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The Idiot

Fyodor Dostoevsky


Key Facts

Key Facts

full title ·  The Idiot

author · Fyodor Dostoevsky

type of work · Novel

genre · Aristocratic drama; character study; tragedy

language · Russian

time and place written · 1867–1869; Europe (Baden, Dresden, Geneva, Milan, Florence)

date of first publication · 1868–1869 in several issues of the Russian Messenger

publisher · Katkov

narrator · Anonymous narrator; loses his omniscience as the novel progresses

point of view · Third person, selectively omniscient

tone · At times removed but usually psychologically intense

tense · Past

setting (time) · 1860s

setting (place) · Primarily St. Petersburg and Pavlovsk; interludes in and references to Yekaterinhof, Moscow, and Switzerland

protagonist · Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin

major conflict · Myshkin is torn between his romantic love for Aglaya Yepanchin and his compassionate love for Nastassya Filippovna

rising action · Myshkin proposes to Nastassya Filippovna; he realizes he does not love her; she leaves him for Rogozhin; Myshkin proposes to Aglaya

climax · The meeting of Aglaya and Nastassya Filippovna

falling action · Aglaya runs away and breaks all relations with Myshkin, who almost marries Nastassya Filippovna; Rogozhin kills Nastassya Filippovna; he and the Prince keep vigil next to her dead body

themes · The ideal human being; the clash between good and the real world; Russian Christianity and redemption

motifs · Beauty; light and dark; love

symbols · Money; Rogozhin's house; the monster in Hippolite's dream

foreshadowing · Myshkin says that if Rogozhin does marry Nastassya Filippovna, Rogozhin will likely kill her

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by LittleLandmine, December 26, 2014

The young prince is supposed to symbolize the good. The image of "Christ", the kindness at his own expense. Though because of his epilepsy everyone takes advantage of his naiiveness, and he is looked at like an idiot. So I believe since Fyodor had epilepsy himself he was aware of the losing of knowledge, that can make one feel stupid, hence "the idiot." I know from having many seizures that over time they do affect our brain in various ways. I am not the only one to feel that way, but I never thought any book could incorporate that feeling a... Read more


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