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Dostoivsky The Little Orphan

The Little Orphan by Theodore Dostoivsky is sparse on plot. It basically details the wanderings of a homeless orphan boy whose mother has died in the underground lodging where they sleep. He is not aware that his mother is a corpse. Lying next to her, cold and starving himself, he touches her face and “…is astonished that she no longer moves and that she has become as cold as the wall” (Dostoivsky 391). The tone of the piece is dour. The little boy is starving, surrounded by sick and dying people with a “death rattle” in their throats, and he is all alone in a crowded nameless city where people appear oblivious to a six-year-old wandering the streets freezing and hungry (Dostoivsky 391).

The cold and hunger eventually are enough to make the boy depart from his mother and their shoddy lodgings, whose proprietress was arrested a couple of days earlier. He wanders out into the streets of the city and sees a great light, crowds of people, horses and carriages. He wanders through the streets shivering. A policeman passes him “and turns his head so as not to see the child” (Dostoivsky 391). This plays into the main theme of the piece, that of the apathetic and callous nature of human beings to their fellow beings in need of help. The boy makes his way past various houses where inside he sees the Christmas celebrations that are going on for the holiday. This also plays into another theme of the piece, that of the wide gap and different circumstance between the haves and have-nots in society. Yet, as much as the boy admires all the things he sees in through the windows, as much as he would like to partake in such an environment, and as much as he needs something to eat or drink, he is not permitted such things and can only desire them from a distance “There are little children well-dressed, nice, and clean; they are laughing and playing, eating and drinking things. The


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Dostoivsky The Little Orphan. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:22, March 31, 2020, from