Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics
How does setting function in The Idiot?
Discuss the motif of alienation in the novel with reference to two or more characters.
The plot of The Idiot advances through a series of "scandalous" scenes. What are the features of a typical scandalous scene? Discuss what function such choices of the novel's structure play in the novel.
Suggested Essay Topics
What is the function of minor characters (Ganya, Varya, Lebedev, General Ivolgin, and so on) in the novel?
What is the significance of Hippolite's "Essential Statement"? How does it relate to the rest of the novel? Looking at the world Dostoevsky portrays within the novel, whose vision of this world—Hippolite's or Myshkin's—seems more accurate?
Does beauty save the world in the novel as Prince Myshkin suggests?
How is Myshkin characterized? In what ways is his character important to the thematic content of the novel?
The Idiot begins with Myshkin arriving in St. Petersburg from Switzerland and ends with the prince back in the Swiss clinic. In the end, has Myshkin had any effect on the world he has encountered in Russia? What is the significance of this effect, or lack thereof, on the thematic content of the novel?
How does Dostoevsky tell the story in the novel, and what is the significance, if any, of the way in which he tells it? What is the function of the narrator in the novel?
How does Dostoevsky use contrast in The Idiot? Explore several instances.
Is the "poor knight" a good model for Myshkin's character? Explain why and how it is significant that Aglaya in particular comes up with this model for the prince.
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