The Idiot - Study Guide Part 1 Chapters XI-XVI Summary & Analysis

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Part 1 Chapters XI-XVI Summary

The servant announces the Prince. As the guests await his arrival, they gossip about his character. Ganja states, though he initially thought the Prince an idiot, he is nothing of the kind, and once you get to know him, he is a thoughtful individual. Some of the guests are put out that the Prince has invited himself to the party. Ferdyshchenko thinks they should make fun of the Prince for being so impudent, suggesting they force him to sing a jovial song. Upon the Prince's entrance Nastassya states her delight in seeing him and shows him to the chair positioned next to her.

The party livens up in the Prince's presence, and Nastassya, always looking to twist things, suggests a game where all the men have to describe their worse ever action. The men all put their names on a piece of paper and give the Prince the honor of drawing them from a hat. Ferdyshchenko is first and he recalls a time he was at a friend's house and he stole some money they had left money on the side for housekeeping. A servant was blamed for the theft, and Ferdyshchenko recounts how he persuaded her to confess to the crime. He then spent the money on getting drunk. His friend fired the servant the next day.

His story upsets everyone in the room, leading him to ask what did they expect from such a game. Yephanchin paints himself in a far better light. He once blamed the death of his landlady on himself. The day she died he had unscrupulously threw insults at her regarding payment of the rent. He felt so guilty, years later he helped a couple of old ladies in a nursing home. Totsky tells a tale about how he stole a woman's affections from someone who truly loved her, for no other reason than to share a short intimacy. The man ended up enlisting to fight in the Crimean War, dying soon after in battle. Upon hearing the stories, Nastassya asks the Prince if she should marry Ganja. The Prince says no. Totsky, Ganja and Yepinchin are indignant, but Natassya says she trusts the Prince and the case is closed. A ring at the door prevents further conversation and Nastassya exclaims "A-ah! Here's my way out."

Rogozhin and his friends enter the party. His presence disgusts and intrigues everybody, which, in turn, greatly pleases Nastassya. Rogozhin tells the company he has come into money and throws 100,000 roubles down onto the table, saying the money is Natassya's if she consents to marry him. After casually insulting all her would-be suitors, Nastassya wonders whether to accept the payment and leave with Rogozhin. Suddenly the Prince stands up and declares his love for her. He asks her to marry him and says he does not care if she has no money or if she has a disreputable reputation because he loves her. Everyone is angry with the Prince, saying he has nothing to offer. However, he shows them a letter declaring he is to inherit 100,000,000 roubles. Nastassya decides she cannot refuse such a large sum of money and the people in the room gather around the Prince to congratulate him. However, falling in line with her unpredictable character, Nastassya immediately changes her mind and decides again to leave with Rogozhin. She says the Prince is an idiot, and he needs looking after himself. She grabs Rogozhin's 100,000 roubles and with his consent throws it into the fire, saying the person who risks their skin to fish it out can keep it. She expects Ganja to rush forward immediately, but he stands hypnotized by the burning notes; his vanity prevents him from stepping forward. Eventually it becomes too much for Ganja and he faints. Nastassya orders her servant to bring her tongs and she retrieves the money, lays it next to Ganja and leaves with Rogozhin. Myshkin runs after them.

Part 1 Chapters XI-XVI Analysis

In this section, Dostoevsky highlights the difference between the three main characters and the others. As mentioned previously, other characters such as Ganja see themselves as different, but a feeling of responsibility always holds them back. Dostoevsky does not present this as an admirable quality, and the Prince, Rogozhin and Nastassya come across as more human as they are never anything less than themselves.

The real difference is the instinctiveness of their actions. Firstly, the Prince arrives uninvited to Nastassya's party and for a reason he does not seem to understand. Most of the characters criticize his decision, but Nattassya admires his spontaneity and welcomes him warmly. His presence immediately changes the atmosphere, and Natassya suggests a game where all the men have to say the worst thing they have ever done. Ferdyshchenko tells a shocking story about how he contributed to the sacking of a servant. His story is brutally honest, yet most of the characters criticize his actions. Only Myshkin and Nattassya withhold judgment and most likely because they see his admission as honest and true to himself. After this story, the General and Totsky paint themselves in the best possible light, showing their fear of losing their high position in society and their inability to admit their own faults.

Rogozhin then gate crashes the party and asks Nastassya to marry him. At this point, the Prince stands up and declares his love for Nastassya. However those in the room only believe his sincerity when he tells them he is about to inherit a large sum of money. Their congratulations show the Prince is finally speaking their language and going about things in a way they can understand. However, Nastassya cannot stand the conformity of their opinions, and while she initially accepts the Prince's proposal of marriage, she just as quickly laughs off the idea and decides to leave with Rogozhin. Before she leaves, she throws Rogozhin's money on the fire, expecting Ganja to leap in and grab it. Dostoevsky says Ganja's natural response would be to do exactly as she expects, but that he stays where he is proves how much the other characters repress their true desires. Nastassya scorns him for his vanity, and the reader may see this as a blunt remark. However, most likely Nastassya would have respected him more if he had followed his instincts. When Rogozhin leaves with Nastassya, the Prince instinctively follows them out the door. The other characters claim Nastassya is mad, but, unlike Nastassya's remark about Ganja, this comes across to the reader as a lack of understanding.

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