Friday, December 14, 2012

A Wild Night in Mokroye

It is a bit like Chichikov's wild ride and there is even a reference to Gogol's Dead Souls in Dostoevsky's marvelous chapter on Mitya.  At 80 pages it reads like a novella, beautifully crafted from beginning to end.  Of course, it helps having the preceding chapters to capture the full impact of Mitya's wild night where he finally connects with his beloved Grushenka.

At first you get the sense of Don Quixote chasing after his Dulcinea.  You figure there isn't much chance for the impetuous Mitya who stakes everything on a carriage full of champagne and foodstuffs to recreate a previous wild night at the inn in Mokroye.  When he arrives at the inn and sizes up the situation, his hopes at first seem dashed, but over a game of cards his luck turns and the two Poles are revealed to be little more than hucksters, and the officer that Grushenka had harbored her love for a total dud.  Mitya dismisses with them both, but not in the way you would imagine.  The pair of guns remain in the carriage.

Mitya breaks out the champagne and the party begins in full force.  Grushenka is taken by Mitya all over again as he and Maximov dance with the girls while a Jewish band plays.  Maximov had earlier regaled everyone in a story where he was the subject of one of Gogol's parochial land owners.  A self-deprecating gesture as Maximov seems to like to play himself as a fool to appeal to Mitya, who is flush with cash.

The inn keeper tries to keep a tight rein on Mitya, but it is impossible.  It is this sense of abandon which Grushenka loves most.  Eventually, she leads him behind a curtain where Dostoevsky has them revel in each other's sex before the police arrive early in the morning to issue a warrant for his arrest.  Mitya doesn't seem to mind as he heard what he had so desperately wanted to hear -- Grushenka declare her unconditional love for him.

Above is the scene depicted in the 1931 film by Fyodor Otsep.

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