Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Idiot Readalong Post 3 and 4: Parts 3 and 4.

I want to welcome you all to the second of two posts on Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot. Originally, there was supposed to be 4 posts, but with school and a busy schedule, I moved it down to 2. If you still wrote two posts on each of the separate sections, please leave links to both below.

This was my third experience with Dostoevsky and by far the easiest to get through. Don't interpret that as "Dostoevsky is an easy afternoon read," but rather that "The Idiot is not as deeply complex as the other two (The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment)."

I have found in my small explorations into Russian literature, that the more you soak yourself into the story, the easier it is to understand and appreciate. My first exposure was Crime and Punishment, and I think that while I really loved it, I would find far more in it than I did in my reading of it a year and a half ago. I think it is common to think far too much about Russian literature. As a native English speaker and reader, I am too used to my phrasing, my names and commonalities. I need to just accept the depth and richness of the Russian style.

I finally think I succeeded in that with The Idiot. I seemed to understand Dostoevsky's point of view much more clearly this go around and I am wondering if that has to do with my own growth as a reader, or the fact that the theme and message of this one seemed far easier to grasp hold of.

Speaking of that theme...

From my interpretation of Dostoevsky's words and story, it seems that all of us have a little selfishness and greed in us. I think we wouldn't be human if we didn't. Presented with his wholesome character, I seemed to acknowledge the fact that Myshkin's goodness isn't something that is a reality for many. I mean, I know many good, faithful, innocent people, but none can compare to Myshkin's thoughts and actions. Here is a man who tries so hard to please, honor, and support those around him, even at cost to himself.

I admire that. And I admire the fact that Dostoevsky uses Myshkin to show us all that we succumb to greed, desire, and money far too often. I am sure this is even more true today than in 1868/1869 when the novel was published. How many times do we see news stories where the crime centers around greed, sex, power, and money (because it is close to home, I think of ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick and his crimes while in office)? It has become a state of being for many, not that honorable idea of protecting other people first.

But beyond people's morals, I think Dostoevsky is also making a connection to the Russian people. From the little history I know, Russia was always an outsider to "the west" until the mid-1800s. When Russia started to adopt Western ideas, it transformed the country. This is where you get that big transformation between the old and the new (something I saw in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons last year as well). I think Dostoevsky really plays with this idea. That the new are becoming corrupted by progress and change from the West, and those who stick with the "old," like Myshkin, cannot survive in such a cutthroat kind of environment. Again, these are my guesses and assumptions, and I could be completely wrong. But I see evidence of all of that in Dostoevsky's words.

What did you make of The Idiot? Harder or easier than other Russian literature? Your first foray? Leave links to your posts below so I may link them here, and thank you for participating!


  1. These are my thoughts here, thanks for hosting this

  2. Oh I am so late with this one. I enjoyed this book but I dragged my feet a little when I shouldn't havel. Here's my post.