This section contains 1,508 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Still chatting away to Myshkin, the four women ask what he can see in their faces. He is very complementary of Alexandra, Madam Yephachin and Adelaide, but he avoids commenting on Aglaya. When they mention he has left out the most beautiful girl in the room, the Prince says he knows, but she is so beautiful he can scarcely look at her. They press the Prince further, and he says she is as lovely as Nastassya Filippovna. All four women show surprise the Prince knows who Nastassya is and ask where he met her. The Prince says the General showed him her picture. At once Madam Yephachin tells him to fetch the picture and to bring it back to her. The Prince goes back to the General's study. Ganja is upset the Prince has told the women and questions the Prince's motives. The Prince apologizes and says he meant no harm. The Prince's calm response pacifies Ganja and he becomes friendlier, asking the Prince if he can deliver an important and secret letter to Aglaya. The Prince agrees and leaves the study with both the letter and Nastassya's picture.
The moment he sees Aglaya he hands her the letter and rejoins the others. Upon seeing the picture Madam Yephanchin insists on talking to Ganja, knowing instinctively her husband is arranging marriages behind her back. Ganja denies any knowledge of marriage, and Madam Yephanchin tells him she will remember he said that when the marriage goes through.
Ganja and Myshkin find themselves alone. Ganja accuses Myshkin of telling Madam Yepanchin about the marriage, but Aglaya's entrance stops him from going any further. Aglaya asks the Prince to write something down in her album, which he gladly does. She then guides the Prince away from Ganja and asks him to read the letter Ganja wrote. The letter asks Aglaya to save him from marrying Nastassya. Aglaya tells the Prince she will not be a compromise.
As Myshkin walks back to Ganja's house, Ganja once more turns on the Prince. He says the Prince is an idiot, and for the first time Myshkin reacts angrily. He says he was an idiot when he was ill, but he is now much better. He tells Ganja he would prefer to pay for his lodgings than to stay with someone who thinks so low of him. Ganja immediately apologizes and persuades the Prince to change his mind.
Ganja and his family own a boarding house, run by Ganja's mother and sister. Myshkin chats to the family and Ganja leaves with a friend. On Ganja's return, an argument begins between Ganja, his mother and sister about his impending marriage to Nastassya Flippovna. Eventually Myshkin gets up to leave, prompting Ganja to imply he has been eavesdropping on the conversation. Myshkin decides not to reply to the comment and walks into the hall where he hears the doorbell. With no one else around to answer Myshkin opens the door to Nastassya. Her presence surprises the Prince so much he can hardly utter a word, and Nastassya takes him for a footman. She demands Myshkin to announce her to the family.
Nastassya walks through to meet Ganja's family for the first time. The scene is not unpleasant, but the atmosphere is highly formal, and Nastassya gives the impression of someone waiting for something happen. Ganja's father' unease increases at Nastassya's presence. Ganja has yet to tell his father of his marriage plans, and Nastassya seems aware of this, cajoling the General to tell her a story. The general tells a tale of how he fell out with the Yephanchin family. He recalls a time he was smoking a cigar out of a train window. An English lady took offense at his smoking, grabbed his cigar and threw it out of the window. In reply, the General grabbed her dog and threw in the same direction as the cigar. The distraught lady happened to be friends with Madam Yephanchin, and since this episode his relationship with the family has dissolved. Nastassya thanks him for the wonderful story, but tells the room she read the same story in a newspaper two weeks ago. An embarrassed Ganja is requesting his father's presence in another room when the doorbell rings again.
Koyla answers the door to a drunk Rogozhin, who charges through to the drawing room and confronts Ganja, asking if it true that he is going to marry Nastassya. His anger turns to surprise when he spies Nastassya. She seems just as uneasy at his presence, but her unease soon turns to delight when she reaps all the attention. Rogozhin claiming he is rich pulls out 18,000 roubles and hands it to her. She laughs and calls him a peasant. Ganja's sister is not impressed and calls Nastassya shameless. Her comment angers Ganja and he strikes her repeatedly across the face. Myshkin steps in to stop him and Ganja strikes him as well. The two men stare at each other before Myshkin breaks down into tears, slumping down into a corner of the room. He says Ganja will feel ashamed of what he has done. The Prince's passive response encourages sympathy from everyone. Rogozhin suggests the Prince should come and stay with him. Eventually Nastassya gets up to leave, kissing Ganja's mother's hand before she goes. In a state of great agitation, Ganja follows Natassya to the door and she confuses him by saying, "Don't come with me... You must come, do you hear."
Ganja apologizes to the Prince, kissing his hand. His apology comes across as so sincere the Prince forgives him immediately. Ganja relaxes and confides his problems to the Prince. He admits he is marrying Nastassya for money, telling Myshkin he (Ganja) is a complete scoundrel. Myskin tells Ganya he does not think he is a scoundrel deep down, but Ganja becomes scornful at such a suggestion. He says scoundrels always need honest men, and that is why he wants to be the Prince's friend.
The Prince decides he must go and see Nastassya. He approaches General Ivolgin and asks him to take him to her house. The General claims he had exactly the same idea, and then proceeds to tell Myshkin his life story over three bottles of wine. By the time they leave for Nastasya's the General can hardly walk. The General insists they visit his friend's house, but they find they are not home. Upon leaving, the General admits that it was the wrong house anyway. He then takes Myshkin to his mistress's house, where Koyla is also present. Koyla tells the Prince that Nastassya lives nowhere near where the General said and walks the Prince to her house.
Dostevsky introduces all the themes and character very quickly, providing a breathless pace and a narrative reminiscent of a melodrama. In the previous chapter, he foreshadows the love triangle between the Prince, Rogozhin and Nastassya, and here he adds both Ganja and Aglaya to the mix. Ganja is due to marry Nastassya, but obviously has feelings for Aglaya. He hands the Prince a letter to give to Aglaya, but Aglaya is not impressed and she shows more interest in the Prince. On the Prince's part, he compares Aglaya's beauty to Nastassya, foreshadowing the choice he will later have to make between the two women.
Dostoevsky's melodramatic style continues when Ganja and the Prince walk home. Ganja calls the Price an idiot, and the Prince reacts badly saying he would rather not stay with someone who has such a low opinion of him. They make up, but when they get to Ganja's house, the pace further increases when an argument breaks out between Ganja and his family. Still this is not the end, and the cause of the argument, Natassya Fillipovna, knocks on the door, followed by Rogozhin. If the reader remembers to take a breath, he will realize that all the action so far has taken place over a few hours. In fact, the whole first section covers only one day. Interestingly the pace of the novel slows down in following parts, but here it serves to build the dark atmosphere that maintains the philosophical and reflective nature of the middle part of the book. With the novel starting so explosively, the reader understands, despite the later meandering pace, that it is just setting itself for a grand finale, which, given this early section, can be nothing but tragic.
Dostoevsky introduces Nastassya Flippovna for the first time in this section. He presents her as the most complex character in the book and misunderstood by everyone. Ganja's sister, in particular, thinks she is manipulative and wants nothing more than to destroy her family. Initially Natassya reinforces this opinion with her sharp and smug remarks, yet each time someone reproaches her, she shows her nasty side to be a facade. Dostoevsky shows this best when some of Varya's comments force her to blush. She soon continues as before, but her lapse shows there is a dark and desperate force inside her that she cannot control.
This section contains 1,508 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)