Fyodor Dostoevsky – The Idiot, part 2

The second part of The Idiot takes the Prince’s exit to Moscow as an excuse for a break in the narrative.  As David Foster Wallace notes in his essay “Josef Frank’s Dostoevsky”, the writer had such distaste for Moscow that he went out of his way to never mention it specifically in any of his novels, and this habit is its most noticeable in The Idiot: the narrator gives the cop-out excuse “of the prince’s adventures in Moscow … we can supply very little information” (179) despite the fact that the narrator is privy to all sorts of other information throughout the course of the novel.

Anyway, the narrator takes a break from focalized narrative and instead uses the first chapter to give a broad overview of what the main characters are up to.  Other than a brief mention in the first chapter and a few times she crops up in conversation, Nastasya has disappeared from this part of the novel so far.  She is an entity whose mention is avoided by most of the characters; gone are the mentions of her portrait and the soaring descriptions of her beauty.  She is a woman of implication, a character of innuendo.  Several references to her as simply “her” or “that woman” are concluded with an instance of mistaken identity: Lebedev tells Prince Myshkin that “a certain person is friends with [Darya Alexeevna] and apparently intends to visit her often in Pavlovsk.  With a purpose” (203).  Because Darya Alexeevna was originally introduced to us at Nastasya’s party that concluded part 1, the reader probably initially thinks that this “certain person” is Nastasya Filippovna, but Lebedev soon reveals it to be her rival/nemesis Aglaya Ivanovna. Continue reading

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