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The Idiot
The Idiot
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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The Idiot Part 3, Chapter 7 Summary

  • And finally, the exciting conclusion of Ippolit's spiel. The excitement is because it's finally over, obviously.
  • Ippolit reveals that he's so ready to kill himself, he's even got a gun and everything.
  • But also, he sometimes thinks that he might as well go out with an even bigger bang—maybe killing a whole bunch of people. After all, who would sentence him to a punishment if he's only got two weeks to live?
  • (Okay, a brief interruption here. This thing about why a person who is about to die shouldn't just go out and commit horrible crimes is a pretty standard argument in favor of religious belief as a basis for human morality. This is something Dostoevsky definitely pushes pretty hard in most of his works, what with being a super-believer and all. The point being is this: it's not earthly laws that make people not do terrible things—because in this situation the laws wouldn't be a deterrent—but instead a fear of the judgment that will come in the afterlife. If no one had this afterlife fear, the argument goes, then people would have no moral compass to stop them from doing bad stuff whenever they were out of reach of the law. So yeah, according to this idea, atheists have no morals, which, well, we might have to question that one a little bit. What do you think?)
  • But in any case, Ippolit has never been able to be a complete atheist and still believes in an afterlife, so forget all that killing people business.
  • Instead, this has all been a long suicide note—and it's over.
  • So, okay, maybe this was a boring bit of performance art, but we have to say the reaction of the party guests is pretty cold.
  • Ganya is all, okay, see you guys later, Radomsky is kind of obnoxious about it also, and everyone else looks like they are ready to go.
  • Ippolit is insulted and shocked that no one starts trying to convince him not to kill himself. He tells the crowd that he really does have a gun, all ready to go up in his room.
  • Lebedev is all, what the what? This is his house after all, and he's not so psyched to have a bunch of brains splattered all over the terrace. He demands the gun be found.
  • A bunch of people run off to get it.
  • While they are gone, Ippolit whispers to Myshkin that this is all just as he suspected, takes a long last look at the prince, then pulls out a gun, and shoots himself in the head…
  • …except he forgot to load the gun properly, so it doesn't go off. Remember, kids, this is the old fashioned kind of gun that you need to pack with caps, gunpowder, and the bullet, all in the proper order.
  • Ippolit is way embarrassed and passes out.
  • Radomsky seems stressed that Ippolit really will go off and kill a bunch of people—maybe people like Myshkin, Aglaya, and Radomsky himself. Then he takes off, and decides not to have the conversation with Myshkin after all. He does say really mysteriously that he is about to do the only altruistic thing he's ever done in his life. Huh?
  • Myshkin goes out for a long nighttime walk and remembers being in Switzerland after his epilepsy had started to be more controlled.
  • Then, before he regained his use of language, he was amazed by the small beauty in all the living things and creatures around him.
  • He had a moment of really communing with something spiritual.
  • He sits down on the bench where he is supposed to meet Aglaya and suddenly sees Nastasya, but it's a dream. When he wakes up, Aglaya is touching his hand.
Next Page: Part 3, Chapter 8
Previous Page: Part 3, Chapter 6

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