Literature Study GuidesThe IdiotPart 2 Chapters 11 12 Summary

The Idiot | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Idiot | Part 2, Chapters 11–12 | Summary



Chapter 11

The next day Adelaida and Prince Shch. stop by and ask Prince Myshkin about the woman who shouted at Evgeny Pavlovich, and Myshkin admits it was Nastasya Filippovna. Shch. says it's impossible that Evgeny gave promissory notes to a moneylender, since he has a fortune. Nastasya must have some reason for wanting to discredit Evgeny, he says. After his company leaves, Myshkin suspects the "madwoman" has some "terrible goal." When Ganya arrives, he tells the prince Nastasya has been in Pavlovsk for four days and is attracting attention, and he speculates Evgeny may owe some money. Toward nightfall Keller visits the prince and borrows some money from him. When Lebedev gets home, the prince asks him if he had anything to do with the carriage incident, and he says cryptically by "sending a timely message to a certain person." Late at night Kolya arrives and tells Myshkin that Aglaya has argued with her family about Ganya, although he doesn't know why, and Mrs. Epanchin has discreetly barred Varya from her house.

Chapter 12

The Epanchins have been staying away from Prince Myshkin, but now Mrs. Epanchin visits him and asks him why he sent Aglaya a letter a few months back. Myshkin answers he wrote as a friend, as a brother to a sister. She next quizzes him about "the poor knight," wondering aloud if Aglaya is interested in him, and she vows he will never marry her. She tells him Ganya has been in touch with Aglaya—and blames Varya for intriguing on her brother's behalf. In addition, Aglaya is in touch with Nastasya Filippovna, which upsets the prince immensely. Finally, Mrs. Epanchin gets angry at Myshkin for teasing her about being ashamed of her feelings, and when she bars him from her house, he lets slip he's been barred already by Aglaya, who sent him a note. Mrs. Epanchin's response is to drag him back to her house so Aglaya can "sharpen her teeth" on him.


As the relationship between Aglaya and Prince Myshkin is developing, he becomes aware that Nastasya Filippovna is meddling in some way. The prince thinks she is mad, but he is still afraid of the damage she might do in her madness. At this point Myshkin has no conscious awareness that either Aglaya is attracted to him or he to her. He considers himself to be a sick man, not somebody who is marriageable. While he did propose to Nastasya Filippovna early in the novel, he did so only for the purpose of saving her, but Aglaya doesn't need saving, and she already has a suitor: Evgeny Pavlovich. Still, he cannot deny that Nastasya seems to have some dark purpose in targeting Evgeny. Not surprisingly, Lebedev is involved in this new intrigue, but he also implies that Aglaya is involved.

Mrs. Epanchin is very concerned about what Aglaya is up to, and she quizzes the prince on the meaning of his letter because, although she admires him and perhaps loves him, he is too odd to marry her daughter, and she is against such a match. She is relieved to find out he is not intriguing with Aglaya, who has been speaking to Ganya behind her mother's back. This is why Mrs. Epanchin bars Varya from the house: she suspects she has been working to soften up Aglaya on her brother's behalf. Meanwhile, Aglaya is being courted by Evgeny Pavlovich, although no one knows that she has already turned down a marriage proposal from him.

What remains unclear is why Mrs. Epanchin would drag the prince back to her house for Aglaya to "sharpen her teeth on" if she does not want Myshkin as a son-in-law. The closing scene of the chapter is comic, as Mrs. Epanchin thinks aloud and then accuses the prince of eavesdropping: Aglaya really wanted the prince to visit, which is why she told him not to come. But because he is an "idiot," he took her at her word. Mrs. Epanchin tells Myshkin that Aglaya needs a "buffoon" like him.

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