Tuesday, October 23

The section where Svidrigailov talked about his little 15-year-old girl fiancée really creeped me out, and reminded me of some things I’ve known of recently. One of my office’s customers was recently arrested for installing a camera in a 14-year-old girl’s shower. He was able to do so because he is a contractor and his company was doing some sort of construction on her house. My friend’s boyfriend just dumped her for a 19-year-old, (he is 37). He first got together with my friend when she was 19, (she is now 24), and dumped his old girlfriend for her. I was talking to one of my friends recently about why some men (and some women, but it seems to occur more commonly with men), are attracted to women so much younger than them. The discussion originated because I recently had to cut off a friendship with a married guy friend who took things to an inappropriate level.
He started inviting himself over to my house on weekends, (when I’d have much rather been reading The Betrothed). His reasoning was that because he lives in Nampa, whenever he comes to Boise he considers it a “waste of time” if he doesn’t get to hang out with some of his Boise friends. Before he hit on me, I became really annoyed with him because I noticed that whenever I was around him, he’d constantly tell me what books to read, what movies to watch, what music to listen to—not because “I think you’d like Movie X if you like Movie Y,” or even, “Everyone should hear this band because they are amazing,” but more because he thought he could improve on my existing tastes. If I ever ran into him at a function, he’d interrupt my conversation with someone else in order to stick his iPod in my ears and play some annoying song he was enamored of, saying, “You gotta hear this—it’s phenomenal!” He’d stick CDs into my computer and upload them without asking. Once when he was at my house, he got onto my Netflix queue and rearranged the whole list, deleting movies he thought were stupid, and adding to it tons of things that I would never be interested in. Like Anime, or Naked Lunch. Never, ever will I watch Naked Lunch, nor will I read it. He would appraise my bookshelf, saying things like, “Good, good, you have Vonnegut…The Second Sex, good…hm…Flannery O’Connor, good…Kierkegaard, nice—What?! Art Nouveau? Art Nouveau sucks! Your Birthday Sign Through Time?!? This doesn’t belong here! This doesn’t belong on any bookshelf!” and on and on. I never ASKED for his bloody opinions! Amazingly, he is neither an English, nor a Philosophy major…
Ah, but I digress. I was telling my friend about him and saying that he needs a 19-year-old if he’s going to pull that sort of crap—if he wants to mold someone’s tastes in his own image. And though he’s married, he’d come up with a very Svidrigailovian sort of rationalization for hitting on me. He thought that I would jump at the chance to sleep with him—that I’d be grateful, because I’m single. And that it wasn’t really anything that should affect his marriage, because he was doing me such a huge service! (And this is not speculation, he made it clear by his actions and his words that this is what he thought. Yuck). He thought that all of this preaching to me about music, books, and movies was a compliment to me. He thought that I was flattered that he was taking so much time and energy to tell me what to be interested in. I made it obvious that it really annoyed the shit out of me, but he thought it was funny. He also thought he had my entire personality figured out. In short, he thought he knew better than me what I wanted or what was good for me, which motivated everything else he did. As I said earlier, Yuck.
Anyway, back to Svidrigailov. Svidrigailov is this same sort of pompous, presumptuous ass. It reminds me of my erstwhile friend when Svidrigailov tells Raskolnikov, “I shall continue to tell you things like that on purpose, just in order to hear your screams. It’s a real pleasure!” (575). His entire tirade on flattery as the key to “the subjugation of the female heart,” (568-9) disgusts me, and it’s the same sort of ironic, sexist B.S. that my ex-friend would say.
I can’t tell whether or not Svidrigailov really believes he’s made Dunya love him or whether he’s just pretending to himself. Maybe a little of both, and I think he’s attached to her because she’s been his biggest challenge in winning over. Plus the fact that he thinks he’s so wonderful, such a sexual conquistador, that she should fall at his feet simply because he deigned to notice her and compliment her. I also think it’s hard as an English speaker in the 21st Century to quite understand what it means when Dunya uses the “thou” form and why it is so devastating to Svidrigailov. I assume this means what we learned as the formal “you” in German—Sie/Ihnen vs. Du—and maybe the translator just didn’t know how to convey this to English-speaking readers? Whatever the case, I must say I will not be sorry when Svidrigailov kills himself.

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