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The Idiot

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Part II, Chapters 10–12

Part II, Chapters 6–9

Part III, Chapters 1–3

Summary

After tea is served, Hippolite speaks, occasionally interrupted by violent coughing. First, he tells Madame Yepanchin that Lebedev corrected Keller's article. She denounces Lebedev and his family. Then Hippolite says that he has spent a lot of time lying in bed and looking out the window, staring at the red brick wall of Meyer's house. Hippolite laments that he has only two weeks left to live and has not made a difference in the world or even left a memory.

At midnight the guests begin to leave. Although Prince Myshkin offers that Hippolite may spend the night, the young man leaves with his friends. Before doing so, Hippolite passionately cries that he hates the prince. As the Yepanchins and Radomsky descend the stairs of the veranda, a carriage drives by with two women inside. One of the women speaks rather informally to Radomsky and says that she took care of his I.O.U.s. Radomsky denies knowing the woman or having anything to do with her.

For three days the Yepanchins are angry with Myshkin for the disgraceful evening. On the next day Adelaida and Prince S. visit Myshkin. Prince S. asks Myshkin if he happens to know the identity of the woman who was in the carriage. Myshkin replies that the woman was Nastassya Filippovna. Prince S. then says that her words must be lies, as Radomsky does not know her well, nor can he have had any I.O.U.s, as he has a large fortune. When Myshkin is left alone, he feels saddened and cannot understand Nastassya Filippovna's reasons for shouting such things at Radomsky.

Ganya visits Myshkin and tells him that Nastassya Filippovna has been in Pavlovsk for four days and that she just met Radomsky four days ago. They cannot possibly be very close, but there may be some truth to the I.O.U.s. Ganya also tells the prince that Aglaya has fought with her family. These items of news upset Myshkin. Shortly after Ganya leaves, Keller visits the prince, confessing theft with the hope of then asking the prince for money. Myshkin gives Keller twenty-five rubles, and the man leaves.

Lebedev enters and speaks ill of Keller. The prince asks Myshkin about the affair with the carriage the night before. Lebedev admits that he told Nastassya Filippovna who Myshkin's guests were. The prince says he cannot understand why Nastassya Filippovna is trying to chip away at Radomsky's reputation. Lebedev begins his explanation with the words "Aglaya Ivanovna," but the prince interrupts him. Kolya arrives in the evening and tells the Prince of a scandal at the Yepanchins that involved Ganya; as a result, Varya has been asked to never come to the Yepanchin house again. Kolya then thinks Myshkin is jealous of Ganya.

The prince goes to St. Petersburg the next day. On his way back to Pavlovsk, he meets General Yepanchin and rides together with him in the train. The general firmly believes in Radomsky's words and thinks Nastassya Filippovna has made up the whole matter of I.O.U.s in an attempt to get back at the general for the events that occurred in Part I of the novel.

On the third day after the scandal, Madame Yepanchin comes to visit the prince. She asks him why he wrote a letter to Aglaya and wants to know if he is in love with her. Myshkin answers that he does not know why he wrote the letter and says that he did so as a brother. Madame Yepanchin says that she will never allow a marriage between Aglaya and the prince; she says that Aglaya is a whimsical girl and that she will not marry Radomsky. In addition, Madame Yepanchin says that Ganya has been conspiring to gain Aglaya's affection, and that Varya has been helping him. One of them put Aglaya in touch with Nastassya Filippovna.

Madame Yepanchin cannot understand why Myshkin calmly reacts to the news that the Ivolgins have not been truthful with him. She does not understand why he allows everyone to fool him. The prince shows her a letter Burdovsky wrote to him in which Burdovsky admits that he was wrong. Myshkin also tells Madame Yepanchin that Aglaya wrote a note to him, asking him never to come to their house. Upon hearing this, Madame Yepanchin is enraged.

Analysis

The final sections of Part II explore the character of Hippolite, the seventeen-year-old friend of Kolya Ivolgin. Hippolite is ill with consumption and has only two or three weeks left to live—another character on the brink of death, much like Rogozhin or Nastassya Filippovna. Hippolite's relationship to Myshkin is very different from Rogozhin's or Nastassya Filippovna's, however. Unlike the other two, who seek some refuge in Myshkin and see him as a way to save themselves from destruction, Hippolite rejects the prince. In fact, Hippolite passionately says that he hates Myshkin with all of his heart. Hippolite's violent hatred sharply contrasts with the prince's constant kindness and good will. We also see a contrast between Hippolite's relationship to nature and Myshkin's. Hippolite does not believe in God, and he feels cheated by nature, which he views as causing him to die prematurely. In contrast, Myshkin has a strong belief in God and does not hate nature for giving him the ailment—epilepsy—that distinguishes him from others. Although both men can be seen as outsiders to society (albeit for different reasons), they react very differently to this outsider status. Whereas Hippolite is filled with hatred and resentment, Myshkin is filled with kindness and a desire to help people.

Hippolite is also part of the group of the young insolent people who arrive to demand that Myshkin pay Burdovsky to compensate for Pavlishchev's kindness toward Myshkin. Hippolite makes rude demands in the name of morality and justice; it is unclear how much of his motivation is simply hate of the prince and how much it is a wish to be original and denounce the old order to which the Prince belongs. After all, Hippolite laments the fact that he will die without leaving any traces of himself and without having changed the world. Perhaps Hippolite's joining of Burdovsky's group and support of Burdovsky's cause is his way of trying to protest the current state of affairs in the world.

The end of Part II also witnesses the further development of the relationship between Myshkin and Aglaya, although at this point it is still confusing as to how they feel toward each other. Aglaya is mocking and even at times insulting to the prince, calling him an idiot. Yet she pays so much attention to him that it arouses our suspicion. Like a child who tries to convey that she likes someone by teasing him, she laughs at Myshkin seemingly as a way of expressing her interest. Aglaya does not know quite how to define her relationship to him, so she plays games—her note saying he should not come to their house, for example. Madame Yepanchin says Aglaya probably meant the note as some sort of flirt, an attempt to make him want to come over. The prince, however, is not an apt target of such tricks and pranks; he reads Aglaya's note very literally and does not go to visit the Yepanchins. In addition, Myshkin is very vexed by Nastassya Filippovna's lie concerning Radomsky. Others hint at the fact that she is clearly attempting to stain Radomsky's reputation and perhaps ruin his chances with Aglaya; Myshkin, however fails to see the connection between Nastassya Filippovna and Aglaya. This connection is developed in Part III of the novel.

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