The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevesky

the idiotWhat first comes in your mind when you’re asked to define the word ‘Idiot?’ The dictionary defines ‘Idiot’ as “a stupid person.” with many other synonyms such as ‘fool’, ‘halfwit’ and ‘moron.’ A person that is under the title is normally someone who had done such a stupid act and had tangled himself into a problem which also could involve other people around him. So the question is, who is ‘The Idiot’ in this story? Prince Myshkin is the symbol of perfection towards several people. He is very open and very meek. He will not hesitate to speak what is going on with his mind, something that is encouraged everywhere at the moment.

But what happens when a character like that is introduced into the ‘real world.’; a place full of crime and corruption; a place full of madness, sadness, greed, and poverty? Of course, the growing flower would turn wilted in less then an hour. Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin was first introduced boarding a train. He had just spent several years in Swiss recovering from epilepsy which was a chronic disorder which might lead to seizures at random times. It was apparently connected with the brain, because those with epilepsy had neurological symptoms too.

Prince Myshikin’s destination was to reach St. Petersburg where he would meet a distant family member of his,  Lizaveta Prokofyevna Yepanchin who was very wealthy being the wife of the general; with three beautiful daughters that the Prince immediately took a liking to towards the youngest. Here is where a very common cliche that  I often find in myths and legends. There are three daughters, with the youngest being the most prettiest and graceful. The two older one’s probably ‘supposed’ to be ugly, and will screw up things. The story ends with the Prince falling in love with the youngest, and the two will end up married happily ever after. But of course, it doesn’t exactly end that easily in this story. In fact, the ending is really dark. Its not even a happy ending at all.

To me, this story is more like a fairy tale, Russian style and twisted to be more complicated instead. There’s talk about money, and bets. Something that would involve greatly in adult life. Prince Myshkin, as open and naive as he is, was in the midst of complication when the moment he reached St. Petersburg. In love with the youngest daughter Aglaya, he soon learned that the assistant of the General was also in love with Aglaya, but in the process of going to marry Anastassya Filippovna Barashkov because of the promise of money. She herself was also a rich mistress, meaning that the marriage could be worth it.

Arranged marriages are very common back in the sixteenth century, where the monarchies rules the land. Marriages happen because of the need to expand power and gain alliances without causing any war. Although it might be very useful financially and politically, I quite disagree with arranged marriages. People should earn the right to fall in love with each other before agreeing to marry and if they finally don’t work out, they have the right to have a second chance: either to work it out harder or a divorce. There are many history cases where the arranged couple would eventually fall in love, but in China it’s common for the seventeen year old daughter to be wedded with a nine year old son, all because of an agreement long ago. Compatibility doesn’t matter in this  kind of marriage. You just have to do it.

Prince Mshykin was soon to be enjoying his life there, and attending several parties with the women… of course, until the proposal with Anastassya Filippovna. The girl had a temper tantrum, insulting the family of her future husband,  Gavril Ardalyonovich Ivolgin and refusing to be his wife. She opposed with the idea of being married because of money. But she was easily won over. She was bribed with a really huge sum of money for her birthday in which she would announce her answer.

At the party, however… more love drama ensured. Prince Mshykin loved Anastassya, but it wasn’t true love. It was sympathetic love. A kind of love when you see a hurt kitten on the street. The woman refused the offer to marry, even with Rogozhin’s money. Suddenly, Prince Mshykin decided to take the spotlight and asked the Mistress to marry him announcing that he had received lots of money too. The woman refused, saying that she’d rather go with Rogozhin instead.  I was shocked when I did not find the anti-hero I expected, but Prince Myshkin, a pure and beautiful soul who I loved from the start. It was hard not to cheer for him throughout the course of the novel, and to feel his pain at the corrupt and confusing society that surrounded him.

Months passed by, and many events passed. This story is full of love triangles, and the drama of what rich people do. Attempted crime happened too, between the pages.  This book is really interesting talking about serious things, a unique blend of philosophy and psychology, that happened within a long time frame.  I know I couldn’t possibly have digested all of its ideas, but I am captivated by it. Prince Myshkin represents Dostoyevksy’s attempt to portray a positively “a good man” which is sharply contrasted with the dark character of Rogozhin and the nature of Russian upper-class society. This is my second book of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, sometimes transliterated with Dostoevsk. What’s can I say about his book? A cast of thousands and difficult to read Russian names, but it’s worth for my brain.


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