'The Duel ' Summary
Ivan Andreitch Laevsky is an educated Russian aristocrat who has run off to a Black Sea village with a married woman, Nadezhda Fyodorovna. When the novella begins, he has fallen out of love with Nadezhda Fyodorovna, who is having affairs with other men, and wants to leave her. He receives a letter informing him that her husband has died; however, he hides the letter in a book and does not tell her about it. That, he says, would be like inviting her to marry him.
Laevsky confides in Alexander Daviditch Samoylenko, a military doctor who has befriended Laevsky and looks after him. Samoylenko urges Laevsky to marry Nadezhda Fyodorovna, even if he does not love her. Laevsky says he cannot marry a woman he has no feelings for, but he cannot leave her because she has no relatives and relies on him for survival. Samoylenko tells him to give her enough money to live on. Laevsky, however, says he is 2000 rubles in debt and cannot afford to do that.
Samoylenko has two boarders in his house, and they discuss philosophy, science, and literature around the dinner table and elsewhere. One of them is Nikolay Vassilitch Von Koren, a zoologist; the other is a deacon in the Russian church. The doctor, the zoologist, and the deacon discuss the new idea of evolution. In a friendly discussion, the deacon says that man was descended from God, while Von Koren argues that man was descended from the ape. He explains how fitter animals survive to pass their strength on to their descendants, but weaker animals die off.
Von Koren uses Laevsky as an example of a man who is not fit to survive. When Laevsky came to town, he brought with him habits that the townsfolk view as uncouth. Von Koren says that Laevsky should not be permitted to reproduce; otherwise there would be children as uncouth as Laevsky all over Russia. Von Koren goes on to compare Laevsky to the cholera microbe and says he would like to kill Laevsky himself, as one would kill a pest. Samoylenko and the deacon reject these ideas, Samoylenko out of compassion and the deacon because he believes in the love taught by Christ. Samoylenko is offended by Von Koren insulting Laevsky and they reject his "German" ideas.
Laevsky decides to leave town for Petersburg. He says that he will go first and send for Nadezhda Fyodorovna after he is settled, but Samoylenko and Von Koren know that this is his way of abandoning her. Since he has no money, he asks Samoylenko to loan him 100 rubles. Samoylenko agrees but does not have the money. He tells Laevsky he will have to borrow it in turn from a third party, then, after Laevsky leaves, asks Von Koren for a loan. Von Koren agrees on the condition that Laevsky take Nadezhda Fyodorovna with him to Petersburg.
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