The Idiot By Fyodor Dostoevsky Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapters 11-12

Summary

The day after the scandalous evening at Prince Myshkins, Adelaida and her fiancé visit the prince on the pretext of being out for a walk; they are in search of a nice scene for Adelaida to paint, they say, but ask Myshkin about the mysterious woman in the carriage. Myshkin frankly tells them that he believes that it was Nastasya Filippovna. Adelaida wonders about the IOUs Nastasya spoke of because Radomsky, she is sure, has a fortune. Also, Radomsky's friendship with Nastasya is shocking. Prince S. is able to supply some answers, but he too is mystified by what is taking place. Radomsky, he says, knew Nastasya two or three years ago; but he swears they could never have been on intimate terms. Myshkin is worried; he feels that Nastasya, if she has returned for some sort of revenge, will stop at nothing. Perhaps Ganya will have further answers.

Ganya expects to be questioned by the prince, but when the two men are together, Myshkin seems dreamy and almost absent-minded, so much so that Ganya, who had hoped to conceal certain details, tries to tantalize Myshkin into asking for the answers. Nastasya Filippovna, he says, has already been four days in Pavlovsk, has the finest carriage in town, and a wide variety of followers; he is sure that her behavior yesterday was premeditated. As for Radomsky, Ganya thinks that he has never known Nastasya before meeting her four days ago. The IOUs, he says, mean that Radomsky's business affairs are in a muddle. Varya arrives then and tells her brother that perhaps she will be leaving Pavlovsk and going back to Petersburg. Matters at the Epanchin house, she says, are not good: The entire family is quarreling. Myshkin wishes that he could be rid of all this chaos, could be alone, and could leave for some remote region; he has a terrible foreboding, but he decides to stay; it would be cowardly to leave now.

Keller visits the prince, declaring that he wants to tell Myshkin the story of his life, and ending by borrowing money from the prince. Then Lebedyev arrives, and Myshkin asks him if he had anything to do with Nastasya's carriage stopping. Lebedyev hedges, then confesses that he did, but only indirectly: He let a certain person know that certain people would be present. Myshkin demands to know the truth behind Lebedyev's ambiguity and Lebedyev begins speaking of Aglaia. Myshkin cuts him short; Lebedyev is inventing another pack of lies, he cries.

Later Kolya arrives with news. Aglaia has quarreled with her family about Ganya, and Madame Epanchin has turned Varya out of the house. Kolya is concerned about his brother but Myshkin wonders if Madame Epanchin is not trying to break off relations between her daughter and Ganya. Perhaps Ganya has been encouraged by Aglaia, he says. Impossible, Kolya exclaims, and the only reason Myshkin believes such an idea is that he is jealous, jealous of Ganya!

Next day, General Epanchin talks with Myshkin on the train from Petersburg, and pleads with the prince not to visit the family for a while; the family situation is all flaring tempers and feuding. He also talks about Nastasya Filippovna's interest in Yevgeny Pavlovitch; she shouted "Dear" to him across the street and, furthermore, the general is sure that Nastasya is out for revenge, perhaps revenge on himself, he surmises. Also, he wonders where Rogozhin is hiding and why he and Nastasya are not married. Trouble, he fears, is "hovering like a bat."

Later that evening, Madame Epanchin unexpectedly arrives at the prince's villa. She demands to know whether or not Myshkin sent a letter to Aglaia and, if so, with what object in mind. Myshkin tells her that some time ago he wrote to Aglaia, impulsively, on a bright sunny morning; he was longing for a friend. Is he in love with her daughter? Madame Epanchin asks. Myshkin answers no, that he wrote to Aglaia as a sister and that he is telling the absolute truth. Lizaveta then asks about the prince's relationship with Nastasya Filippovna. Is he married to her? Was he once about to marry her? To these questions Myshkin confesses yes, that he was once on the verge of marrying the woman.

Madame Epanchin has another question for the prince. Has he come to Pavlovsk because of Nastasya Filippovna? Myshkin answers that he has not come to Pavlovsk to marry Nastasya and then, Madame Epanchin, convinced that Myshkin is telling the truth, says that Aglaia is not in love with the prince and that she has said that he is a freak and an idiot. She adds that Aglaia will not marry Yevgeny Pavlovitch. As for Ganya, she says that Varya has been trying to effect a romance between her brother and Aglaia and, for some strange reason, she has also brought about a correspondence between Aglaia and Nastasya Filippovna. Madame Epanchin declares that Myshkin is an incorrigible simpleton and that he has been and always will be deceived by other people. They quarrel, she forbids Myshkin to enter her house, and starts to leave. The prince calls after her, saying that Aglaia has already forbidden him to come, and he produces a note from the girl. Lizaveta Prokofyevna seizes the note, and Myshkin, and drags him along to her house. She will see for herself what this is all about!

Analysis

Primarily, these chapters function in building suspense. We learn nothing new, nothing that we can be sure of, but we do hear a variety of opinions concerning Nastasya Filippovna's appearance in Pavlovsk, Radomsky's lOUs, and Aglaia's interest in Ganya. During the two days following his party, Myshkin stays at home and receives a number of visitors: Adelaida and Prince S., Ganya, Varya, Lebedyev, Kolya, General Epanchin, and finally Madame Epanchin, who drags Myshkin out of the final scene of Part II and into the first scene of Part III, which is set in the Epanchin's drawing room.

Probably the most important event of these chapters is Myshkin's intense longing to leave Pavlovsk; the world is proving too much for him. He has become, at times, something to be made sport of, and also in a completely different way he has become nearly everyone's confidant. Yet Myshkin has no ready answers for those who consult him or for himself. Worse, he fears that Nastasya Filippovna is planning a scandalous display of spite, and that she will go wherever her (possible) insanity may lead her. There is a threatening storm cloud building over Pavlovsk; Myshkin feels that disaster is threatening and General Epanchin voices the prince's fears.

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At the end of Part III, Nastasya and Rogozhin each ask Myshkin the same question. What was it?




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