Dostoevsky and the politics of parturition
Modern Languages Open
Liverpool University Press
"The mystery of the appearance of a new being, a great mystery and an inexplicable one", as Shatov describes the birth of his wife's son, is one of the great unanswered questions in Dostoevsky's Demons. A baby boy is born to free-spirited former governess Maria Shatova just hours before her husband is killed by a secret clique of would-be revolutionaries. Shatov's murder and Kirillov's suicide precipitate the new mother's fatal illness and, consequently, the infant's death within three days of entering the world. Legally Shatov's son, biologically Stavrogin's, this nameless baby represents one of several apparently unfinished subplots within Demons. Why produce a child with such complicated origins, only to kill him off? Why transform a universal symbol of hope into banal tragedy? My paper examines the metonymy between the child's brief life and the novel's theme of abortive radicalism, both of which are linked by the figure of the nihilist midwife, Arina Prokhorovna Virginskaia.
Open access journal article available via http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/mlo.v0i1.39