1. CHAPTER I.
For instance, when the whole essence of an ordinary person's
nature lies in his perpetual and unchangeable commonplaceness;
and when in spite of all his endeavours to do something out of
the common, this person ends, eventually, by remaining in his
unbroken line of routine--. I think such an individual really
does become a type of his own--a type of commonplaceness which
will not for the world, if it can help it, be contented, but
strains and yearns to be something original and independent,
without the slightest possibility of being so. To this class of
commonplace people belong several characters in this novel;--
characters which--I admit--I have not drawn very vividly up to
now for my reader's benefit.
Such were, for instance, Varvara Ardalionovna Ptitsin, her
husband, and her brother, Gania.
There is nothing so annoying as to be fairly rich, of a fairly
good family, pleasing presence, average education, to be "not
stupid," kind-hearted, and yet to have no talent at all, no
originality, not a single idea of one's own--to be, in fact,
"just like everyone else."
Of such people there are countless numbers in this world--far
more even than appear. They can be divided into two classes as
all men can--that is, those of limited intellect, and those who
are much cleverer. The former of these classes is the happier.
To a commonplace man of limited intellect, for instance, nothing
is simpler than to imagine himself an original character, and to
revel in that belief without the slightest misgiving.
Many of our young women have thought fit to cut their hair short,
put on blue spectacles, and call themselves Nihilists. By doing
this they have been able to persuade themselves, without further
trouble, that they have acquired new convictions of their own.
Some men have but felt some little qualm of kindness towards
their fellow-men, and the fact has been quite enough to persuade
them that they stand alone in the van of enlightenment and that
no one has such humanitarian feelings as they. Others have but to
read an idea of somebody else's, and they can immediately
assimilate it and believe that it was a child of their own brain.
The "impudence of ignorance," if I may use the expression, is
developed to a wonderful extent in such cases;--unlikely as it
appears, it is met with at every turn.