Sensitivity and Judgment

From Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

She came back, with some bread and meat and a little mug of beer. She put the mug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the bread and meat without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry,—I cannot hit upon the right name for the smart—God knows what its name was,—that tears started to my eyes. The moment they sprang there, the girl looked at me with a quick delight in having been the cause of them. This gave me power to keep them back and to look at her: so, she gave a contemptuous toss—but with a sense, I thought, of having made too sure that I was so wounded—and left me.

But when she was gone, I looked about me for a place to hide my face in, and got behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and leaned my sleeve against the wall there, and leaned my forehead on it and cried. As I cried, I kicked the wall, and took a hard twist at my hair; so bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart without a name, that needed counteraction.

My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand gave her no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts, and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.

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Expressing Yourself

From The Adolescent, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I may have done a bad thing in sitting down to write: there’s infinitely more inside me than I have expressed in words. An idea, even if a bad one, is always more profound while it’s still with you, but when put into words – it’s largely ridiculous and dishonourable. Versilov told me that the opposite happens only with bad people. They simply lie; to them it comes easily. I’m trying to write the whole truth and it’s terribly hard!

To Be Alive

From Youth, by Leo Tolstoy

“Well, now for some sleep,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, “just one more thing.”

“Go ahead.”

“Is it wonderful to be alive in this world?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied with such a voice that I felt I could see the expression of his joyful, tender eyes and his childlike smile in the dark.

A Handsome Face

From Childhood, by Leo Tolstoy

I had the strangest notions of beauty – I even regarded Karl Ivanych as the most handsome man in the world, but I also knew very well that I was not good-looking, and I was not at all mistaken about that; therefore any comments on my looks offended me deeply.

I remember well how one evening – I was six then – there was a discussion about my face; she said that I had intelligent eyes and a pleasant smile, and finally, giving way to Papa’s arguments and to the obvious, she was forced to admit that I was ugly, and then, when I thanked her for dinner, she patted me on the cheek and said:

“You should know, Nikolyenka, that no one will love you for your face; that’s why you must try and be a good and clever boy.”

Those words not only convinced me that I was not handsome but also that I would definitely be a good, clever boy.
In spite of this, I often suffered moments of despair. I imagined that there was no happiness on earth for a person like me, with such a broad nose, thick lips and small grey eyes. I asked God to perform a miracle – to turn me into a good-looking man, and I would have given anything I had then and everything I would have in the future in return for a handsome face.

The Drum Beats

“But why trouble oneself with unanswerable questions? The drum beats, it is time to be back in our wards.”

The House of the Dead – Dostoyevsky

Burdening Myself

From The Devils by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

‘I can’t understand it!’ Stavrogin said angrily. ‘Why does everybody expect something from me that is not expected from anybody else? Why should I put up with things no one else puts up with? Why should I agree to burdens no one else can bear?’

‘I thought you were looking for a burden yourself.’

‘Me looking for a burden?’

‘Yes.’

‘You – you realized that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Is it so noticeable?’

‘Yes.’