When I found myself in the fortress I thought that this would be the end of me, I thought that I wouldn't hold out for three days. And then I suddenly found calm. And what was I doing? I was writing “A Little Hero”. Read it; can you see any bitterness in it, any torment? I had peaceful, lovely, good dreams.- Dostoyevsky to Vladimir Soloviev.
The world through the eyes of a child. This short story immediately reminded me of Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The same situation with two different versions, according to the age of the viewer. It seems so obvious. And yet...
The story begins with an 11 year-old at a party in a relative's house. Something that made quite an impression on him. The city, the people, the bustle, the music. Everything new and exciting. And many other things the innocent eye of a child cannot see, until he is taught how to do it himself.
Of course backbiting and slander ran their course, as without them the world could not get on, and millions of persons would perish of boredom, like flies. But as I was at that time eleven I was absorbed by very different interests, and either failed to observe these people, or if I noticed anything, did not see it all. It was only afterwards that some things came back to my mind. My childish eyes could only see the brilliant side of the picture... (4)
Being a kid is hard. I know, I remember. But being an adult is ten times more difficult. We see plenty. We know a lot and yet, we repeat mistakes. We tend to fight over petty things, we cannot forgive as easy as a child. We cannot always see just the brilliant side of the picture, otherwise, the picture would eat us alive. People often confuse love with obsession and power with a goal in life. Sure, there is always something new to see, we did not lose that. The most fortunate people can even contemplate the rain as it falls, just like they did when they first saw it. However, if there is a person that has seen it all, that did not see anything new in years... well, I would feel quite sad, for no one deserves such tragedy.
All in all, who does not miss seeing the world through childish eyes? If we could turn those eyes on and off when we please, would you?
Dostoyevsky's prose is as fascinating as ever. His vivid and exquisite descriptions of people and places are simply impressive. The protagonist went through various situations and I felt his sorrow, I heard his noisy environment, I saw his bewilderment while his beautiful admirer tortured him, I saw little, daily heroes with those kind of hearts that grieve as much as they love. Dostoyevsky's words were created with such sweetness that conveys the spirit of the child with perfection. And that is something you should pay attention to. This short story was written while the author was in confinement in the Peter and Paul Fortress, as the “most dangerous convict” he apparently was. From the darkest place can emerge the most luminous story. What a remarkable spirit.
A Little Hero was the last story Dostoyevsky wrote before the Siberian exile.