The Idiot: A Novel Themes & Motifs

Elif Batuman
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Literature

The frequent references to literature and literary works in The Idiot are symbolic of the ways in which Selin tries to make sense of, and order, her own life story. This is clear from the name of one the classes she attends, "Constructed Worlds"; Selin herself is a world-constructor, in the sense that she seems literature and life as being about a process of interpreting random flows of information, and finding patterns in them.

Books and literature are everywhere in the novel, thanks in large part to Selin's role as a student of literature and language. This is especially true for nineteenth-century realist novels. She reads works by Dickens to escape from the Hungarian language when she is teaching; she discusses Dostoevsky with Ivan, and realizes with horror that Ivan takes a selfish view of his own place in reality; she discusses Balzac, whose sweeping depictions...

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This section contains 1,715 words
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