“Trivial Nonsense” of the Poor Heroes of Dostoevsky (Materials for “Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary: Idioglossary”)

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The paper represents lingvo-cultural and semiotic description of the vocabulary, which introduces the everyday life of the poor characters of the F. Dostoevsky’s novels. In this case the procedure of the construction of text associative fields and the concept of idiogloss are used. Associative text fields are built, from one side, around the base concepts of daily activity - HOUSE/DWELLING; CLOTHING; FOOD; MONEY, DEBTS, LOAN; DISEASE, DEATH; WORK, BUSINESS; and idioglosses POVERTY; SHAME; FEAR; PRIDE, THE PINCHED PRIDE; GENTLENESS - on the other hand. These two “measurements” - semantic and pragmatic - make it possible to reconstruct on the texts of Dostoevsky the everyday world of poor characters, to reveal those specific idiosenses, which are concluded in the lexical items being investigated. Besides, the author hopes that such description can become additional material for the creation of the corresponding articles of the «Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary», which is making now in the V.V. Vinigradov Russian Language University (Russian Science Academy). At the V.V. Vinogradov Russian Language University University of Russian Science Academy in the sector of experimental lexicography under the guidance of Corresponding Member of the Russian Science Academy, Professor Y.N. Karaulov, work on creation of the “F.M. Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary” has been conducted for many years. At the same time, collections of articles are published - “The Word of Dostoevsky”, viewed as a kind of “extension” of “Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary”. The authors of the collection should implement the overall thrust of the research results as a guide - the solution of interpretational, hermeneutic tasks. Meanwhile it is also important to identify and describe the vocabulary that is “significant” for interpretation of Dostoevsky’s texts and idioglosses in particular, i.e. such lexical units that are important for understanding, for deciphering and interpreting of the meaning of his literary works, for characterizing his author’s style (idiostyle), for recreating his picture of the world, his universal and national ideals .

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This article reflects the concept of “Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary”.

The world of the poor heroes of Dostoevsky’s novels — one of the greatest discoveries of the writer — also represents a substantial fragment of his picture of the world. That is why the appeal to reconstruction, linguistic cultural research and description of life, daily existence of this category of characters in Dostoevsky’s literary texts allows, as it seems to us, to contribute to the solution of the general task that faces the compilers of “Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary” [1].

In “Conversations on Russian culture” by Y.M. Lotman there is a fragment that contains the reasoning about the proximity of such seemingly mutually exclusive concepts as life and culture. As an illustration, the author provides the following example: “Makar Devushkin in “Poor folk” by Dostoevsky invents a specific gait so nobody can see his soles full of holes. A sole full of holes is a real object; as a thing, it can cause trouble to the owner of the boots: wet feet, a cold. But for an outside observer a ragged sole is a sign which means Poverty, while Poverty is one of the defining symbols of St. Petersburg culture. And Dostoevsky’s hero accepts a “cultural view”: he suffers not because he is cold, but because he is ashamed. Shame is one of the most powerful psychological leverages of culture. Thus, daily routine in its symbolic light is a part of culture(emphasis added — N.C.) [2. P. 10—11].

In fact, this conclusion of U. M. Lotman played a defining role when attempting to research and describe the daily life of Dostoevsky’s poor characters in the semiotic and linguistic-cultural aspects. At the same time, a previously developed method was applied to accept concepts as the main description units, which combine to make the everyday life sphere of concepts [3]. However, if the materials of the “Russian Associative Dictionary” [4] were previously used to reconstruct the contemporary Russian everyday life world — a correlate of the everyday language consciousness of an average Russian (our contemporary), then here an attempt is made to recreate the daily life conceptual sphere of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes on the basis of the writer’s literary texts. That is, the “reverse” procedure is done in a certain way — the construction of text associative fields and associative series based on the fundamental concepts of everyday life (HOME / DWELLING); CLOTHING; FOOD; MONEY, DEBTS, LOAN; DISEASE, DEATH; WORK, BUSINESS), as if “passed through” the closely interconnected idioglosses — POVERTY; SHAME; FEAR; PRIDE, THE PINCHED PRIDE; MEEKNESS.

Thus, for us the key concepts are everyday life (everyday occurrences, daily routine) and poverty. While the material for research are F.M. Dostoevsky’s texts (“Poor folk” and “Crime and Punishment”).

A deflated, contemptuous attitude of poor people to their everyday life is characteristic for them. Thus, the author says about Raskolnikov, as if reading his thoughts that he doesn’t want to listen to all this tosh about this trivial nonsense, which he is not interested in…. [6. P. 7]. Marmeladov interrupts the story of his life with a remark: …I’m only bothering you with the foolishness of all the trifling details of my home life[6. P. 19]. Evaluating the story “The Overcoat” by N.V. Gogol, Makar Devushkon describes it as just a shallow example of everyday, sordid life [5. P. 45].

Let us now turn to specific concepts which constitute the everyday life conceptual sphere of our chosen characters of Dostoevsky’s literary works.

One of the most important everyday life concepts is HOME / DWELLING. What is the semantic content of this concept in the world of Dostoevsky’s poor characters? The answer to this question can already be found in the concept’s names. So, Makar Devushkin when describing his apartment calls it a slum, a shoe box of a room, a supernumerary room. Rodion Raskolnikov’s apartment is a tiny room, which was under the roof and looked more like a cupboard than a room. In another part of the novel Raskolnikov sees his flat like this: It was a tiny shoe box of a room about six paces in length. It had a most sorry looking appearance with its yellowish, dusty wallpaper peeling off the walls, and with such a low ceiling that a man of more than average height felt scared in it [6. P. 22]. Raskolnikov’s mother calls his apartment a horrible room, resembling a coffin [6. P. 147]. Sonya Marmeladova’s room resembled a barn, it was a very irregular quadrangle, which gave it a hideous appearance [6. P. 200].

Thus, a number of home names: a shoe box of a room a slum a supernumerary room a tiny room- a tiny shoe box of a room a barn a cupboard a coffin includes nouns, the semantics of which contains a negative connotation. The name “a supernumerary room” — a contextual synonym of the word “room” — is also an expressively charged lexical unit, which reflects a bitter and ironic attitude of the hero to his home — a separated corner at a common kitchen.

In the home description such words as corridor, stairs and walls are also the most frequent associates. The house where Makar Devushkin rents a room has a long corridor, very dark and dirty [5. P. 8]; the back stairs are spiral, damp and dirty, while the steps are broken and the walls so greasy that your hand sticks when you lean against them [5. P. 13]. The Marmeladovs live in the house, where the higher they went up, the darker the staircase became... it was very dark at the top of the stairs; a stench came from the stairs and waves of tobacco smoke came in [6. P. 21].

In general dirt, litter and disarray are obligatory attributes of the houses where the poor people live. So, Makar Devushkin says about his flat where he occupies a corner in the kitchen: Don’t even expect any proper system here; the place is a true Noah’s Ark! [5. P. 8]; in the same place, on the stairs on every landing there are …. basins filled with dirt, litter, eggshells and fish bladders [5. P. 13]. In the Marmeladovs’ room everything was in disarray [6. P. 20]. We read about Raskolnikov’s room: It would have been difficult to become more decayed and slovenly [6. P. 23].

Furnishings and furniture of the poor people’s homes also have their “descriptions”. There is minimum furniture in Makar Devushkin’s room: a bed, a table, a bureau, and a couple of chairs [5. P. 9]. In Raskolnikov’s room the furniture was in harmony with the place: there were three old chairs, rather defective, a painted table in the corner, <…..> a big clumsy sofa, which occupied almost the entire wall and half the width of the room; it used to be upholstered in chintz but was now in rags and served Raskolnikov as a bed…without a sheet, with one small pillow under his head, under which he put all the linen he had, clean and worn out, to elevate the head of the bed [6. P. 22—23]. In the Marmeladovs’ room the furnishing is not much better: A candle-end lighted a very poor-looking room about ten paces long. Everything was in disarray. There was nothing in the room except two chairs and a sofa covered with an oilcloth full of holes, before which stood an old pine kitchen table, unpainted and uncovered [6. P. 20]. The same thing is in Sonya Marmeladova’s room: The yellowish, tattered and shabby wallpaper turned black in the corners… The poverty was visible; there were even no curtains by the bed [6. P. 200].

As one can see, poverty appears both in the “set” of things that make up the home furnishings (a table,a chair, a bed, a bureau), and in the condition of these items (old, broken, rather defective, full of holes, uncovered, simple, shabby, tattered). This is a list of definitions which characterize the home furnishings of Dostoevsky’s poor characters and join the corresponding associative series.

CLOTHING is a hyperonym that allows to distinguish a special group of lexical units with its associative field. Let us remember how Dostoevsky describes Makar Devushkin’s clothes, or rather how the hero himself describes it: my bare elbows are showing through my sleeves (the elbows of my jacket are worn out), my bare toes are showing through my boots (there are many holes in my boots); the buttons on my jacket are hanging by threads (there are no buttons on my jacket); I’m unbecomingly dressed! [5. P. 50—52]. His poor neighbour Gorskov walks about in such a grease-smeared and worn-out coat that it hurts to look at him. His wife goes about in such beggarly rags, the poor thing (Volume 1, p. 34) [5. P. 34]. The father of a poor student Pokrovsky is a mud-stained, poorly-dressed little old man… He would slowly enter the room, take off his overcoat and his hat which was always rumpled, full of holes, and with a torn-off brim— [5. P. 22]. Raskolnikov was so poorly dressed that another man, even an accustomed one, would have been ashamed to go out in such rags in the middle of the day. <…> A hat … was completely battered and rusty, full of holes and stains, without brims, and bent on one side in a most unsightly way [6. P. 8]. Marmeladov was wearing an old, completely tattered black dress coat from which all the buttons have fallen off. A crumpled shirt-front, spotted and stained, stuck out from under his nankeen waistcoat… From time to time he held his head with his hands, placing his worn-out elbows on the stained and sticky table. His wife Katerina Ivanovna doesn’t have any dresses. Thus, the concept clothing is an attractor of the associates which form around it particular lexical series: unbecomingly dressed; poorly dressed; my bare elbows are showing through my sleeves (the elbows of my jacket are worn out); there are many holes in my boots; adjectives which characterize the poor characters’ clothes — old, grease-smeared, full of holes, battered, mud-stained, worn out, full of stains, coat from which all the buttons have fallen off; a frequently used noun rags.

Another hyperonim — FOOD — also can unite the vocabulary which characterizes the daily life of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes in a specific way. In fact, the most frequent is just an indication of its absence: Makar Devushkin couldn’t drink tea on a regular basis; Raskolnikov had spent two days almost without eating [6. P. 8]; his landlady stopped sending him in food two weeks ago…. he was left without his lunch [6. P. 23]; in Marmeladov’s family the children are always hungry [6. P. 16]. And if there is some food, it is surprisingly frugal: gruel without butter; a plain piece of bread sometimes even stale; weak tea [5. P. 32].

It is clear that poor people have complicated relationship with MONEY. The contexts where there are such associates as debts, borrowing money are most frequently used in the novels by Dostoevsky.

Makar Devushkin writes to Varenka Dobroselova: I will not conceal from you that my debts are driving me into despair…. [6. P. 47]. I’ll get in trouble if I don’t borrow some money. My landlady is just about to kick me out, and she won’t give me any more meals [6. P. 52]. I’m terribly in need of money, I have debts [6. P. 54]. Telling the story of her life, Varenka Dobroselova says that her father’s business affairs were in bad shape, and he was in a great deal of debt; a short while ago my father died, the creditors turned up as if from the ground, they came in a crowd. We had to give them everything we possessed [6. P. 18]. Raskolnikov was up to his eyebrows in debt to his landlady and was afraid of meeting her [6. P. 7]. Marmeladov asks Raskolnikov: Has it ever happened to you … well, to ask hopelessly for money? [6. P. 14]. When Dunia Raskolnikova came into their house as a governess, she took a whole hundred roubles in advance, on condition of monthly deductions from her salary, and therefore it was impossible to leave the job without paying back the debt [6. P. 25].

Thus, there is a number of associates connected with the mentioned before realities: money debts he owes borrow (ask for money) rid oneself of debt creditors salary.

Poverty even has its own SMELLS: a rotten, savoury-sweet smell, from which siskins die…. They can’t live in our air [5. P. 13]; the overpowering stench from the taverns, haunting Raskolnikov; in the tavern the food had a bad smell and everything was …. permeated with wine odor. A stench came from the stairs at the Marmeladovs’ house [6. P. 21].

Naturally such living conditions lead to DISEASES and early DEATH. The description of such episodes in Dostoevsky’s novels is particularly acute. The letters of Varenka Dobroselova are full of confessions in her own ill health or illnesses of her family: I feel very sick today. I’ve got a fever and the chill in turn. <…> …. I feel terribly unwell. <…..> I’m sick again today; yesterday I got my feet wet and have caught a cold; Fedora is also ill with something, so both of us are ailing. Varenka writes about the diseases and death of her parents: I was only fourteen years old when my father died. All these worries, frustrations and failures tortured my poor father to the last degree: he became distrustful and acrimonious; he began to neglect his health, caught a cold and suddenly fell ill. He didn’t suffer for a long time; he passed away so unexpectedly and so suddenly that for several days we were beside ourselves with the blow [5. P. 18]. How could he torment poor mother? It used to break my heart to see her: her cheeks had become hollow, her eyes had sunk, and her complexion was consumptive. <…> My mother suffered from a debilitating disease. <…> A few days later my mother suddenly fell dangerously ill. She stayed in bed for two days, and on the third night she ran a fever and was delirious [5. P. 24]. Varenka has bitter memories about a disease and death of her friend, student Pokrovsky. Here is the same number of words: consumptive, he took to his bed, from which he never got up again; he was seldom conscious; he was frequently in delirium; most of the time he was unconscious. The description of the death and funeral of a young man includes a number of words and phrases that are often found in Dostoevsky's texts under study when describing similar situations: during his last night he was frantic; he died in late autumn at the end of October; the day was sad and dreary, like the poor, slipping away life of the dying man; [the sky] was so rainy, lowering and sad; the dying man glanced at me sorrowfully and shook his head. He died a moment later; a very plain coffin was bought [5. P. 30]. Approximately the same set of associates of the word death also appears in Makar Devychkin’s description of the death of a child in the Gorshkovs’ family — his flatmates: Today, at about five a.m., Gorshkov’s youngest son died. <…> There already is a little coffin standing at their place a simple one, but quite pretty; they bought a ready-made coffin [5. P. 34]. The description of Rodion Raskolnikov’s illness also comprises a list of lexical units which always accompany the same episodes in Dostoevsky’s literary works: However, he was not entirely unconscious during the time of his illness; it was a feverish condition accompanied by delirium and half-consciousness [6. P. 77].

So, the textual associative field of the word disease is as follows: I feel unwell, I feel sick, she is also ill with something, I am always ill, I’m ailing, I have caught a cold and fell ill, debilitating, dangerous, consumptive, unconsciousness, half-consciousness, delirium, fever, chill, a feverish condition.

The words associatively connected with death are: died, he passed away, the poor, slipping away life of the dying man; funeral; last rites; a very plain coffin; a simple coffin.

FAMILY is also one of the basic everyday life concepts. Describing the family world, Dostoevsky reaches an incredible, extreme psychological intensity, an exposure of feelings, controversies and conflicts. It is in family relationship where the characters of his novels manifest themselves most clearly. Family dramas, for sure, take place also in the homes of rich people. However, for Dostoevsky’s poor characters, family is not only their sole refuge, but a connection of the loved ones, and a heavy burden as well. So, the reader of “Crime and Punishment” becomes witness to the everyday life of two poor families: Raskolnikov’s family and Marmeladovs’ family. It becomes known about the life of Raskolnikov’s mother and sister, about their relationship to each other and to him, when Rodion receives a letter from his mother. In this letter and in Raskolnikov’s reaction to it, we can distinguish two series of associates: the first associative field is united by a word-idiogloss LOVE; for the second, the key words are POVERTY, SUFFERING and DESPAIR. The words a love, I love, she loves, love are, indeed, repeated several times on two pages of the letter along with other words of this field: I embrace you, I send you kisses, how happy I will be to press you to my heart; Dounia has told me to embrace you tightly and send you a million kisses [6. P. 24—30]. However, the contextual use peculiarity of the idiogloss LOVE and associates connected with it is the “morbidness” of this feeling. This is not love-joy or love-happiness, but love-pain. So, having received a letter from his mother, Raskolnikov even turned pale as he took it. <…> Something else suddenly made his heart ache; the letter trembled in his hands; he wanted to be left alone with this letter. <…> he quickly raised it to his lips and kissed it; then for a long time he peered at the address, the small and sloping handwriting of his mother, familiar and dear to him [6. P. 24]. Almost all the time Raskolnikov was reading, from the very beginning of the letter, his face was wet with tears; but when he finished, his face was pale, distorted with a cramp, and a grave, bilious and malevolent smile appeared on his lips. <…> His heart was pounding, and the thoughts were fermenting. <….> His mother’s letter had tormented him [6. P. 30]. The awareness of his helplessness and inability to help his mother and sister, to save his sister from humiliating marriage with Luzhin, drives Raskolnikov to desperation: In ten years mother will lose her vision from knitting kerchiefs, maybe from weeping too; she will emaciate from fasting; and my sister? Come to think about what may happen to your sister in ten years or during ten years? Have you figured it out?

So he tormented and teased himself with these questions, even taking pleasure in it. Anyway, all these questions were not new or sudden; they were old, painful and long-time ones. They had begun to torture him long ago and had tormented his heart [6. P. 33]. Self-sacrificing love of his sister and mother is read in each line of the letter. Here, on the one hand, there are such appeals as my dear Rodya, my dear friend, my precious Rodya, you know how I love you; you are all we have, Dunya and I, you are everything for us, our only hope, our only aspiration, and on the other — a “truthful”, but tough story, wounding Rodion Raskolnikov’s soul, about misfortunes and sufferings of his dear ones, and about the decision his mother and sister had taken, wishing to save their “dear Rodya”. Having learned about the fact that Donya is going to marry a man whom she not only doesn’t love, but does not respect, Raskolnikov almost loses his mind. Who, indeed, do you consider me to be? I don’t want your sacrifice, Dounia, I don’t want it, mother! It won’t happen while I am alive, it won’t, it won’t! I don’t accept it! — he shouts, walking down the street.

As stated above, the second associative field, which can be reconstructed on the basis of Raskolnikov’s mother letter, is formed around the concepts of POVERTY, SUFFERING and DESPAIR. As a matter of fact, the narrative of the everyday concerns and hardships in Pulkheria Raskolnikova’s letter to her son is accompanied by such words as: I’ve suffered, I was in despair; it was very hard for Dunechka; you can imagine her suffering; I was in despair myself; it felt so miserable inside; it was so villainous of him to torment and make unhappy a girl who was already unhappy and defenseless; you would have been very unhappy [6. P. 24—26]. Such difficult life situation is caused by poverty, dependence on other people and the inability to help her son.

All the members of the Marmeladovs’ family feel the same. Marmeladov himself, telling the story of his life to Raskolnikov, wanted to smile in the end, but suddenly his chin began to tremble. The tavern, the man’s depraved look, the five nights spent on the hay barges, the half-liter bottle, and at the same time this morbid love for his wife and children, bewildered his listener [6. P. 18]. Sonechka Marmeladova is also a victim of circumstances. She sells herself to safe her family from hunger and destitution. By the way, it is in the story about the Marmeladovs’ family when Dostoevsky uses this word “destitution”. And Marmeladov in his well-known monologue divides the two concepts — “poverty” and “destitution”, breaking down the familiar idea of them being synonyms in the reader’s mind: Poverty is not a vice. But destitution, honoured sir, destitution is a vice [6. P. 13]. Katerina Ivanovna — Marmeladov’s wife — is a character in which suffering is brought to its limit, to physical and mental illness. Destitution and weeping of her always hungry children, her husband’s drunkenness brings her to some kind of frenzy. But even in the most desperate situations, she tries to preserve the family’s independence and visibility of strength. Let us remember, how Katerina Ivanovna behaves when Marmeladov gets a job again.

Yearning for the family happiness, for acquisition of important people in his life drives Makar Devushkin to self-sacrifice: he gets into debt in order to help Varenka Dobroselova whom he loved like his daughter. And the sense of this girl’s presence in his life saves him from being alone in this world. I have never spent my days in such joy before. It is as if the Lord had blessed me with a home and a family of my own! My little child, my pretty girl! <….>… I live with a double happiness, because you live so close to me and make me so happy [5. P. 34]. Varenka’s affection for Makar Devushkin is also obvious, but it mostly has a morbid character because she feels awkward due to the fact that she can’t do much work for health reasons, and thus be helpful in their friendship. Cannot I see that you ruin yourself for my needs, tightening the purse strings and spending your last kopeck on me? <….> You write that you will sell the last thing you have rather than leave me in need. I believe you, my friend, I believe in your good heart… You know that I am always ill; I cannot work as you do. I am merely bonded to you with all my soul, I love you dearly and strongly, with all my heart, but my bitter fate! I am able only to love, and not to do good, to repay you for your kindness [5. P. 40—41].

Thus, the concept of FAMILY in the considered texts by Dostoevsky is associatively connected with the idioglosses love, affection, suffering and despair, caused by the poverty of the characters.

Apart from family, WORK and BUSINESS for Dostoevsky’s poor heroes is the lifeline that allows them to stay afloat, not to sink into the abyss of despair, to preserve human dignity. It is particularly pronounced in Makar Devushkin’s attitude to his service: I have been in the service for about thirty years; I have worked irreproachably, my behavior has been sober, and I have never been spotted in any anti-social conduct. <…> I am respected by the management [5. P. 44]. Every time Varenka Dobroselova is happy when some work emerges: Fedora has got a great deal of work both for me and herself, and we have gladly got down to work; perhaps we shall re-establish our affairs [5. P. 50]. Raskolnikov’s fellow student Razumikhin was very poor, and supported himself resolutely on his own, alone, earning money by some sort of work. He knew a vast number of resources to earn money from, by means of work, of course [6. P. 37—38]. On the contrary, the lack of work, business pulls the carpet from under poor people, leads to depression, illnesses and even death.

Let us now turn to the second, pragmatic dimension of the everyday life conceptual sphere of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes, which was mentioned at the beginning of the article. Namely, that the concept-idiogloss POVERTY is “conjugated” in the texts of Dostoevsky with the idioglosses of SHAME; FEAR; PRIDE, THE PINCHED PRIDE AND MEEKNESS.

It should be mentioned that the words poverty, poor have been already described in detail in the first volume of the “Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Language Dictionary”, which the authors named “Idioglossary”. The corresponding vocabulary entries also indicate the frequency of the mentioned idioglosses in the writer’s literary texts. So, an idiogloss poor is found in Dostoevsky’s literary works 397 times, and noun poverty — 76 times. In the texts we are considering, an idiogloss poverty “gathers” around it two groups of associates. First, they are words of the same root that name this social status of the characters: poor person, poor folk, poor man, poverty, poorly.

Secondly, these are word combinations with the meaning “a person who carries a trait “poverty”: poor student, poor folk, poor relatives, poor old man, poor young man. Some of these word combinations have become set expressions (poor student, poor relatives).

However, the above mentioned couple of idioglosses are of the greatest interest. Let us consider them one by one.

POVERTYSHAME. This couple of concepts-idioglosses, as it was mentioned before, is a significant one. All the crippled by poverty characters of Dostoevsky’s literary works we are considering, are ashamed of poverty and its material manifestations. So, Makar Devushkin remarks that it is rather shameful not to be able to afford to drink tea [5. P. 9]; Today I sat in front of my colleagues like a clumsy lout, like a wretch that I nearly burned with shame. I felt deeply ashamed, Varenka! Naturally one is shy when one sees one’s naked elbows peeping through the sleeves and one’s buttons hanging by threads, — he confesses to his ward [5. P. 50]. Dreaming of borrowing some money from Peter Petrovich, Makar Devushkin writes to his Varenka: I feel terrible just sitting at my desk… And His Excellency sometime passes my desk; God forbid that he would glance at me and notice that I’m unbecomingly dressed! Cleanliness and tidiness are the things that matter most to him. He might not say anything, but I would die of shame. I’m ashamed to keep on living, Varenka! <…> I’m ashamed, I’m totally ashamed [5. P. 51] — writes Makar Devushkin to his ward.

Associate words of the concept-idiogloss shame comprise several groups:

The first group includes words of the same root: shame, to be ashamed of, to be totally ashamed, I’m ashamed.

In the second group there are lexical units which are synonyms or quasi-synonyms of the words from the first group: shame, it’s a shame, I’m ashamed, to be embarrassed, to become confused, she is timid, he is shy.

In the third group there are words describing the external manifestations of the feeling of shame: to blush, to sit like a clumsy lout, like a wretch.

It can be assumed that such associative fields are characteristic of all texts in general. The peculiarity of the considered idiogloss “behavior”in Dostoevsky’s literary works about poor people is that they feel ashamed because of their poverty. A multitude of contexts in which this concept is used prove this point.

POVERTYFEAR. A peculiar extension and expansion of the concept of shame is a concept-idiogloss fear, which also forms an associative field, including diverse lexical units. However, a contextual peculiarity of this idiogloss in Dostoevsky’s works is that the fear experienced by the heroes is not the fear of physical strength, this feeling is again a “moral” one: the fear of condemnation, mocking from others. For others (boss, landlady, former friends, and just random passers-by on the street) are always potential or real offenders (after all, it’s so easy to offend a poor person!). Let us remember a phrase from “Crime and Punishment” already cited as an example: Raskolnikov was up to his eyeballs in debt to his landlady and was afraid of meeting her [6. P. 7]. Makar Devushkin is literally “bound in fear”. And he afraid that others (“His Excellency”, an imaginary “sir who is going to the restaurant”) will notice and judge his poverty: … I cannot do without buttons; and almost half of the buttons on my lapel have fallen off! I tremble when I think that His Excellency may notice such disarray and say what would he say? I, little mother, would not hear what he said, for I would die, I would die on the spot, I would just die of shame at the thought of it [5. P. 53—54]. And after reading Gogol's "The Overcoat" to this list of “others” writers are added as well: I sometimes hide, I go into hiding, though I got nothing to be guilty of, I’m sometimes afraid to show my face anywhere, because gossip makes me tremble, because people can make a libel about anything. It will be impossible for me to make a public appearance [5. P. 45]. Telling a sad story about how he went to see Peter Petrovich to ask for money, Makar Devushkin writes: I pulled myself together and, hiding my sense of shame in my pocket full of holes, I went to Peter Petrovich, full of hope and more dead than alive with anticipation both combined [5. P. 53].

In the episode where Makar Devushkin tells Varenka how he missed the whole line when rewriting a document, and how he appeared before His Excellency for it, three concept-idioglosses — poverty, shame and fear — are closely intertwined, conveying the depth of the hero’s experiences. My heart began to tremble in my chest, and I don’t know what I was scared of; I only know that I had never been so scared before. I sat dead at my chair. <…> I grew stiff, cold, lost all feeling; I went more dead than alive. <…> it seems to me that I didn’t bow; I forgot.. I was so perplexed that my lips were trembling and my legs shaking. <…> I burned, I burned in the infernal fire! I died! <…> I shuddered, and my whole soul was shaken [5. P. 67—68].

Thus, a couple of idioglosses POVERTYFEAR brings together a number of associates, which are synonyms and context synonyms, expressed as independent words (I was afraid, I tremble, I hide, I go into hiding, I’m shy, I’m afraid, I was so perplexed, I shuddered, I didn’t make a sound, I draw in my claws, I grew stiff, I grew cold) and set expressions as well (come in sideways, I’m afraid to show my face anywhere; It will be impossible for me to make a public appearance; more dead than alive, I sat crouched like a hedgehog, I covered my ears; I sat dead at my chair; I burned in the infernal fire; I lost all feeling; my whole soul was shaken).

The peculiarity of the world of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes is the fact that the constant humiliating situations generates a sort of exaggerated and even morbid pride in them, reveals the pinched pride. And in texts of the two analyzed works this couple of idioglosses — POVERTYPRIDE, THE PINCHED PRIDE — also carries a tremendous semantic load and forms its own powerful textual associative field. Thus, in “Poor folk” Makar Devushkin declares: I am not a drag on anyone! I earn my crust; and though it is a plain crust, sometimes a stale one; but it’s there, and it has been earned by an honest livelihood and consumed irreproachably. What is to be done? I know that my job as a copyist is a minor one; after all I am proud of it! I work in the sweat of my brow. I’m aware that I am necessary, that I am indispensable, and that one shouldn’t be led astray by nonsense. Let me be a rat, since there’s a resemblance. But you need this rat, this rat is of benefit, you hold on to this rat, this rat receives a reward that is the kind of rat it is! [5. P. 32—33]. In another letter to Varenka we read: I have been in the service for about thirty years; I have worked irreproachably, my behavior has been sober, and I have never been spotted in any anti-social conduct. As a citizen I consider myself, by my own perception, to have some drawbacks, but also some virtues. I am respected by the management, and even His Excellency is happy with my work [5. P. 44]. First and foremost, Makar Devushkin needs such self-characterization in order to justify anything to himself, to maintain a sense of self-value. As he himself writes about this in another letter: After all, one wears an overcoat and boots for the sake of others. In this case, <…> I need boots to maintain my honour and my good name; if I wear ragged boots, both of these are lost [5. P. 52].

Dostoevsky writes about Raskolnikov: While Raskolnikov was at the university, he had almost no friends; he was very poor and somehow arrogantly proud and unsociable [6. P. 37].

The morbidness of pride and the pinched pride is particularly acute in Katerina Ivanovna’s behavior. Marmeladov himself says about her that she is a hot-tempered, proud and unbending lady. She washes the floor herself and eats black bread, but she won’t allow other people to treat her with disrespect [6. P. 15]. The maximum intensity of these feelings is revealed during the commemorations after the funeral of Marmeladov. As if reasoning and trying to explain to the reader why these "stupid commemorations" were organized, Dostoevsky writes: Perhaps what had the greatest impact here was that peculiar poor man’s pride, owning to which in some social ceremonies obligatory for each and everyone in our daily routine, many poor people bend over backwards and spend the last kopeck of their savings, just in order to be “no any worse than others” and “not to be judged” somehow by others. It is also very possible that Katerina Ivanovna wanted, precisely on that occasion, precisely at the moment when she seemed to have been abandoned by everyone, to show these “wretched and nasty tenants” that she knew “how to live and how to act as a hostess”, but that she had been brought up for another lot, that she had been brought up in a noble, one could even say aristocratic, colonel’s family. Such paroxysms of pride and vanity sometimes visit the poorest and most downtrodden people, and sometimes turn into an irritable and unstoppable need in them. Moreover, Katerina Ivanovna was not downtrodden; she could be killed by circumstances, but it was impossible to render her morally downtrodden, that is to intimidate her and to bend her to one’s will [6. P. 239]. That is Dostoevsky’s explanation. And, indeed, every line of the heroine betrays her pinched pride, her desire to confirm her own dignity. The words a noble lady, an aristocratic family, an aristocratic house, a colonel's daughter, children of noble birth, and such words as pride, dignity, nobility as well, repeated many times by Katerina Ivanovna, and the reality in which they sound, expose and bring to pathos the tragedy of the heroine and her family.

However, pride and the pinched pride are sometimes combined with MEEKNESS of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes, which sometimes reaches self-neglecting. So, the last couple of concepts-idioglosses which was considered in the chosen topic is POVERTY-MEEKNESS. The most colourful “meek” characters of the two novels are Makar Devushkina and Sonya Marmeladova. The main hero of “Poor Folk” says about himself: I used to live the life of a hermit, calmly and quietly; I don’t repine and am satisfied; I am unpretentious [5. P. 8—9]. And in another letter we read: I am a docile man, because I am a little man [5. P. 32]. Having read “The Overcoat”, Makar Devushkin angrily writes to his ward: What! I can’t live calmly in my little corner after this anymore, I can’t live, as the proverb has it, without muddying the water, not interfering with anyone, knowing the fear of God and not getting other people interfere with me…. [5. P. 44]. And further: Every status that a man has in his lot is designated by the Almighty . This man is designated to wear a general’s epaulets, while that one is designated to work as a titular counselor; this man is assigned to hold the reins, and that one is assigned to follow the orders without question and without complaining [5. P. 43—44]. I have always behaved as if I were non-existent [5. P. 67].

Describing to Raskolnikov his daughter Sonya Marmeladoc says: She is meek, she has such a gentle voice…. [6. P. 16]. Sonya gave the last money she had to her father so that he could take a hair of the dog and said nothing, she only looked at me without another word… Not on earth, but up there… people are grieved for, wept over, but not blamed, not blamed! [5. P. 19]. Passing away, Marmeadov suddenly recognized her, humbled, crushed, dressed up and ashamed, humbly waiting her turn to say goodbye to her dying father [6. P. 120]. And, of course, the memorable words of Raskolnikov: Poor meek ones, with meek eyes… Dear ones! Why don’t they weep? Why don’t they moan? They give everything... they look meekly and gently… Sonya, Sonya! Gentle Sonya! [6. P. 175].

The conducted analysis of the two literary texts allows us to build the everyday life concept sphere of Dostoevsky’s poor heroes, including both concepts reflecting their everyday world, so to speak, in a factual way (HOUSE, FAMILY, WORK, etc.) and in a pragmatic way, revealing the feelings and experiences of poor people, transmitted by idioglosses SHAME, FEAR, PRIDE, THE PINCHED PRIDE and MEEKNESS. These two dimensions, their intersection bear a sign character, give the reader a volumetric picture of events and cause a high degree of empathy to “humiliated and insulted”.

About the authors

Nina L. Chulkina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
Email: chulkina-nl@rudn.ru
6, Miklukho-Maklaya str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 117198

Doctor of philology studies, Associate professor, Professor of the department of general and Russian linguistics


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