Literature Study GuidesThe IdiotPart 1 Chapters 9 10 Summary

The Idiot | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Idiot | Part 1, Chapters 9–10 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 9

After a flustered Ganya introduces Nastasya Filippovna to his mother and sister, she begins rudely quizzing them about their shabby apartment and its tenants. Ganya also introduces the prince, whom Nastasya had first taken for a servant. Soon General Ivolgin comes in and introduces himself, and Nastasya playfully berates him, calling him "papa" and asking why he hasn't been to see her. Nastasya allows Ivolgin to tell a wild and amusing story about throwing an annoying dog out a train window but then tells him she's read the same story in the newspaper some days previously. Ganya looks at Nastasya with hatred and tries to remove his father from the room, but just then a noisy crowd of people come into the front hall.

Chapter 10

Prince Myshkin recognizes the voices of Rogozhin and Lebedev, who barge in, accompanied by several drunken men. Although surprised to see Nastasya Filippovna, Rogozhin still threatens to buy them all. He asks her if she's planning to marry Ganya, and she answers "No." Rogozhin begins offering Ganya money, egged on by Nastasya, while Ganya tells him to get out. Rogozhin promises to produce 100,000 rubles to the purpose. Varya calls Nastasya shameless. Ganya grabs Varya's hand in anger and won't let go, so she spits in his face. He swings at his sister with all his strength, but the blow is stopped by the prince, who says, "Oh, how ashamed you'll be of what you've done!" He also tells Nastasya she is pretending to be shameless, and she admits he's right, kissing Nina Alexandrovna's hand and leaving quickly.

Analysis

In Dostoevsky's polyphonic novels characters with widely divergent voices and points of view often confront one another in melodramatic and violent scenes. The first of such scenes in The Idiot takes place in these two chapters, in which Nastasya Filippovna barges in on the Ivolgins, followed by Rogozhin and his drunken crew. Nastasya feels humiliated by Totsky's attempt to "sell" her to Ganya. As is typical in Dostoevsky's novels, and especially prominent in this one, people learn what is going on behind their backs through third parties who keep the rumor mill spinning. Nastasya is well aware that the Ivolgins do not consider her worthy to enter their family and that Ganya already feels hatred toward her. This is the reason she goes to his house to humiliate him and his family. They live in a shabby apartment and must take in tenants, which is a sore point for Ganya, so she rubs salt in that wound. The entire family is ashamed of their drunken father who tells one tall tale after another. Naturally, Nastasya winds him up to repeat an anecdote he read in the newspaper as if it were his own experience. Then she calls him a liar.

As is the case in these melodramatic scenes, there is much comedy, and General Ivolgin is both pathetic and comic. But things soon turn ugly when Rogozhin enters the picture. His idea is not so much to buy Nastasya as to buy off Ganya so that he removes himself from the picture. Nastasya eggs Rogozhin on in a parody of what Totsky, General Epanchin, and Ganya are trying to do more discreetly, which is to treat her like a commodity that can be had for a price. She is also using Rogozhin to further humiliate Ganya. An enraged Ganya strikes out against his sister without reservation, which reveals his depth of depravity. Nastasya has succeeded in showing him to be man with no morals. The only person who sees Nastasya for who she is—a wronged woman lashing out—is Myshkin. His words bring her back to her true self ("You can't be the way you pretended to be just now. It's not possible!"), which is why she apologizes to Ganya's mother.

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