The Raw Youth

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Cover of The Adolescent

The Raw Youth (Russian: Подросток, Podrostok), also published as The Adolescent or An Accidental Family, is a novel by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, first published in monthly installments in 1875 in the Russian literary magazine Notes of the Fatherland.[1] Originally, Dostoevsky had created the work under the title "Discord".

Themes[edit]

The novel chronicles the life of 19-year-old intellectual, Arkady Dolgoruky, illegitimate child of the controversial and womanizing landowner Versilov. A focus of the novel is the recurring conflict between father and son, particularly in ideology, which represents the battles between the conventional "old" way of thinking in the 1840s and the new nihilistic point of view of the youth of 1860s Russia. The young of Arkady's time embraced a very negative opinion of Russian culture in contrast to Western or European culture.

Another main theme is Arkady's development and utilization of his "idea" in his life, mainly a form of rebellion against society (and his father) through the rejection of attending a university, and the making of money and living independently, onto the eventual aim of becoming excessively wealthy and powerful.

The question of emancipation or what to do with the newly freed serfs in the face of the corrupting influence of the West looms over the novel. Arkady's mother is a former serf and Versilov is a landowner and understanding their relationship is ultimately at the center of Arkady's quest to find out who Versilov is and what he did to his mother. Answering the question of emancipation, in Dostoevsky's novel, has to do with how to educate the serfs and address the damage of Petrine reforms in order to construct a new Russian identity.

The novel was written and serially published while Leo Tolstoy was publishing Anna Karenina. Dostoevsky's novel about the "accidental family" stands in contrast to Tolstoy's novel about the aristocratic Russian family.[2]

Characters[edit]

  • Arkady Makarovich Dolgoruky is the protagonist of the novel. He took the name Dolgoruky from his aged adoptive father, even though he is the illegitimate son of the dissipated landowner Versilov. Arkady's dream is to "become a Rothschild" (i.e. become fabulously wealthy like a member of the famed Rothschild family). In his quest for wealth Arkady becomes entangled with socialist conspirators and a young widow, whose future is somehow dependent on a document that Arkady has sewn into his jacket.
  • Makar Ivanovich Dolgoruky is an aging peasant and Arkady's legal father. He is formerly a serf of the Versilov estate. He is a respected wandering religious pilgrim who takes the role of the "holy fool" in Dostoevsky's works. At his death, he professes a love for God and Christianly virtues.
  • Andrei Petrovich Versilov is Arkady's biological father and a dissipated landowner. Scandals swirl around him, including a history with a mentally unstable girl and rumors of being a Catholic. At one point, Versilov and Arkady are competing for the affections of the same young woman.
  • Katerina Nikolaevna Akhmakova is a young widow and romantic interest of both Versilov and Arkady. A letter sewn to Arkady's jacket could have dire consequences for her future.
  • Monsieur Touchard was Arkady's old school teacher. His strict nature and disrespect of Arkady made a deep impression on the protagonist.
  • Sofya Andreevna Dolgoruky is Arkady's mother. She was a serf on Versilov's estate before emancipation and married to Makar Ivanovich. She became Versilov's mistress but remained married to Makar Ivanovich.

English translations[edit]

This is a list of the unabridged English translations of the novel:

Critical opinions[edit]

Ronald Hingley, author of Russians and Society and a specialist in Dostoevsky's works, thought this novel a bad one, whereas Richard Pevear (in the introduction to his and Larissa Volokhonsky's 2003 translation of the novel), stridently defended its worth.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Sekirin, The Dostoevsky Archive, McFarland, 1997, p. 310.
  2. ^ Knapp, Liza (2013). "Dostoevsky and the Novel of Adultery: The Adolescent". Dostoevsky Studies, New Series. XVII: 42.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]