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The Idiot

The Idiot


by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Prince Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin Timeline and Summary

  • Myshkin arrives in Petersburg from Switzerland.
  • On the train, he meets Rogozhin and Lebedev and tells them about being an orphan, being fostered by Pavlichev, suffering from epilepsy, and spending many years at a Swiss clinic.
  • In Petersburg, he finds the Epanchins, to whom he is distantly related, and is immediately endeared to the family through his weird truthfulness.
  • He gets a job with General Epanchin, rents an apartment from Epanchin's employee Ganya, and learns about Nastasya's backstory and her birthday party that night.
  • Myshkin crashes the party, is stunned into pity-love by the suffering he sees in Nastasya's eyes, and proposes marriage to her with the reveal that he has a sizeable inheritance.
  • The next six months, he lives with Nastasya on and off, always platonically.
  • After she leaves him for good, Myshkin comes back to Petersburg and hangs out with Rogozhin for a bit, exchanging crosses in a blood-brothers style of arrangement.
  • Later the same day, he is attacked by a jealous Rogozhin, who almost stabs him. Myshkin has an epileptic seizure which prevents the stabbing.
  • The prince then goes off to Pavlovsk, a nearby resort town.
  • He rents a room from Lebedev, and makes friends with his daughter Vera. He also again befriends the Epanchin family and starts visiting them daily—enough to fall in love with Aglaya.
  • Soon after, Myshkin gets a visit from Burdovsky, who claims to be the son of the prince's benefactor and has designs on Myshkin's money.
  • After Ganya debunks the Burdovsky nonsense, Myshkin takes in Ippolit, a nihilist with tuberculosis who has a huge grudge against the world.
  • The prince soon listens to Ippolit's long confession-suicide note and stops him from killing himself.
  • There is an unspoken understanding that Myshkin and Aglaya are engaged, though he is preoccupied with the thought that she is receiving letters from Nastasya.
  • The Epanchins have a party to show Myshkin off to their society friends. He acts inappropriately, breaks a vase, and has a seizure—but still, the engagement is on the table.
  • Myshkin is roped in by Aglaya into coming with her to meet with Rogozhin and Nastasya.
  • At the meeting, he is disturbed by the fact that he feels a lot of love for both women, but loves them differently. After Nastasya faints, he runs to her side, and seemingly rejects Aglaya in the process.
  • Myshkin again proposes to Nastasya and wedding preparations are under way despite everyone being against this terrible mismatch.
  • After Nastasya runs off on the day of the wedding with Rogozhin, Myshkin follows them to Petersburg.
  • He spends a day trying in vain to track them down, but that night is found by Rogozhin and is taken to his house.
  • There, Myshkin sees the corpse of Nastasya and learns the story of how she pretty willingly went to her death.
  • He spends the night with Rogozhin, slowly losing his mind more and more. When the police find them the next morning, he is back to a near-catatonic state.
  • With the help of Kolya and Radomsky, Myshkin goes back to the Swiss clinic. The doctor pronounces his condition permanent and incurable.