Returning to Russia from a sanitarium in Switzerland, the Christ-like epileptic Prince Myshkin finds himself enmeshed in a tangle of love, torn between two women—the notorious kept woman Nastasya and the pure Aglaia—both involved, in turn, with the corrupt, money-hungry Ganya. In the end, Myshkin’s honesty, goodness, and integrity are shown to be unequal to the moral emptiness of those around him. (From feedbooks.com)
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Switzerland is in Europe just north of Italy. The two men are traveling to Russia by train. As you continue to read and learn more about the characters and what is happening in the text, pay attention to the details being set out in the exposition. How do the setting, the description of the characters and the initial hints at conflict influence your reading? (This annotation contains an image)
From what point of view is this story being told?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
What can you infer about Lebedeff based on his behavior towards Rogojin?
What are you learning about the characters in this book? Watch the video below to learn how authors use characterization to reveal aspects of the characters in a story. (This annotation contains a video)
How would you characterize the prince based on this first chapter? In your response, be sure to include examples that support your analysis.
Don't let yourself get confused about who is who in this book. Sometimes, characters are referred to by their entire names, while at other times they are referred to by one name or even a nickname. Fedora Ivanovitch Epanchin is the same person as General Epanchin.
What can you infer about the importance of a person's lineage during this time period?
The prince is not really a "prince" as in royalty. The Russian term knyaz is a title that could apply to a feudal lord or a male member of the Tzar's (emperor or king) family. Kenya (which means prince) can also just be a title given in exchange for service to the state or government. This explains why people do not react with greater surprise at meeting prince Muishkin.
Which of the following best characterizes Prince Muishkin?
What does this conversation about the experience of watching an execution reveal about prince Muishkin? Is he an "idiot" after all?
Use the define feature to look up the word conciliated. Which of the following is an antonym for conciliated?
General Epanchin seems amused immediately by Prince Muishkin. What does this say about the general? Why do you think he expects Prince Muishkin to have an "object in coming," or concrete reason, for paying a visit?
Compare and contrast General Epanchin and Prince Muishkin. Based on this conversation in which the general expects the prince to be visiting for some personal gain and the prince seems genuinely confused by such ideas, what can you conclude about each man?
While idiot may seem like a harsh term, when taken in context, it seems to mean that prince Muishkin was merely sickly or simple. Perhaps his condition is misunderstood? What is your reaction to this title?
Who else do you know of that has an interest in the affairs of Nastasia Philipovna?
What does this conversation suggest about Gania and the general's intentions or interests in Nastasia Philipovna? What conflict does all of this conversation about the beautiful woman introduce into the story?
What is the nature of the relationship between Gania and General Epanchin?
Though the general suggests he cares about prince Muishkin "paternally" (like a father) he constantly cuts him off or ignores him. What does this behavior say about the general's motives?
What is Gania's purpose in asking Prince Muishkin these questions? Why do you think he shudders at the prince's suggesting that Rogojin would marry Nastasia Philipovna, but would surely kill her within a week?
Because of the third-person omniscient narrator, the reader is able to understand the inner thoughts of many of the characters. Dostoyevsky weaves a complex story this way, so be sure to read carefully to pick up on the thoughts and motivations of each character.
What can you infer about the lives of women during this time period?
Is Nastasia jealous of the proposed bride? Is she angry because Totski has not paid her much attention? Is she simply behaving this way out of a cruel desire to amuse herself?
What does Dostoyevsky mean when he writes that Totski "rather despised such a cheaply-bought conquest"?
Notice how the author creates the sense that Totski is completely under the power of Nastasia Philipovna. Which words convey his sense of powerlessness?
Dostoyevsky's use of figurative language in the highlighted sentence is meant to express ___________________________________.
Do not forget this important revelation about General Epanchin's character, as well as, about the nature of his relationship with his wife.
What is Mrs. Epanchin suggesting by exclaiming that everyone knows where General Epanchin is off to?
Does Prince Muishkin mean to be sarcastic? What can you gather about his character based on his responses to the assumptions made about him? Why doesn't he react with more indignation if he is not really the idiot that people seem to think he is?
Consider the irony of the effect of the donkey. Prince Muishkin states that the donkey seems to him the most useful creature and that the sight of one helped to ease his melancholy. Given the connotation of the value and esteem of a donkey, what does it say about Prince Muishkin that the donkey has such an impact on him?
The poet to whom Adelaida refers is Mikhail Lermontov, a Russian Romantic poet who was popular in the 1840s. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is a synonym for interminable?
Why do you think that Prince Muishkin has told this story? What lesson is there to learn from the man that was almost executed and vowed to live the rest of his life like the last two minutes before he was to be put to death? The girls have called Muishkin a "philosopher." What other kind of person or figure does he remind you of?
What can you infer about the Yepanchin girls' attitude towards the servant based on their comments?
Watch the video below to learn about how authors use symbolism in literature. How is the picture of the face a symbol? What other symbols do you see in the book? (This annotation contains a video)
Based on her sudden remarks, the reader can infer that Aglaya is ______________.
The book of Matthew in the Bible (19:14 NIV) includes this famous quote: "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" How does prince Muishkin's regard for children echo this sentiment? Are there other places in the novel in which you can pick up on biblical references?
How does Prince Muiskin feel about Marie?
Consider how Muishkin gets the kids to stop teasing Marie. Why do you think Muishkin tries to sway the thoughts of the kids in the village before the adults? What do you think will happen?
What might the author, Dostoyevsky, be suggesting about life and true happiness by including Prince Muiskin's musings about children here?
What can you infer about Mrs. Epanchin based on Prince Muishkin's honest appraisal of her? What kind of weight do his characterizations hold?
What conflict could this foreshadow?
Remember that Gania is set to find out, this very night, whether Nastassia Philipovna will marry him. What could he want with Aglaya?
Why does Adelaida exclaim that there is such power in beauty?
Notice how Dostoyevsky heightens the suspense by having the characters leave one by one, all except Aglaya. What might Aglaya be planning to do?
To whom does Aglaya intend this message?
Prince Muishkin seems to be incapable of lying.
What is ironic about Gania's feelings?
Gania seems to believe that Prince Muishkin has done something to cause Aglaya to reject his advances. He does not understand that the prince did nothing of the sort and does not seem to ever act with a specific motive in mind. Now, the prince is going to move in with Gania. What tensions can you foresee with this living arrangement?
What can you infer about Gania's family based on the description of their home?
Don't forget about the define feature. Use it to look up words that you are unfamiliar with. For example, a portmanteau is basically just a suitcase. Why do you think it is significant that Prince Muishkin does not have a fancy "portmanteau" but instead has a humble bundle?
What do Ferdishenko's questions about the general foreshadow?
Visit the website in the link below. Here you will learn a little more about Russian names, diminutive forms of names, and alternative spellings of names. This may help you as you continue to read and see multiple names for the same character. http://lisahayden.com/lch/Russian%20Names.pdf
"Mon mari se trompe" means "my husband is wrong." How does Dostoyevsky set the general up as an unreliable character?
Why might Gania's family be so unhappy over the idea of his marriage to Nastasia Philopovna?
Who does Nastasia Philiopvna mistake Prince Muishkin for?
What does it show about Nastasia Philipovna that she mistakes the prince for a servant in the house? What does it say about the prince that he does not correct her?
Which of the following best characterizes Nastasia Philipovna?
Ferdishenko plays the role of the agitator in this scene. Which other characters do you detect fitting into a particular role?
Dostoyevsky's writing belongs to a genre called literary realism. Work that falls into this category tends to explore contemporary life and society. One of the major themes Dostoyevsky wrote about was the differences between social classes. As you read, think about how Dostoyevsky's words characterize those of the upper class vs. those of lower classes. For example, in this story, the women with the poodle are portrayed as "haughty" and self-righteous. The lower-class general, in contrast, is treated a bit like a second-class citizen. What might Dostoyevsky have been trying to highlight or expose?
Compare and contrast the ways in which Dostoyevsky sets up the prince and the general as story tellers. How are the stories of each used to portray each man's character?
Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus's original twelve disciples in the Bible. Judas is most famous for having been the one to betray Jesus to his persecutors by kissing him on the cheek. Judas's name is often invoked to accuse someone of betrayal or backstabbing. This kind of reference in a piece of literature is called an allusion. Because so many are familiar with Judas's role as a betrayer, the reader is supposed to be able to pick up on the reason for this reference.
How does Rogojin know prince Muishkin?
You may be familiar with the concept of a dowry, an amount of money that a father gives to the man who will marry his daughter, but this competition seems outlandish. Nastasia Philipovna seems amused by it all, while Nina and Varia (Gania's mother and sister) seem fairly disgusted. What does this suggest about their social and cultural positions? Watch the video below to learn more about the idea of perspective in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
What is motivating Gania to behave this way towards his sister?
Bal Masque (or Masquerade) is a play by Lermontov (Lermontoff) about a rebellious young man in St. Petersburg, Russia. The play is often compared to Shakespeare's Othello. What is the "stupid and unnatural" idea that Colia says the play and his brother seem to share? (This annotation contains an image)
"Speak of a wolf and you will see his tale" is much like the phrase, "Speak of the devil." What kind of expression is this?
Gania is characterizing himself as a "blackguard" or scoundrel. He seems to have no shame in wanting to marry Nastasia Philopovna for the money and even remarks that he would leave her after receiving it, if he needed to. He also remarks that scoundrels like honest people. Why do you think Gania needs an honest person like prince Muishkin?
How does Prince Muishkin's characterization of Gania as a child compare to his earlier praise of children (in the story of Marie)? Is this a compliment or a jab?
Based on what you already know about the general and his propensity to tell stories, do you think he is being honest when he says he has gone to Nastasia Philipovna's house often?
How does the description of the Litaynaya support the mood of this particular scene?
Why is Prince Muishkin unable to break away from the general? How does Dostoyevsky infuse humor into this scene despite Muishkin's desperation?
What can you infer about the relationship between General Ivolgin and Marfa Borisovna?
Provide a brief characterization of Colia. What kind of person does he seem to be?
A cocotte is a fashionable or high-class prostitute. A usurer is one who dishonestly deals with or lends money. Colia is characterizing the group that the prince wishes to spend the evening with as a band of dishonest low-lives. This characterization of Gania, Totski, General Epanchin, and Nastasia Philipovna exists in contrast to their social status. What does this reveal about Colia's values and strengths of perception? Who is Colia most like in the novel?
Up to this point, the prince has not easily been made to feel nervous. What is it about dropping in at Nastasia Philipovna's that makes him feel so nervous when he easily arrived uninvited at the Epanchins' earlier in the day?
What does the maid's reactions to the visitor suggest about Nastasia Philipovna?
Remember that the prince has already said he is incapable of loving a woman. Why then is he so fixated on Nastasia Philipovna? As you read this chapter, consider how the prince and Nastasia are alike. What could it be that he sees in her?
What do the descriptions of Nastasia Philipovna's behavior suggest about her condition?
The game that Ferdishenko suggests is almost like a modern-day truth-or-dare (without the dare part). Why do you think he wants everyone to play this game? What does he stand to gain or expose in asking everyone to reveal his or her most despicable action?
Which of the following is an antonym for the word obstinately as it is used in the highlighted sentence?
Watch the video below to learn more about foreshadowing in literature. How does this section provide hints as to what might happen later in the text? (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think the general chose to tell this story, which casts himself in a positive light, when he was supposed to be telling a story of his worst deed?
Camelias are flowers native to Asia (much of Russia is considered to be in Asia). Remember the video about symbolism that you watched earlier in the text? What could these flowers symbolize in the story that Totski tells? (This annotation contains an image)
The fact that Totski is concerned about how his meddling in love caused a friend of his to feel pain, while at the same time, he is meddling in the future of Nastasia and Gania by planning their arrangement for his own gain is an example of _____________.
Some translations of this text replace the word climax with the word denouement. Both of these terms are points upon a plot line; however, they are very different places in the structure of a story. The climax is the highest point of conflict in the story, whereas the denouement is the resolution. How might the coming interruption of Rogojin be the climax to this evening? Is it more of a resolution?
What gift is the general referring to?
What do the reactions of Rogojin's company say about the mix of people that are at Nastasia Philipovna's house? Why does Rogojin have the reaction that he does when he sees Nastasia Philipovna?
What is the sentence that Rogojin is awaiting?
Think of the things that money has come to mean in this book so far. What does money really mean to Nastasia Philipovna?
Summarize the events that just took place at Nastasia Philipovna's house. Make a brief prediction about what may be about to take place based on what you know about the characters.
What is it that drives these people's actions? What theme is Dostoyevsky building here? Watch the video below to learn more about how an author uses structure and language to build themes in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Nastasia's tone here and what does that tone suggest?
Nastasia claims that she has turned down the money and the title to be able to boast that she has. What do you think motivates her? What has happened to her that causes her to be unwilling to give in to anyone? Or, is she simply "mad" as some of the characters have suggested?
Why does Dostoyevsky include the sentence in parentheses?
There are different ways to describe characters in literature. A flat character is one with few traits. A round character is one who may be complicated or multi-faceted. A static character is one who does not change over the course of the story, and a dynamic character is one who undergoes internal or external changes. What kind of character is Gania? What causes him to ignore the money that is burning in the fire place? Has he changed, or is this another simple display of pride?
Explain what you think money symbolizes in this first section of the book. Beyond the obvious answer (wealth) consider why Dostoyevsky has written so much of the plot to circulate around money and its impact on relationships.
Part I Quiz
Watch the video below to learn more about pacing. The entire first section of this book took place in just one day. Now, you have skipped ahead by six months. What effect does this pacing have on your reading of the novel? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following aspect of the rumors is actually true?
Do you think it is the prince's naivety that makes him dole out money to whoever asks, or is it his values? How does the portrayal of this act, through the lens of the Epanchin's values, serve to sway your opinion?
If the circumstances that have occurred are to the "delight of the general and his spouse," what likely are those circumstances?
Why is Aglaya blushing? What does this suggest about her feelings towards prince Muishkin? Remember this interchange as you continue to read.
Colia ___________ Aglaya.
Remember that Lebedeff was part of Rogojis's gang. When Nastasia Philipovna threw the money into the fire for Gania, Lebedeff was eager to go in and retrieve it because he is a recent widower and has large number of kids to take care of. As you read, consider how Dostoyevsky portrays Lebedeff.
Which literary device does Dostoyevsky use to describe Lebedeff?
What does Lebedeff mean when he says he is speaking allegorically? What is an allegory? Watch the video below to learn more. Is this entire story an allegory? (This annotation contains a video)
How does the tone of this chapter compare to the detached and nonchalant tone of the first chapter in this section?
The Countess du Barry was the last mistress of Louis the XV, the king of France during the French Revolution. (This annotation contains an image)
The Countess du Barry was beheaded during the Reign of Terror. How does her story compare to the stories of the other women in this novel?
What is Lebedeff's goal in this chapter?
Why would Nastasia Philipovna be more afraid of the prince than she is of Rogojin? What does this suggest about her feelings for both men?
Lebedeff believes he can take advantage of the prince who seems to really want to rent a place in Pavlofsk, where everyone is at the moment. How does the prince's reaction show how much he has changed since the beginning of the novel? Does he recognize Lebedeff's motivations?
What does the end of this chapter suggest about the conflicts that may be to come?
Were these the eyes of Rogojin?
Use the define feature to look up the word malice. Which of the following is an antonym for malice?
Rogojin remarks that he hates the prince when not in his company, but is immediately won over by him when they are together. What does this say about the prince? Does he wield this power knowingly?
What is Rogojin suggesting about Nastasia Philipovna?
Prince Muishkin shies away from telling people things outright. Instead, he often poses questions or tells stories in order to teach people. This is one way in which Dostoyevsky likens him to Christ. The prince is pure; even his love is love of pity, not desire.
What does Dostoyevsky suggest about passion here?
Dostoyevsky, himself, spent nine years exiled to Siberia (a remote region in Russia) for allegedly reading and circulating anti-government works of literature. Labor camps in Siberia were used between 1918 and 1953 to punish all kinds of convicts - from petty criminals to political dissidents. Conditions were often terrible in these Soviet labor camps. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think there is so much conversation about the knife?
The image below is a Hans Holbein painting of Christ the Savior in the tomb. What is symbolic about the prince's recognition of this painting? Why does Dostoyevsky write about this painting in such a way as to make it stick out? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the prince use this story to illustrate?
Remember that both men love the same woman: Nastasia Philipovna. How does Dostoyevsky hint that this "brotherly exchange" may not be so wholesome after all?
What does Rogojin seek, symbolically, in trying to give Nastasia Philipovna to the prince?
One copeck is about 1% of a Russian ruble. Although you might think of a copeck as being about equal to the value of a penny (100 pennies equal a dollar), it actually takes about 32 rubles to equal one dollar. (This annotation contains an image)
After reading about Freud's analysis of the causes of Dostoyevsky's seizures and considering the way in which Prince Muishkin is characterized, what do you think people thought of epileptics before a more scientific understanding of the epilepsy was available? Use evidence from both texts to support your answer.
Did you know that the author, Dostoyevsky, was an epileptic himself? Read at least the first eight paragraphs of the article in the link below. Pay careful attention to how Freud tried to diagnose Dostoyevsky's epilepsy. (This annotation contains a link)
The prince struggles to understand how Nastasia could ever have chosen Rogojin over himself because he feels that he understands her and can relate to her "madness" (because of his own condition) while Rogojin cannot. He is struggling with these emotions, feeling that he will never be able to love her with anything other than pity and feels this is not fair to her.
What is the demon to which Prince Muishkin refers here?
If you read a little farther into the article about Dostoyevsky's own epilepsy, you would have read this account of one of Dostoyevsky's seizures, written by Nikolay Strakhov: "[Dostoyevsky]…walked about the room while I sat at the table. He was saying something lofty and joyous; when I encouraged his idea with some comment or other he turned to me with an exalted look, showing that his emotion was at its height. He stopped for a moment, as if seeking words for his thought, and had already opened his mouth. I gazed at him with fixed attention, sensing that he was about to say something unusual, that I would hear a revelation of some kind. Suddenly there came from his open mouth a weird, longdrawn-out and senseless sound, and he fell unconscious on the floor. This time the fit was not a strong one. The effect of his convulsion was that his whole body stretched out and he foamed at the mouth. In half an hour he regained consciousness and I walked home with him." How does this compare to Dostoyevsky's portrayal of prince Muishkin's seizure?
One could argue that ___________ saved Prince Muishkin's life.
Why might Lebedeff be trying to keep everyone from bothering Prince Muishkin if not for the reason of giving him peace and quiet in which to recover? What do his actions suggest about his motive?
Who is the monster that Lebedeff refers to?
Mrs. Epanchin has apparently misunderstood the remarks of her husband to mean that the reason for the prince's absence was her fault somehow.
Why is Mrs. Epanchin disappointed to see that prince Muishkin is doing so well?
This is an instance of irony if ever there was one. Here, the general calls Lebedeff a trickster in the same moment that he begins a story that is meant for the same purpose: to trick Aglaya or the Epanchins to give him money. Watch what happens as you keep reading.
What theme might this story illustrate?
Remember that you learned that Prince S. is engaged to marry Adelaida, the middle Epanchin daughter and that Prince S.'s relative Evgenie Pavlovitch, has an interest in Aglaya.
Who is Aglaya describing here?
What tension or conflict does the entrance of this "handsome" young fellow introduce to the story? Watch the video below to find out more about tension and conflict.
Explain how this is a "jest." Whose initials are these, and why does Aglaya use them to mock the prince?
You are meant to infer, from Evgenie Pavlovitch's friendly manner with the Epanchins and with Colia (who has been spending a lot of time with the Epanchins), that Evgenie Pavlovitch has spent a lot of time with the family in his attempts to court Aglaya.
The most reasonable assumption about what "business" these men may be here on is that ________________________.
Nihilism is a philosophical belief that life is void of meaning. In other words, Nihilists believe that there are no morals and that meaning, in general, is an abstract concept. Keep this in mind as you read about the men you will soon meet.
What does this direct and indirect characterization reveal about "Pavlicheff's son"?
The beauty of this metaphor gently characterizes Lizabeth Prokofievna as a woman who does not always make the most calculated decisions. She is compared here to a captain or sailor who sets off to sea without having considered the dangers. Watch the video below to refresh your memory regarding similes and metaphors. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain what the highlighted Russian proverb means.
Watch the video below to learn more about the differences in mood and tone. What is the mood that this letter creates? What is the tone of the speaker? (This annotation contains a video)
What is the mood created by this letter?
Why does the prince say this, when these men are clearly not in the right? What do you think he will do? Is this a sign of his weakness, or is Dostoyevsky using this scene to illustrate an important point?
What does Hippolyte mean when he says he "makes no bones" about what he says to the boxer?
During this time and long afterwards, a child born out of wedlock was seen as a disgrace. The woman who would have born him to a man, who who was not married to her, would have been shamed by this fact. This is why the prince says that he is surprised that Burdovsky would have "revealed the secret of his birth at the expense of his mother's honor."
What causes Prince Muishkin to want to give Mr. Burdovsky the money, if he believes he has been deceived?
It is worth noting, the prince feels shame and remorse for having possibly embarrassing or calling out a man who is ultimately involved in trying to swindle him. The prince's capacity to love and empathize with others is the motivator of his pure heart.
What structural feature, from the last chapter, is likely to be present in this chapter's rebuttal to the slanderous letter written by Mr. Keller?
Which motif is illustrated by the explanation of Pavlicheff's relationship to Mr. Burdovsky?
What repeated concept or idea do you see in the highlighted selection? Watch the video below to help you determine what motifs are present here. (This annotation contains a video)
Mrs. Epanchin is frustrated with the prince for being so naive (at least in her opinion). What do you think of the prince's willingness to support Burdovsky, even though he knows he is being swindled in a way?
Why does Mrs. Epanchin reference Evgenie Pavlovitch's story of the defense lawyer who pleaded that his client's murder of six men was justified by his poverty? How does this relate to the situation at hand?
Hippolite is very aware of his impending death. As you continue to get to know this young character, who is a close friend of Colia, consider his stance on life. What could he symbolize?
What does amiable mean? Use the define feature to look up amiable and then choose the word below that is an antonym.
Notice how Lebedeff tries to diminish the extent to which he was involved in contributing to the letter. Mrs. Epanchin is clearly disgusted that he even thinks this can lessen the blame placed upon him.
Hippolyte's sarcastic tone here implies that he is criticizing _______________________.
The term "the American War" is usually used to refer to the Revolutionary War, but since The Idiot was published in 1868 and the American Civil war was from 1861-1865, the commentary made by Evgenie Pavlovitch is clearly made in reference to the American Civil War. How does this serve as an appropriate background to discuss the concept of "might is right"?
What has Evgenie Pavlovitch done to offend Hippolyte?
Hippolyte is talking about his mother here. Hippolyte, remember, is one of Colia's best friends. He is also the son of Madame Terentieff who has been having an affair with Gania and Colia's father, the General Ivolgin.
How does Dostoyevsky set Hippolyte up in contrast to Prince Muishkin? How are the two alike and dissimilar?
Who could possibly cause the prince to tremble?
This paragraph begins to hint at a conflict in Prince Muishkin's life. What is that conflict?
Explain the use of the allusion to wormwood, as it compares in the poem you just read and then to the reference in this chapter.
The star or angel, Wormwood, is in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Many interpret Wormwood to be a prince that is yet to come - an asteroid that will hit the earth, a political or historical event that will change the earth, or simply a way of expressing that life can be extremely bitter. There are many references to wormwood in recent literature. Follow the link below to read a poem by Anne Bronte. How is her reference to wormwood connected to the one in this book? (This annotation contains a link)
What does this information foreshadow or suggest? Why would Aglaya be unreasonably or so thoroughly upset? Whose mood does this mirror?
What is the effect of Keller's desire to confess his secrets to the prince?
Was this Keller's plan all along? Does it matter whether or not it was? What is Dostoyevsky saying about redemption through the character of the prince?
Which of the following best expresses what Lebedeff and Keller have both struggled with in life?
General Epanchin is talking here about Evgenie Pavlovitch proposing to Aglaya. The general and his wife seem chiefly concerned with getting their daughters married off, and whatever unpleasant business is going on with Nastasia Phiipovna seems to be getting in the way because of the way everything appears in society.
Summarize the changes that are taking place in the prince's state of mind. Why does Colia call him jealous? What do you think is causing him to feel this way?
If you hadn't felt it before, this moment conjures up the deepest sympathy from the reader. Why does the prince struggle so much in a world that seems too cruel for his sincerity? How is Dostoyevsky using this "idiot" to make a comment about the world in which we live?
Based on what you know of Mrs. Epanchin, what is she really meeting with the prince for?
This is not the first time that Prince Muishkin has called Mrs. Epanchin a child. This time, he seems to be chiding her, rather than complimenting her spirit.
Mrs. Epanchin's statements are an example of ___________.
Part II Quiz
Is it really her eccentric reputation that is harming her vision of her place in society, or is it Mrs. Epanchin's own worries and anxieties? What does this reveal about her character?
What can you infer is the most important part of a marriage during this time?
Stream of Consciousness is a term used to refer to a narrative technique which follows a character's thoughts with little explanation. Although the term was coined by William James in 1890, the technique (which mirrors the idea of an interior monologue was used prior to that by Anton Chekov, Edgar Allan Poe, and Dostoyevsky, among others.
What prompts the prince to remark that Colia is received after all?
Visit the website in the link below to flip through some of Dostoyevsky's letters. In some of them, the author expresses a clear distaste for the new Russian liberal who he views as "gutless" and too far away from the realities of the lives of the lower classes in Russia. In one letter to Turgenev (another Russian writer), Dostoyevsky quipped that Turgenev should view and write about Russia from a telescope in Paris. When asked why, Dostoyevsky replied, "direct the telescope on Russia, and then you will be able to observe us; otherwise you can't really see anything at all." This, like the conversation happening in the novel, reveals that Dostoyevsky thought little of the high society Russian liberals whose criticisms and hatred for Russia were out of touch with what was really happening in Russia. (This annotation contains a link)
What did the the prince miss that is causing him to reveal his naivety?
Have you ever been able to feel or sense someone's anger or intense emotion? Why do you think the prince is able to detect this from Agalaya?
How do the highlighted comments of Prince S. contribute to Dostoyevesky's development of a particular theme? Be sure to name the theme in your response.
Remember, Mrs. Epanchin somehow suspects that the prince might ask Aglaya to marry him, or that he already has. These comments show that she is quite surprised at the idea that Aglaya might be interested in him (or at least think of him fondly).
With what tone are the girls laughing?
Why would Aglaya call the prince an idiot? She has just recently finished lavishing him with praise. Why do you think she behaves the way she does? What is she trying to achieve?
Based on the prince's past experiences, who could the person with the "strange smile, two eyes, and a bright green tie" be?
How do writers build tension or suspense in a story? Watch the video below to learn more about the working pieces of tension-building. (This annotation contains a video)
What does impudence mean? Which of the following is an antonym of impudence?
What does this suggest about Aglaya's relationship with Nastasia Philipovna or with Evgenie Pavlovitch?
How would you characterize this interaction between Aglaya and Prince Muishkin?
Why does the prince squeeze his hand tightly?
Why is Muishkin "so absent"?
Why can't Aglaya be straightforward? What do you think she has to speak with him about and why is she always so secretive and deceptive?
Compare and contrast Aglaya and Nastasia Philipovna's treatment of Prince Muishkin.
Do you think it is just coincidental that both Aglaya and Nastasia Philipovna have something so important to say to the prince?
Why does everyone react to the prince with laughter?
How has a "new life" begun for the prince? How do you think he is influenced by the news that Nastassia Philipovna claims to want him to marry Aglaya?
Remember, Ferdishenko is the boarder who lives with Gania and his family. He is also very close friends with Nastasia Philipovna.
What does the use of the word "gentry" suggest about Evgenie Pavlovitch's views of society?
Is Lebedeff speaking in sincerity? How can you tell? Do the guests take him seriously?
Choose two characters who seem to be ruled by the laws of "self-destruction" in the novel. Explain how these two characters exemplify the highlighted statement that claims that "the laws of self-preservation and self-destruction are equally powerful in this world."
Once again, the prince reveals his inability to participate in conversation which are not straightforward, clear or direct. Notice the tone of the prince's statements as compared to those of the other speakers in the conversation.
What does Lebedeff suggest the criminal has that is missing in his "century of vices and railways"?
What does this suggest about what may follow? As you continue to read, think about how Dostoyevsky keeps the plot moving despite the sometimes lengthy conversations taking place in the book. Even without action packed details, there is an underlying sense of mystery and suspense.
Hippolyte is best described as being _______________ of Prince Muishkin.
As Hippolyte reads the contents of his dream, ask yourself how it fits into the story. What do the things in his dreams symbolize?
How does Dostoyevsky create a sense of trepidation in this scene?
Here, Hippolyte appears to have already been questioning his own sanity. He also makes it seem as if he has had plans to share the letter with some audience or another.
What does Hippolyte's monster represent or symbolize?
Hippolyte's philosophy about life stems from the fact that he is going to lose his own soon. Here, he confesses he struggles to understand how those, who have the gift of time and a life not cut short by disease, do not maximize their opportunities.
Dostoyevsky has included a number of references to characters that face death. What is the message that these encounters seems to send to the characters that have to face death?
There is a great deal of, what seems to be, insanity in this novel. Surikov's reaction to Hippolyte's madness is a mixture of fear, concern and shock. How do other characters in the book react to the insanity that is around them? What is Dostoyevsky, perhaps, saying about the way people perceive and interact with each other?
The reader can infer that the man Hippolyte is following is _____________.
When Hippolyte says "post" he means that the doctor has lost his position and has come to the city to get another position as a doctor.
Which of the following quotes suggests that the story of doctor's experience echoes the experiences of many Russians during this time period?
The Neva river runs through the heart of St. Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the conversation between Hippolyte and Bachmatoff reveal about Hippolyte's state of mind?
Why do you think that Hippolyte views the picture this way? What about his own life might cause him to view the faith of these others as unbelievable? How does this compare to the way that the prince viewed this same painting?
When Prince Muishkin sees the painting over Rogojin's door, he reacts differently than Hippolyte. The prince remembers having seen the painting, but does not seem much impressed by it either way. The narrator remarks that Muishkin is anxious to leave, but that Rogojin stays to linger on the painting. Afterward, the prince recounts a few stories which had recently reminded him of his faith. Why do you think Hippolyte's reaction is so different? Compare and contrast the two reactions as you consider Dostoyevsky's message about faith and religion.
Why does Hippolyte want Aglaya to have a copy of this "last will and testament"? Considering Hippolyte's initial expression of hatred for the prince, why do you think he would leave this letter to him as well? What does this foreshadow about what the letter might contain?
What is the dilemma that Hippolyte is discussing in this section?
What do you think of Dostoyevsky's choice to stretch Hippolyte's letter out over multiple chapters? What do you think will be the reaction of the guests to which he has been reading this long letter?
Why does Hippolyte react to Gania's statement the way that he does?
Given the prince's reactions to other events in the book, how do you think he is feeling about Hippolyte's current state of being? Why does everyone else react with so little concern for Hippolyte?
Did Hippolyte purposefully forget to place the cap in the gun? Which of the following statements supports the idea that Hippolyte really did intend to kill himself?
Evgenie Pavlovitch expresses concerns over the safety of being near Hippolyte, but the prince does not have the capacity to believe that Hippolyte would harm others. Is this naive or noble?
How does Dostoyevsky use figurative language to express the prince's feelings in the highlighted paragraph?
Why does Aglaya suggest this? Does she know that Hippolyte has feelings for her? Is she just extremely vain?
Why does Aglaya think that the prince is being judgmental?
What is the irony of the words "I have chosen you"? Why does Aglaya say this particular thing to the prince? Is this a mask for her true feelings for him? (It does sound a lot like the language of marriage).
What is the "strange thought" that passed through the prince's brain?
Aglaya provides an important comparison here between Rogojin's kind of love and the prince's kind of love for Nastasia Philipovna. Keep these types of love in mind as you continue to read.
The highlighted paragraph makes an allusion to ______________.
This is the third or fourth time that the prince has referred to Aglaya as being or shedding a type of "light." The name Aglaya actually means "light." What could this mean in the context of the story?
Why does Aglaya behave the way she does towards the prince? How do you think she really feels about him? Why?
Aglaya is telling lies. After all, she claims to want to run away secretly.
Which of the following is a synonym for sententiously as it is used in the highlighted sentence?
Voltaire and Rousseau are famous writer-philosophers. Colia is expressing the idea that the content of Hippolyte's "explanation" was every bit as sophisticated as some of the masters of philosophical thought and writing.
What is the irony of the statement that Lebedeff makes?
Notice how Dostoyevsky uses humor here to express Lebedeff's lack of sincerity. By being hyperbolic (overly exaggerative), Dostoyevsky points out that Lebedeff is likely to do just the opposite of keeping the prince's words or feelings a secret.
How does Dostoyevsky suggest that Lebedeff is taking advantage of the prince?
Remember, the captain's widow is Hippolyte's mother. General Ivolgin has been having an affair with her for some time.
The use of the word unctuous to describe Lebedeff's smile suggests that he is ______________.
In this section, how does the shift to first-person narration work to pull you in to this discussion of dreams and the nature of reality?
Nastasia Philipovna introduces yet another definition of love to the novel. How does this concept of love compare to Rogojis's type of love? To the prince's?
The narration, the setting, and even the plot events (such as Alexandra's appearance with the candle) all help the reader transition from the prince's dreamlike state to the reality in which Nastassia Philipovna stands before him. These elements make it easy to believe that the prince is under some dreamy spell and is all the more shocked by Nastassia's appearance.
What can you infer has happened since the prince's conversation with Aglaya?
Part III Quiz
Isabel Allende, a Chilean author, echoes this sentiment when she explains that she chooses rebels, dissidents, and dreamers for her novels. She explains that good characters must have heart and that "nice people only make good former spouses." Do you think this is true about literature? Why don't common people make good subjects?
Why might Dostoyevsky claim that the class of the "limited intellect" is happier with its commonplaceness?
Up until this point, Varia has not been a main character. How does she fit in with the rest of the characters you have met in the novel? As you continue to read, consider what you think her role may be in the story.
Are you surprised by Gania's reaction to the news? Explain why or why not.
The story, to which Gania and Varia are referring, is the story of the stolen money that Lebedeff was telling the prince in the previous chapter. The fact that their father may have stolen the money brings great shame to the kids.
What would motivate Hippolyte to tell Aglaya about General Ivolgin's theft?
Why is the general angry? Does he suspect that Hippolyte is spreading rumors about him and his involvement in the theft at Lebedeff's?
_____________ is the source of Gania's treatment of others.
Watch the video below to learn more about archetypes. Are there any archetypes in this book? If so, who? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following best summarizes Hippolyte's hatred of Gania?
What does it mean to say that the general's paroxysms, or outbursts, "ended in smoke"?
Why do you think the narrator butts in like this? What is the impact on you as a reader when you are reading the story and then are addressed very directly by the narrator like this?
Even though the general is drunk and irrational, the prince can think of nothing else but soothing him. How is this another example of the prince's grace and virtue? Even amidst so many "sinners" the prince is chiefly concerned with how to ease a struggling man's pain.
What does everyone know that the prince seems not to recognize?
How do the clues that an author plants in a story reveal meaning that lies under the surface? Watch the video below to learn more about how to make inferences. What can you assume or predict based on the way in which Dostoyevsky portrays Lebedeff? (This annotation contains a video)
Lebedeff's story makes it clear that _____________ stole the money.
How is the general's statement ironic? After viewing the video below, determine the kind of irony it is. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is the general so frustrated with Lebedeff for telling a lie?
On the heels of these other fantastic stories (or lies), do you think that this story is true?
Which of the following is an antonym for glibly?
What is the prince doing? Why do you think he is encouraging this outrageous and impossible story? Does he not understand that it can't be true?
What does the general's reaction to the prince's pity reveal about him?
The "le roi de Rome" is Napoleon Bonaparte's son, Napoleon II. It means "the king of Rome." This may be the general trying to confer some sense of honor onto his son Colia. Rome, however, is a fallen empire.
On what does the narrator blame the exaggerated news of Aglaya and the prince's engagement?
Dostoyevsky uses structure to convey the general's _______________.
This episode clearly reiterates that Aglaya is a child in so many ways. Could this be part of why the prince loves her? Though she is not kind, she is pure on a level that others are not.
What kind of love is it that the prince is finally able to experience and return? How does this love compare to the other kinds of love present in the novel?
Aglaya, who has been anything but clear before this, is behaving very directly and bluntly. Are you surprised? What do you think she will say to the request for her hand in marriage that she demanded?
Which type of irony is inherent in Aglaya's statement about how unlike children she and the prince are?
How is this Aglaya's destiny? Is it her destiny to keep her love interests hanging on a string, never to know how she really feels? Do you think the encouragement of her behavior by her family is part of the reason for her actions, or is she truly mad?
Essentially, what has Aglaya just told the prince?
Though it has not been addressed in some time, don't forget that Gania's last excitement was receiving a letter from Aglaya with a request to meet her in the park. This is the "rivalry" that Hippolyte mentions that the prince seems not to understand.
How has the prince revealed that he really does believe that one is "redeemed by suffering"?
Given that Evgenie Pavlovitch was a potential suitor for Aglaya, it makes sense that no one is pleased to hear the prince say he is excited to see Pavlovitch. This reveals his lack of perception, which everyone is concerned about now that it seems the young pair are trying to move forward with an engagement.
What is Aglaya really concerned with regarding the party?
Who could this letter be from? Who would Lebedeff not want to betray by stating something about the letter?
Which of the following words could replace the word acerbity in the highlighted sentence?
Lebedeff is referring to the attempted theft of the money as well as his "torture" of the general after the affair. He believes that is what precipitated the general's agitation and perhaps his stroke.
The prince's reaction to this "veneer" further solidifies his ______________.
Alloy is a material composed of two or more metals; it is not nearly as pure or valuable as gold. Is the prince mistaken in his assumptions about these people?
How does Dostoyevsky characterize this class of people? How does he use the lens of the prince to reveal their most important features?
Pavlicheff was the prince's benefactor, the one who paid for his stay at the hospital in Switzerland and who left part of his fortune to the prince. Remember that there was a previous dispute over who that money aught to go to.
The description of the guest's reactions to the prince reveals _________________.
This may seem like a surprising statement coming from the prince, who is always so pure of heart and has been compared to a Christ-like figure. However, when you read closely into what he is saying, it is clear that Dostoyevsky is using the prince's purity to express something about religion and perhaps, Roman Catholicism in Russia during the mid-1800s.
What do the prince's views about organized religion, particularly Roman Catholicism, reveal about Dostoyevsky's perspective while writing the text?
What seems to frighten the prince more: his terrible blunder in breaking the vase or his knowledge that it would somehow inevitable happen? When he thanks God that something has not happened, what is the prince referring to?
What caused the prince to be so upset about the vase?
The prince is praising all of the good qualities that he can find in these people. They are surprised to hear him so overwhelmed with thanks, but this is what the prince does: he is grateful for all that he sees.
What does the prince mean when he says "Sincerity is more important than elocution"? Is this the way of the world? Think of connections to your own life as well as to examples in the book as you answer this question.
What does this say about Agalya? What causes her to be so conflicted and wounded when she could easily have the prince if she wanted him?
From the highlighted sentence, which of the following words best hints at the prince's current state of being?
The prince picks up on something foreboding about the behavior of Aglaya (even though she is known to behave in this irrational way). A knell is like a funeral bell. How does the language here link the prince's safety or sanity with Aglaya?
This exchange reveals that the prince does not experience ______________.
So this is the reason for Aglaya's request that the prince stay indoors. She doesn't want him to know that she is meeting with Nastasia. Should the prince be more worried about Nastasia than about Gania or any other suitor? What might the girls have to discuss?
How does Hippolyte understand Aglaya in a way that the prince does not? What about each of their perspectives allows the two men to see her so differently?
You are probably familiar with the old plot diagram. Where do you think we are in the story at this point? (This annotation contains an image)
What is the irony of Aglaya's statements about Nastasia Philipovna?
What arguments about class and status do you see underneath this argument about love and feelings? How does Aglaya insult Nastasia's connection to a benefactor, while ignoring the prince's?
Why does the prince not understand this ultimatum? Do you think that Dostoyevsky is ultimately painting a picture of an incapable man who allows himself to be stepped on, or of something else? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
What tone do you detect in this raucously incorrect recounting of the prince's recent behavior? What is the author saying about rumors, high society and the values of the elite?
What is the meaning of the root word cogn in cognizant? (Hint: Use the define feature to look up the word).
Evgenie Pavlovitch seems particularly insightful. The prince was simply unable to make a choice between his romantic feelings of love for Aglaya and the protective feelings of love that he felt for Nastasia. For him, love is love. This is yet another comparison to Christ. Muishkin is not plagued by the negative feelings most associate with love (jealousy, fear, anger). Love is something pure and beautiful to him.
What does Evgenie say is the prince's motivating drive?
Why is the prince afraid of Nastasia's face? What does he see there that frightens him? Did he express this upon first seeing her face? Is this why he seems to be under her spell?
What does the prince believe about Aglaya?
Watch the video below to get a taste of a traditional Orthodox Russian funeral. How does this compare to the funeral rituals that you are accustomed to? (This annotation contains a video)
Why would anyone want to rush the ceremony or behave erratically after the wedding of the prince and Nastasia Philipovna?
What do Hippolyte's warnings foreshadow?
In literature, there are static and dynamic characters. Static characters don't change or grow very much throughout the course of the story. Dynamic characters face conflicts and events that shape them anew, causing them to change. Here, the prince is saying that Nastasia has changed. Do you think she is a dynamic character? Is the prince?
Use the define feature to look up the word vestige. Which of the following could replace the word vestige as it is used in the highlighted sentence?
Maybe Nastasia Philipovna is just nervous, but the comparison of her to a corpse (especially in a chapter which has included another important life ceremony - a funeral) seems particularly concerning.
How can you explain the prince's reaction to his runaway bride?
Where is the prince going? What will he do there?
There have been many references to color lately. Which of the following is a symbol for madness?
Notice the methodical and quickly-paced feeling of this section. How does this mood contribute to a sense of anticipation?
Once again, Dostoyevsky takes the time to point out the brilliance of white against black. As this moment comes to its resolution, consider how Dostoyevsky sets you up for the end result. What might happen and how do you know based on this color motif?
Re-read the highlighted passage. Choose three words that Dostoyevsky uses that help convey the mood of the scene. Describe how these three words do the job.
There are a variety of textual connections to be made to this part of the story. The creeping, eerie, dark quiet is reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart." The mention of the fly brings to mind the poem "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died." You can read this short poem in the link below. How does its mood compare to the mood of this scene? (This annotation contains a link)
How does the mood of Emily Dickinson's poem "I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died" compare to the mood of this scene in the book?
The pack of cards seem to act as a __________ for the prince to come to terms with his true feelings about the murder of Nastasia Philipovna.
Now, it seems the roles have been reversed. Rogojin is the one who has "gone mad" and the prince is the one taking care of an invalid. In his new role as a caretaker, the prince doesn't seem to have been able to save Rogojin or Nastasia Philipovna.
What could these extenuating circumstances have been? His insanity? What do you think about this punishment?
What do you think about the prince? Here, he is, exactly where he started this story. Has he really been a Christ-like figure? What does it say about the world when a character like Prince Muishkin is unable to coexist in harmony and has been reduced, one more, to the status of "idiot"?
Part IV Quiz