The Idiot by Dostoevsky discussion

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message 1: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Marks (tracymar) | 127 comments Mod
For comments or questions about book one in general that aren't specifically related to a particular chapter

message 2: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Marks (tracymar) | 127 comments Mod
I copied over questions for discussion about The Idiot from a number of sites. Most are divided into sections based on the specific "book" in the novel. I these all pertain to Mishkin in book one. They might be helpful to keep in mind while reading.

1. How is Myshkin characterized? In what ways is his character important to the thematic content of the novel?

2. What is the usual reaction of strangers to Myshkin?

3. Explain the difference between the medical use of the term "idiot" and the popular usage. Is Myshkin insane? How does Dostoevsky keep us from assuming that Myshkin is insane?

4. On the day of his arrival to Russia, Prince Myshkin meets all the major players of the game, all the main characters of the novel. All of them in one way or another express their impression of him. A number of them call him idiot or comment on his inadequacy or weirdness. What are their reasons for such an opinion? (Discuss Rogozhin, Lebedev, Epanchins, Ivolgins, Nastasia Philippovna)

5 Why Switzerland? How does this country, and Europe in general, emerge in the discussions of Dostoevskys characters, particularly Mishkin?

6. What do we know about Prince Myshkin's family? What importance, if any, does his birth family have and early situation in life, and how might it have influenced him?

7. What makes Prince Myshkin welcome in Epanchins family? What makes Epanchins reconsider their initial opinion about him?

8. What are Prince Myshkin's virtues? What flaws, if any, mar his moral beauty?

9 In what ways is Myshkin a “holy fool”? How is he Christlike? In what ways is he unlike Christ?

10. How does Myshkin's story of Marie illumine the prince's character and prepare us for his reaction to Nastasya?

11. Why did Prince Myshkin become attracted to Nastasia Filippovna? How does he stand out among her suitors?

message 3: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Marks (tracymar) | 127 comments Mod
I've looked at several character lists online and edited them so they don't have spoilers. Here are the first ones we'll encounter directly or indirectly. Note that the spelling varies in different translations. Usually the women are referred to by their first names, the man by their last names - but some are referred to by their first two names.

Prince Lev Nikolaevich MISHKIN - the hero and protagonist, Myshkin is a descendant of an old noble line and a distant relative of Madame Yepanchin. He is a fair-haired, blue-eyed epileptic in his late twenties. He comes to Russia after an absence of four years spent in a sanitarium in Switzerland. Myshkin is innocent, naïve and lacking in the social graces but open, compassionate, kind and psychologically perceptive.

PAVLISCHEV – Myshkin’s benefactor, who died two years before the start of the novel

Parfyón Semyónovich ROGOZHIN– volatile, passionate, impulsive and potentially violent dark-haired man who inherited a lot of money at the start of the novel, and who madly lusts after Nastassia.

NASTASSIA Filippovna Barashkova – Beautiful, and proud but self-hating, Nastassia had been orphaned and raised by Totsky, who made her his mistress when she was very young, therefore ruining her chances in society.

Afanassy Ivanovich TOTSKY- A rich aristocrat in his middle fifties, he tries to arrange the marriage between Nastassya Filippovna and Ganya to get her off his hands so he is free to remarry.

Lukyán Timoféevich LEBEDEV - A rogue, drunkard, liar, and recently widowed father of a large family. Initially, part of Rogozhin's gang.

(Mishkin, Rogozhin and Nastassia might be considered the three major characters)

message 4: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Marks (tracymar) | 127 comments Mod
Then in the first few chapters, we encounter the Yepanchins:

GENERAL Ivan Fyodorovitch Yepanchin - A fifty-six year-old general. Yepanchin is a wealthy and respected member of St. Petersburg society. At the very beginning of the novel he lusts after Nastassya Filippovna.

LIZAVETA Prokofyevna Yepanchin - Wife of General Yepanchin (form a nobler family than he is) and distant relative of Prince Myshkin, who has a similar changeable temperament to her daughter Aglaya. She is seeking husbands for her three daughters.

AGLAYA Ivanovna Yepanchin - A beautiful twenty-year-old and the youngest daughter of General Yepanchin and Lizaveta Prokofyevna. Aglaya is haughty and childlike in her caprices, but also romantic and idealistic. Initially courted by Ganya and Evgeny Radomsky, she is also a major character in the novel.

ALEXANDRA Ivanovna Yepanchin - The oldest daughter of the Yepanchins, 25 and unmarried. Highly educated and well read, she has a talent for music. Peripheral character.

ADELAIDA Ivanovna Yepanchin - The middle daughter of the Yepanchins, who is twenty-three. Adelaida, like her older sister, is cultivated and expresses a talent for painting. She is courted by Prince S. Peripheral character.

message 5: by Tracy (last edited Jan 01, 2018 04:58PM) (new)

Tracy Marks (tracymar) | 127 comments Mod

Gavril Ardalyonovich Ivolgin (GANYA) - A thin, fair-haired, good-looking young man of twenty-eight. Ganya is highly vain and ambitious. Although the epitome of mediocrity, he strives for originality. He is in love with Aglaya, but is considering marrying Nastassya Filippovna for her money.

GENERAL Ardalyon IVOLGIN - Ganya's father, an ex-general. General Ivolgin has lost his circle of friends in high society due to constant drinking and lying.

NINA Alexandrovna Ivolgin - General Ivolgin's wife. A dignified woman of about fifty, she is the mother of Varya, Ganya, and Kolya Ivolgin.

Varvara Ardalyonovna Ivolgin (VARYA )- Ganya's dignified twenty-three-year-old sister. She tries to help her brother's chances with Aglaya.

Nikolai Ardalyonovitch Ivolgin (KOLYA) - Ganya's young teenage brother. Kolya is a simple and good-natured boy who becomes friends with Prince Myshkin, whom he respects greatly.

FERDYSCHENKO- An ugly, insolent lodger, as well as a drunkard and thief, in the Ivolgin apartment at the beginning of the novel.

Yevgeny Pavlovich RADOMSKY- A young and dashing suitor to Aglaya Yepanchin. Radomsky retires from the military just before he takes part in the novel's action. A man of reason, friendly toward Mishkin.

PRINCE S.- The good-looking and intelligent suitor of Adelaida Yepanchin. Prince S. is hardworking, knowledgeable, and very rich.

IVAN Petrovitch PTITSYN- An ordinary man just under thirty who manages to collect a large fortune by being a usurer (lending money for interest). A suitor of Varya Ivolgin.

BURDOVSKY - A young man who fraudulently claims to be the illegitimate son of Pavlishchev,

KELLER – Originally a member of Roghozhin’s gang

HIPPOLITE Terentyev - A seventeen year-old consumptive. Hippolite is well aware of his approaching death and feels like an outcast of nature. He tries to reassert himself by espousing his own views on life and morality in his "Essential Statement". He is the son of Madame Terentyev, the mistress of General Ivolgin.

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