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The Idiot

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Part III, Chapters 4–7

Part III, Chapters 1–3

Part III, Chapters 4–7, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

Prince Myshkin returns from the park with Rogozhin to find a large company on his veranda drinking champagne. Even though Myshkin told Keller earlier that it was his birthday and that there was champagne in the house, he did not expect people to gather. The prince is even more surprised to see Burdovsky and Radomsky among the guests.

Radomsky tells Myshkin that he wishes very much to be his friend and that he has something important to discuss with him after the party dissolves. Everyone seems very merry. Lebedev gives long speeches on railroads and moral corruption. Everyone listens to him and jokes, and only Myshkin takes him seriously.

Suddenly Hippolite speaks. He says that last night he wrote his thoughts down and that he would really like to read to everyone what he wrote. He gets out a large envelope and reads his "Essential Statement." According to the statement, Hippolite has hated Myshkin intensely for five months, but recently this feeling has not been as strong. Hippolite frequently has bad dreams; in one, a horrific monster that was about to sting Hippolite, but Hippolite's dog bit the monster in two before falling to the monster's sting. When Hippolite first learned he had consumption, he had a desperate desire to live, so he decided to live through others—that is, by learning about the lives of others, which he did through Kolya. Hippolite could not understand how those people who had their health could be poor or unhappy. He hated and mocked them, especially his neighbor upstairs, Surikov, whose child froze to death because of their poverty.

Hippolite's statement goes on to say that around the same time, Hippolite was walking on the street one day when he noticed the man in front of him drop a billfold. He followed the man home and found out he was a doctor who lived with his wife and a newborn baby. The doctor was deposed from his position and had come to St. Petersburg to explain what had happened to him, but all of his petitions were denied. Hippolite said he would try to help the doctor because one of his colleagues in school, Bakhmutov, had an uncle with a high governmental position. Thanks to their collective efforts, they helped the doctor. This episode convinced Hippolite that individual actions can indeed change the world.

The statement gives the example of an "old General" who helped convicts so much that he became known by convicts across the whole country. Hippolite says that doing a good deed is like planting a seed that may grow in unknown directions. Hippolite says that Rogozhin visited him and that he then returned Rogozhin's visit. Holbein's painting of Christ just taken down from the cross shocked Hippolite: it made him think that if death and torture could ruin the best of men, then nature was a dumb and impersonal monster with incredible strength. Hippolite decided that his last true act of free will was suicide, so he planned kill himself at sunrise in Pavlovsk with a hand pistol. As for his religion, Hippolite believes in afterlife, but he refuses to worship God or nature, which has excluded him from happiness and the joy of its creations.

After Hippolite finishes, the others seem rather unimpressed with his statement and begin to leave. Lebedev demands that Hippolite give up his pistol, so the boy gives Kolya the keys to the pistol box. Then, when people are no longer watching him, Hippolite goes outside and attempts to kill himself. His effort is unsuccessful because he forgets to put a firing-cap on his pistol.

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Myshkin

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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