Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Poor Folk & Other Stories - post V

Mr Prokharchin

Again madness is a theme along with poverty. The idea of people living in a corner of a room in complete poverty scraping along as a clerk is a picture that Dostoevsky can paint in incredible detail.

A poor clerk is the object of ridicule for the other lodgers with them teasing him by making up gossip about his workplace. In the end they start making up gossip about him directly and that pushes him over the edge and he losses his grip on reality.

“...for more than twenty years he had lain behind his screen, never uttering a word, knowing nothing of the world or its cares, hoarding his meagre salary, and now suddenly, all because of someone’s trivial, idle remark he had completely lost his wits with fear that life might suddenly become difficult for him…And it did not even seem to occur to the man that everyone found life difficult!”

In the end there is no way back and he loses his mind and his life with the suspicions of his fellow lodgers being proved correct that he had hoarded a small fortune. But the fact that hoarding was so important to him and his plans presumably for a magical moment when he could spend it were taken from him as he imagined his equilibrium being shaken.

There is tragedy here but also a comment on the sort of society that leads people to waste their lives waiting for the day suddenly when it will change. Why not change it now?


A very clever story that has the joker out witted and left destitute by someone who really should have been above playing such a game. I guess you are meant to conclude that there is a corruption that goes from top to bottom. But also there is the sense again that if life had just played a different card fortunes would have been so different.

The gambler’s craving for the winning roll of the roulette wheel is something that all of the main characters in this volume share. Life sadly does nothing but leave them battered and bruised and worse off than before. The mind is one of the most precious commodities but once that is lost all hope of ever changing for the better is gone forever.

A review will follow soon…

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