Literature Study GuidesThe IdiotPart 3 Chapters 9 10 Summary

The Idiot | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Idiot | Part 3, Chapters 9–10 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 9

Mrs. Epanchin takes Prince Myshkin back to her dacha because she wants an explanation. He tells her Aglaya requested the meeting, although he doesn't reveal what they spoke about, and Mrs. Epanchin lets him go.

The prince speaks with Vera when he gets back to his dacha. She begs him not to send Ippolit away, which he has no intention of doing. When Lebedev comes in, he tells Myshkin that someone at the party the previous night stole his wallet containing 400 rubles. He pretends to suspect Ferdyshchenko but in fact believes General Ivolgin took the money, finally admitting his true suspicions. The prince promises to help sort out the theft if Lebedev keeps quiet about it.

Chapter 10

Prince Myshkin reluctantly reads Nastasya Filippovna's letters to Aglaya, which resemble dreams, in which one thing transforms into another. Nastasya says Aglaya is Myshkin's light, and they are one. She says Rogozhin loves her (Nastasya) so much that he can't help but hate her. After reading these letters, the prince begins walking around the park, where he is accosted by Nastasya. She gets on her knees and kisses his hands, although he tries to stop her. She wants to know if he is happy, but he tells her to calm herself. Rogozhin is nearby, and he puts her in a carriage. He tells Myshkin she's been waiting for him because she wanted to see him one last time. The prince says she's insane, and Rogozhin says maybe she isn't. He is also leaving and again asks if the prince is happy. When he says no, Rogozhin doesn't believe him.

Analysis

Prince Myshkin says on numerous occasions that Nastasya is insane, and he is continually baffled because neither Rogozhin, Aglaya, nor anyone else sees her as mentally ill. One of the many unanswered questions in the novel is why Myshkin continues to contend that Nastasya is mad. The reader can only surmise that Myshkin's assessment is based on Nastasya's masochism, self-hatred, and erratic behavior. But the standards for sanity in a typical Dostoevsky novel are not high, and characters often act in bizarre or unusual ways without being labeled as "crazy."

In an article discussing the archetype of "the fatal woman," critic Diana Cusmerenco says Nastasya's destructive force is unleashed after Totsky tells what he thinks is a harmless anecdote at her birthday party (Part 1, Chapter 14). That night Nastasya begins a "savage rebellion" against the man who has ruined her life. In Cusmerenco's reading Nastasya replaces Totsky with Rogozhin, a worthy opponent for her rage, since he is also an oppressor. Myshkin's unselfish love weakens her self-destructiveness and even has the possibility to heal her, but not before she has defeated her demon. She only wants to torment those who have tormented her, and she turns away from Myshkin because she senses he is tormented by her, and she does not want to hurt him the way Totsky hurt her. Perhaps in loving the prince, she is loving her younger, innocent self. At one point (Part 3, Chapter 8) Aglaya says Nastasya is in love with Myshkin, but he says, "No, there's something else here, but not love!" Perhaps Nastasya falls down on her knees and demands to know if Myshkin is happy because she has sacrificed herself for his sake (made way for Aglaya). Or perhaps he is a stand-in for her younger self, whom she wishes to keep whole.

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