Humiliated and Insulted

Humiliated and Insulted

Cover to the Oneworld Classics edition
Author Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Original title Униженные и оскорбленные
Translator Ignat Avsey
Country Russia
Language Russian
Genre Novel
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 450 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN 978-1-84749-045-2 (Oneworld Classics paperback)ISBN 0-89875-104-7 (paperback edition)
OCLC 181069446
LC Class PG3326 .U5 2008

Humiliated and Insulted (Russian: Униженные и оскорблённые, Unizhennye i oskorblyonnye) — also known in English as The Insulted and Humiliated, The Insulted and the Injured or Injury and Insult — is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, first published in 1861 in the monthly magazine Vremya.

Plot introduction

Narrated by a young author, Vanya, who has just released his first novel which bears an obvious resemblance to Dostoyevsky's own first novel, Poor Folk, it consists of two gradually converging subplots. One deals with Vanya's close friend and former love object, Natasha, who has left her family to live with her new lover, Alyosha. Alyosha is the saintly but dimwitted son of Prince Valkovsky, who hopes to gain financially by marrying Alyosha off to an heiress, Katya. Valkovsky's cruel machinations to break up Alyosha and Natasha make him one of the most memorable "predatory types" (like Stavrogin in The Possessed) that Dostoyevsky created. The other branch of the plot deals with the approximately 13-year-old orphan Nellie, whom Vanya saves from an abusive household by taking her into his apartment, and whose deceased mother's story in some ways parallels that of Natasha. It's unusual to see a well-developed character as young as Nellie in a Dostoyevsky novel, but Nellie may be one of his most moving creations, and she in particular shows the influence of Dickens (Dostoyevsky is known to have read Dickens during the Siberian exile; this novel was conceived near the end of this exile. In turn Japanese director Akira Kurosawa adapted Nellie's story in his 1965 film, Red Beard).

One of the most important themes throughout Dostoyevsky's work is the expiative value of suffering, and The Insulted and Injured, with its tragically moving plot and characters, develops that theme.

Plot summary

Natasha leaves her parents' home and runs away with Alyosha (prince Alexey) – the son of Prince Valkovsky. As a result of his pain, her father, Nikolai, curses her. The only friend that remains by Natasha's side is Ivan – her childhood friend who is deeply in love with her, and whom Natasha has rejected despite their being engaged. Prince Valkovsky tries to destroy Alyosha's plans to marry Natasha, and wants to make him marry the rich princess Katerina. Alyosha is a naïve but loveable young man who is easily manipulated by his father. Following his father's plan, Alyosha falls in love with Katerina, but still loves Natasha. He is constantly torn between these two women, too indecisive and infatuated with both to make a decision. Eventually, Natasha sacrifices her own feelings and withdraws in order for Alyosha to choose Katerina. Meanwhile, Ivan rescues an orphan girl, Elena (known as Nellie), from the clutches of a procuress and learns that her mother ran away from her father's (Smith's) home with her sweetheart, a man who abandoned her when Nellie's mother gave birth. It is later revealed that Prince Valkovsky is Nellie's father and her parents were legally married. The poor woman and her daughter come back to Petersburg and find Smith; Nellie's mother asks forgiveness, but he rejects them. Nellie's mother is dying and she makes Nellie promise to never go for help to her real father, whose name is on a document she leaves her daughter. In attempt to make Nikolai (Natasha's father) reconcile with Natasha, Ivan persuades Nikolai and his wife to adopt Nellie. By telling them her life story, Nellie makes Nikolai's heart soften and he forgives Natasha and removes his curse, and they are reunited. Natasha's family plan to move from Petersburg, but just before they leave Nellie dies from a chronic heart condition; the little girl makes it clear to Ivan she does not forgive her father for his cruel treatment of her mother. She also tells him he should marry Natasha. The story ends on an ambiguous note with Natasha and Ivan reflecting on the events that have unfolded.


Film adaptation

Humiliated and Insulted was adapted in 1991 for cinema by Soviet director Andrei Andreyevich Eshpai with Nastassja Kinski as Natasha.

This book was also adapted in a Mexican soap opera called "Humillados y Ofendidos" around 1977-78. The opening theme music is from Romanov.

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