The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Idiot

The Idiot is a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky published in Russian as Idiot in 1868-69. The narrative revolves around the effect of Prince Myshkin, a “primitive” man, on the sophisticated and conservative Yepanchin family and their friends.

The novel explores moral, spiritual, and philosophical themes such as love, suffering, sacrifice, hypocrisy, good vs. evil, society, and the non-divine Christ. The book’s primary motivation was to subject Dostoevsky’s highest ideal, true Christian love, to the crucible of contemporary Russian society.

Despite the apparent structural deficiencies, the novel is considered one of Dostoevsky’s most original works and artistically uneven. The author’s experimental approach toward the central idea meant that he could not always predict where the plot was going as he was writing. The novel has an awkward structure, and many critics have commented on its seemingly chaotic organization. However, the uncontrived approach to writing becomes a depiction of what Morson calls “the openness of time.”

The narrator of The Idiot is given a distinct voice like any other character, and often conveys only a partial understanding of the events he is describing. It is the voice of a highly perceptive and meticulous reporter of the facts, who has, despite this objectivity, a particular perspective on what he is reporting, occasionally even lapsing into pontification.

Useful takeaways from The Idiot include the importance of living life lucidly with clear eyes, the transcendence of our acts beyond our conscious lives, and the depiction of human subjectivity as an open field of possibility where the will is free at all times, despite the apparent necessity of cause and effect.

What I Liked

The main character is really something else.

What I Did Not Like

The plot really is all over the place. I had to really just sink into meandering along with the main character rather than pushing for something to happen.

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