The Best Short Stories of Fyodor Dostoevsky
Modern Library
Fyodor Dostoevsky
“The Heavenly Christmas Tree”
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“The Heavenly Christmas Tree” was written by Fyodor Dostoevsky in 1876, towards the end of his career.  The story is short by comparison to Dostoevsky’s many longer works, but within the brevity of this piece Dostoevsky penetrates the soul of a young boy.  This classic story is much admired for its narrative form and the sad portrayal of an orphaned boy lost on a cold Christmas Eve who is pushed aside by the people he encounters.

 

Many of Dostoevsky’s memorable characters are tragic heroes who, through despair and weakness in the face of misfortune falter and commit barbaric acts that render them unfit to life in society.  The boy in “The Heavenly Christmas Tree” is the victim on the heartlessness of the world around him and so is different from the characters so often found in Dostoevsky’s work.

 

The boy embodies a central aspect of Dostoevsky’s view of life, “To be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter–this is what life is, herein lies its task.” (The Brothers Karamazov, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky)

 

Dostoevsky (1821- 1881) began writing in the mid-1840s, but his most memorable works – including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and the Brothers Karamazov – are from his later years.  He wrote eleven novels, three novellas, seventeen short novels, and three essays, and has been judged by many literary critics to be one of the greatest and most prominent psychologists in world literature.

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