married to Nikolai Stavrogin's past. She is crippled.

    Bishop Tikhon is a bishop who, in Dostoevsky's original drafts, Stavrogin visited for guidance, and revealed some of the disturbing events of his past. Their interview has little effect on Stavrogin, but provides the reader a better understanding of his background. However, this chapter was not accepted by the censors and Dostoevsky excised it from the original version, in which Bishop Tikhon is not mentioned. Most modern editions of The Possessed include this chapter, called "Stavrogin's Confession" or "At Tikhon's" in an appendix.

    Question: Does anyone know why the author, and the translator continued with the French in the text? This just adds to the mounting confusion when trying to read the material. Why did not the translator merely place the English in place of the French within the text? Does it add any significant value to the material? Does it add meaning? The only issue here is (that I am aware) that the Russians held the French language as the "wordly language" of the time -- the language of the intelligentsia, much like the English language is today. Other than that assumption, I have no other clue.

    Thanks,

    Mark
    Last edited by mea505; 11-10-2008 at 02:18 PM. Reason: Additional Information, Question, Clarification

  2. #2
    Ataraxia bazarov's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    In spleen
    Posts
    2,219
    Quote Originally Posted by mea505 View Post

    Question: Does anyone know why the author, and the translator continued with the French in the text? This just adds to the mounting confusion when trying to read the material. Why did not the translator merely place the English in place of the French within the text? Does it add any significant value to the material? Does it add meaning? The only issue here is (that I am aware) that the Russians held the French language as the "wordly language" of the time -- the language of the intelligentsia, much like the English language is today. Other than that assumption, I have no other clue.

    Thanks,

    Mark
    It was common in those days Russia and in literature also to discuss or write on French, it was; just like you said, sign of intelligentsia (nothing similar to English today, in my opinion. I speak English fluently because of mass media, not that I wanted to be smart). Translator probably didn't want to translate those parts, but he could at least translate them in footers. Many parts of great Russian classics are also written on French, especially War and Peace.
    Gogol once wrote, satiric as usual: Every Russian girl in school learns 3 things: piano, house keeping and French. In others school it goes house keeping, French and piano...
    At thunder and tempest, At the world's coldheartedness,
    During times of heavy loss And when you're sad
    The greatest art on earth Is to seem uncomplicatedly gay.

    To get things clear, they have to firstly be very unclear. But if you get them too quickly, you probably got them wrong.
    If you need me urgent, send me a PM

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Alamos, Sonora, Mexico
    Posts
    71
    Dear Mark,

    French was my minor in college. Nevertheless, I still have to look up in the dictionary some of the French words used by Dostoyevsky, and I am glad my computer comes with a multiple language dictionary that gives automatic translations. I think that, in general, you can get by without looking up the French words, as they do not add to the substance. But, it would be best to look them up. Why? Because Dostoyevsky expects us to "study" his text, not just to read it like a breezy novel for beach reading. And since Dostoyevsky's characters are difficult to understand, the French does give some hints which enhance our knowledge of what is going on in the novel. For example, at one point Lebyatikin is called an escaped convict (in French: forçat evadé), by Steven Verkhovensky. I do not recall this fact being given in English.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Truthlover View Post
    Dostoyevsky expects us to "study" his text...
    I cannot imagine Dostoevsky thinking in that way. It's a novel not a textbook. As a serious novelist he might expect us to engage it with maximum concentration, but note taking should not be expected.

    The reason the French is there, I suspect, is that Dostoevsky was writing for a magazine where the readers were like Stepan (the farcical Francophile.) By forcing Stepan to use French in a pretentious manner Dostoevsky was showing his readers an image of themselves.

    I find the French really irritating as Stepan uses it almost every time he speaks. In Penguin this means skipping to the notes in the back every few seconds for the translation. Dostoevsky, surely, did not intend his readers to need to do that! Translators should make everything transparent to their audience, at least in Penguin.

    In that regard, I'd also translate the names. "Demons" has dozens of characters all with triple barrelled names like Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky. These are sometimes used in full, sometimes only two or three parts of the name are used. Also pet names are common (Petrusha, Pierre).

    Russians are used to handling the complications, so can probably remember who the characters are. But the average foreigner (me!) is going to need a reminder. Penguin do list the names at the back, with reminders. But it's (yet another) pain flipping to the back and repeatedly reading through the names until you find what you want.

    I read somewhere that some translators simplify/Anglicize the names in Russian novels. (So you might get "Peter Verkhov"). I'm all for this! Does anyone know of a translation of Demons by a translator who does this?

    P.S. Some versions (e.g., Oxford Classics) at least translate the French on the reading page!
    Last edited by mal4mac; 09-17-2009 at 05:28 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    The reason the French is there, I suspect, is that Dostoevsky was writing for a magazine where the readers were like Stepan (the farcical Francophile.) By forcing Stepan to use French in a pretentious manner Dostoevsky was showing his readers an image of themselves.

    I find the French really irritating as Stepan uses it almost every time he speaks. In Penguin this means skipping to the notes in the back every few seconds for the translation. Dostoevsky, surely, did not intend his readers to need to do that! Translators should make everything transparent to their audience, at least in Penguin.
    My sentiments exactly. The constant French was mildly exasperating for myself as a reader, though I believe that it greatly heightened Stepan Verkhovensky's credibility as a character. He was the image of the outmoded aristocrat, the baseless intellectual who is categorized above working class society due to some vague notion of higher learning rather than any sort of legitimate success in his field. His pecuniary situation is dubious at best, he relies on a wealthy heiress to support him (deferring to her on everything), and his entire life is one dissolute procession of avarice. He speaks French due to some empty notion of sophistication, which ambiguously represents some notion of education and confers a special status on himself while alienating anyone who really matters. This character is a peacock. The reader was meant to be frustrated with him. Yet, ironically, it is he who encounters what Dostoevsky perceived to be the true alternative to what he saw as a European revolutionary sentiment which attempted to graft itself unto Russian culture, he who discovers the working man and discovers what there ultimately is to be achieved.
    Stepan was only nominally a revolutionary in that he theoretically concluded that some of the proposed reforms were valid ideas. He himself really espoused nothing.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    I cannot imagine Dostoevsky thinking in that way. It's a novel not a textbook. As a serious novelist he might expect us to engage it with maximum concentration, but note taking should not be expected.
    Dostoevsky chose to engage the common reader through narrative. He understood that such a format would cause his ideas to appear much more comprehensive than bulky blocks of expository essays would. Had he wished to, there is no doubt in my mind that he could have ameliorated himself into that reclusive breed of writers whose work is never really circulated at all outside of the university and among no one else save for the highly educated. It is something of a tragedy that his work has come to be seen that way in the 129 years since his death. For example, I happened to place one of his books ("The Adolescent") on hold some time ago, as I wished to read it again and do not own a copy. Upon going over to the library to pick it up, the librarian's first question was whether or not I needed it for a university course. It truly is a vicious irony that, not even 200 years after he passed away, the layman has come to regard Dostoevsky's work as interchangeable with anything in the dusty 'Classics' section.
    I believe that Dostovsky structured his work along the lines of parables. Arduous note-taking is not a most, though I would not consider it superfluous if anyone chose to do it. Anyone who can read beyond, say, an eighth grade level can take something substantial away from Dostoevsky. So, no, while his books are not 'textbooks' in that they are not meant to be seen as exclusive textbooks available to only the intellectual elite of society, I believe that they may be treated as such by the discerning reader.

  7. #7
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,497
    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    I cannot imagine Dostoevsky thinking in that way. It's a novel not a textbook. As a serious novelist he might expect us to engage it with maximum concentration, but note taking should not be expected.
    I find Dostoevsky and Henry James much easier to understand if I highlight surprising or problematic passages. In The Possessed, my highlight of Stepan Verkhovensky reflecting on Jesus sending the demons into a herd of pigs proved particularly useful in appreciating the ending.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

Similar Threads

  1. Who is the female main character?
    By broadwaybound01 in forum Les Miserables
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 04-12-2011, 05:11 AM
  2. Excerpt from "The Death and Times of Christopher Young"
    By Seabird111 in forum Short Story Sharing
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 06-22-2008, 01:01 PM
  3. Contrast between Antonio and shaylock, Jessica and Portia
    By cati... in forum Merchant of Venice
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-09-2007, 09:43 AM
  4. Which book's main character finds his inner reality?
    By conan415 in forum General Literature
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 06-08-2006, 03:05 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •