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It was the novel "Poor People"that at one time brought fame to Fyodor Dostoevsky. The critic Vissarion Belinsky spoke about the novel in the following way: “... The novel reveals such secrets of life and characters in Russia that no one had dreamed of before him... This is our first attempt at a social novel, and, moreover, made in the way that artists usually do, that is, not even suspecting what is coming out of them."
The petty official Makar Devushkin and the girl Varya live in the same house, but they almost never meet to avoid gossip, they only write letters to each other. He is her distant relative and saves on everything in order to support the girl.
Varenka laments the lack of a future and the memory of a certain grief.
Makar rents a room in a poor, dirty house. He talks about his neighbor Gorshkov, who is afraid of everything and cannot provide his wife and three children even with sufficient food.
Varenka says that she spent her childhood in the provinces, and then moved with her parents to St. Petersburg. After the death of their father, creditors took everything from them and they were forced to huddle with a distant relative, Anna Fedorovna. Varenka fell in love with the tenant Peter. The student did not notice her, and soon died of consumption. Anna Fyodorovna constantly reproaches Varenka and recalls the shame when a certain Mr. Bykov refused to marry her.
Makar says that since the age of 17, and for 30 years now he has been serving in a modest position, but he does not grumble and, in general, is satisfied with everything.
Varenka is constantly ill, but is going to become a governess for the sake of additional earnings. Makar is against and threatens to commit suicide if this is the cause of the "angel's" misfortune. At the same time, he himself is in an extremely difficult financial situation, since there is not enough salary, there is nowhere to take money, and he also dreams of some kind of "ambition" and respect from his superiors. Makar starts drinking.
When everything seemed to be lost, an amazing event happens - the boss drew attention to the miserable appearance of Makar and gave him 100 rubles, which immediately changes everything.
Mr. Bykov appears again in Varenka's life. He was in her apartment, inquired about her, and later appeared again, apologized and asked for her hand in marriage. The reason for his matchmaking is that Bykov wants legal heirs in order to disinherit his nephew. He gives Varenka money and promises that she will "roll like cheese in butter". Varya is ready to get married for the sake of a comfortable life. Makar asks not to do this, however, he fulfills all her requests to prepare for the wedding.
Makar cannot come to the wedding due to illness. Varenka writes a farewell letter. Makar believes that Bykov will destroy her and that she will feel bad in a foreign land.
At this, the correspondence ends.