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Written by Aleksei Marchyn
The little shop
This shop is a place where the story begins. And the young painter finds the portrait with the old man here. “Only simple dullness, steady-going incapacity” – with this description an image is provoked rather unfavorable, and a feeling of something bad is flying in the air. “The same colors, the same manner, the same practiced hand, belonging rather to a manufacturing automaton than to a man!” This place reproduces the artistic taste and atmosphere at once, and it is not a surprise that that sinister portrait would be in the place like this.
The old man with strange eyes, who is painted on the portrait, is not a human. He is Devil, who entices people. The old painter created “the very Devil!” And his friend is sure that “it is not without cause that he wishes to burn that portrait. Devil take it, there's something horrible about it! He doesn’t believe in sorcerers; but, begging pardon, there's an unclean spirit in it.” A feeling of supernatural, bad and sinister is the only image that this portrait provokes. But it is too late to change something, because Devil is at large.
Only abject poverty is a characteristic feature for this city. The author says that “there everything is unlike anything else in St. Petersburg. Retired officials remove thither to live; widows; people not very well off and, in short, that whole list of people who can be described by the words ash-colored—people whose garments, faces, hair, eyes, have a sort of ashy surface, like a day when there is in the sky neither cloud nor sun.” Life in Kolomna is terribly dull. And it adds to the very tone of the story that nothing good may happen in such a city. This place is a place of jealousy, hatred, envy.
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