Literature Study GuidesThe IdiotPart 2 Chapters 7 8 Summary

The Idiot | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Idiot | Part 2, Chapters 7–8 | Summary



Chapter 7

Aglaya recites the poem about the poor knight for the assembled company, combining sincere and "beautiful feeling with ... spiteful mockery." This contradiction astonishes Prince Myshkin. Aglaya changes the initials in the poem—representing the object of the knight's veneration—to "N.F.B.," meaning Nastasya Filippovna Barashkov.

Now four young people arrive to see Prince Myshkin: Lebedev's nephew Doktorenko, who had been demanding money from his uncle; Burdovsky, who calls himself the son of Pavlishchev (Myshkin's dead guardian); a retired lieutenant and boxer, Keller; and Ippolit, Kolya's friend and the son of the widow Marfa, with whom General Ivolgin has had an affair. Everyone seems to know who these young men are, and Mrs. Epanchin calls them nihilists.

Chapter 8

Prince Myshkin is not surprised to see them and says he's entrusted their business to Ganya a month ago. The young men are in a belligerent mood, and Mrs. Epanchin suddenly pulls out an editorial from a humorous weekly and demands Kolya read it. The editorial is a character assassination, portraying the prince as an idiot and bloodsucker—someone who wants to cheat Pavlishchev's rightful heir, his illegitimate son, out of his inheritance. The article also makes fun of Myshkin for chasing after Nastasya Filippovna. Now these men have come to demand a settlement. The man who put Burdovsky up to demanding money from the prince is a crooked lawyer named Chebarov. The prince is prepared to give Burdovsky 10,000 rubles, but first he asks Ganya to tell everyone what he has found out.


As critic and biographer Joseph Frank points out, Aglaya's misconceptions of the prince reflect her own character, which is a combination of passionate idealism and extreme arrogance. She is attracted by the prince's purity and altruism, but she wants other people to admire him for his spiritual gifts, and she gets angry with him because he is too meek and allows people to walk all over him (from her point of view). She is angry at him for idealizing Nastasya Filippovna (even though Myshkin has no illusions about who she is or what drives her) while at the same time admiring him for his devotion to an ideal. Aglaya may already be a little in love with the prince, so perhaps she is also jealous because he has been chasing around another woman.

Prince Myshkin's humility and compassionate love are evident in his measured response to the young nihilists who have broken in, demanding a portion of his inheritance for Burdovsky, his mentor's supposed illegitimate son. The prince knows this man is not Pavlishchev's son, yet he is willing to give him money anyway because he needs it, and he assumes the young man has been entirely misled by the crooked lawyer Chebarov.

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