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Quotes

Quote #1

The conversation proceeded. The readiness of the fair-haired young man in the cloak to answer all his opposite neighbor's questions was surprising. He seemed to have no suspicion of any impertinence or inappropriateness in the fact of such questions being put to him. (1.1.10)

The fact that this behavior comes off as endearing rather than off-kilter just goes to show how locked down this society really is in terms of rules of conduct.

Quote #2

[A] great change now came over Nastasya Philipovna. She suddenly displayed unusual decision of character; and without wasting time in thought, she left her country home and came up to St. Petersburg, straight to Totsky's house, all alone.

The latter, amazed at her conduct, began to express his displeasure; but he very soon became aware that he must change his voice, style, and everything else, with this young lady; the good old times were gone. An entirely new and different woman sat before him, between whom and the girl he had left in the country last July there seemed nothing in common.

In the first place, this new woman understood a good deal more than was usual for young people of her age […]. Her character was absolutely changed. No more of the girlish alternations of timidity and petulance, the adorable naivete, the reveries, the tears, the playfulness... It was an entirely new and hitherto unknown being who now sat and laughed at him […] he now had to deal with a being who was outside the pale of the ordinary rules of traditional behaviour, and who would not only threaten mischief but would undoubtedly carry it out, and stop for no one. (1.4.7-10)

It's funny how we totally start out rooting for this lady, right? Here, she is like some kind of proto-feminist avenging superhero or something, with this dramatic change being her origin story. (Hey, some get bitten by radioactive spiders, others get shafted by the old guys who made them their mistresses.) Too bad she can't make it last.

Quote #3

"I must say it's very nice of you to laugh. I see you really are a kind-hearted fellow," said Mrs. Epanchin.

"I'm not always kind, though."

"I am kind myself, and always kind too, if you please!" she retorted, unexpectedly; "and that is my chief fault, for one ought not to be always kind. I am often angry with these girls and their father; but the worst of it is, I am always kindest when I am cross. I was very angry just before you came and pretended I couldn't and didn't understand anything. That happens to me—like a child. Aglaya there taught me a lesson—thanks, Aglaya, dear. Anyhow it's all nonsense. I'm still not as stupid as I seem and as my daughters would have me appear. I have a strong character and am not very shy. Come here Aglaya and kiss me—there—that's enough" she added, as Aglaya came forward and kissed her lips and then her hand. (1.5.58-65)

There are a lot of descriptions of Mrs. Epanchin as being childish or child-like. Myshkin calls her that, and it's a pretty high compliment for him to give. Is Mrs. Epanchin child-like because she is somehow innocent of some of life's complications? Or because she is moody and a little chaotic?

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