Literature Study GuidesThe IdiotPart 4 Chapters 9 10 Summary

The Idiot | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Idiot | Part 4, Chapters 9–10 | Summary



Chapter 9

The narrator, who has actively broken into the story from time to time, now addresses the reader, admitting to a limited knowledge of what happens next.

Two weeks following this incident rumors circulate that Prince Myshkin has jilted Aglaya and run off with Nastasya Filippovna, intending to marry her. The wedding will be a public celebration. Meanwhile, the prince has tried on several occasions to see Aglaya but has been refused admittance by Aglaya's friends and relatives. It is said that Ganya has tried to renew his courtship of Aglaya but without success. Ippolit says the prince has lost his mind, and Evgeny Pavlovich confirms Aglaya has been ill.

Evgeny meets with the prince and tells him he understands his initial infatuation with Nastasya, but he cannot understand how Myshkin could disgrace and humiliate Aglaya for the sake of compassion. He should have left Nastasya and run after Aglaya, but the prince argues she certainly would have died. Myshkin doesn't understand why his impending marriage should prevent him from seeing Aglaya. He thinks she'll understand, but Evgeny tells him she loves like a woman, not like a spirit.

Chapter 10

It is said that the Epanchin parents were partly responsible for Evgeny Pavlovich's visit to the prince, perhaps to talk him out of the madness of marrying a madwoman. The prince is convinced Nastasya Filippovna is mad, but he plans to go through with the wedding anyway. Around this time the Ivolgins are burying the general, who has died of a second stroke. Five days before the wedding Nastasya falls into hysterics because she thinks Rogozhin is hiding in the garden and is planning to put a knife in her, but Myshkin arrives to console her. The night before the wedding Nastasya again has hysterics, hesitating to ruin the prince, but he calms her down. On the day of the wedding Nastasya dressed in splendid finery, comes out of Darya Alexeevna's house and spots Rogozhin in the assembled crowd. She rushes to him, demanding he take her away.


In Part 4, Chapter 9 the narrator utterly fails the reader, asking: "How recount that of which we have neither a clear understanding nor a personal opinion?" Dostoevsky's notebooks show that he deliberately wished to present Prince Myshkin as an enigma, and literary critic Robert Feuer Miller calls the narrative stance in The Idiot a combination of "enigma and explanation," which creates an aura of mystery. Literary critic Alexander Spektor explains that in withholding information, the narrator makes it impossible for the reader to reach a definitive moral interpretation of the story. Since the reader does not have access to Myshkin's consciousness at this point in the story, they can only guess about his motives, given the facts that have accumulated so far.

It appears that Myshkin has made the decision to keep his promise to Nastasya to marry her, but whether she has demanded this or whether he has insisted is not known. Based on what Evgeny says and what the reader knows about the prince so far, he is marrying her out of pity, possibly to prevent her from marrying Rogozhin. He is marrying her despite the fact that he told Aglaya in Part 3, Chapter 8, that he knows "for certain that she'll perish with me." At the same time Myshkin keeps attempting to see Aglaya, somehow thinking what he has done has not changed relations between them.

While Myshkin is afraid Nastasya will perish if she marries him, she is still afraid she will ruin him, while she also fears that Rogozhin will somehow break in on her and kill her with a knife. While the motives of the participants in this triangle are not fully known to the reader, what is clear is that these relationships can only end tragically.

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