The Idiot Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
These Mr. Know-it-alls are met with pretty frequently in a certain class. They know everything, all the restless inquisitiveness of their minds and all their abilities are turned irresistibly in one direction, certainly for lack of more important life interests […] they know where so-and-so works, what his salary is, whom he knows, whom he married, what money his wife had, who are his cousins, and second cousins, etc., etc. For the most part, these know-it-alls go about with holes at the elbows and earn a salary of seventeen roubles a month. The people whose innermost secret they know would, of course, be unable to understand what interests guide them, and yet many of them are positively consoled by this knowledge that amounts to a whole science […]. I have known scholars, writers, poets, political activists who sought and found their highest peace and purpose in this science. (1.1.25-27)
Wow, all of a sudden this passage makes The Idiot sound like Vanity Fair or some other social satire! Do we ever run across another character who actually cares about any of this stuff? This happens so early on in the novel, it raises the question of whether Dostoevsky envisioned this work totally differently before really committing to it.
[General Epanchin], though he was a man of lowly origin, and of poor education, was, for all that, an experienced and talented husband and father. Among other things, he considered it undesirable to hurry his daughters to the matrimonial altar and to worry them too much with assurances of his paternal wishes for their happiness, as is the custom among parents of many grown-up daughters. […] The general considered that the girls' taste and good sense should be allowed to develop and mature deliberately, and that the parents' duty should merely be to keep watch, in order that no strange or undesirable choice be made […].Besides this, it was clear that the Epanchins' position gained each year, with geometrical accuracy, both as to financial solidity and social weight; and, therefore, the longer the girls waited, the better was their chance of making a brilliant match. (1.4.3)
Ha! Not only is he an excellent dad, totally leaving the kids alone so they don't get stressed about needing to get married or whatever, but also he is completely practical and knows all about the magic of compound interest. Again, a little glimpse into what this novel could have been like if it had gone in a different, more social-satire kind of direction.
"[Aglaya's] pretty, prince, isn't she?" "Most wonderfully so," said the latter, warmly, gazing at Aglaya with admiration. "Almost as lovely as Nastasya Philipovna, but quite a different type." All present exchanged looks of surprise. "As lovely as who?" said Mrs. Epanchin. "As Nastasya Philipovna? Where have you seen Nastasya Philipovna? What Nastasya Philipovna?" "Gavrila Ardalionovitch showed the general her portrait just now." "How so? Did he bring the portrait for my husband?" "Only to show it. Nastasya Philipovna gave it to Gavrila Ardalionovitch today, and the latter brought it here to show to the general." "I must see it!" cried Mrs. Epanchin.[…]"He is a nice fellow, but a little too simple," said Adelaida, as the prince left the room. (1.7.11-19)
Oh, Myshkin. He comes to these people's house and immediately puts both feet entirely into his mouth. The early chapters really make him look like he's totally non-functional, right? How is this the same character who later insightfully begs Lebedev to keep secret General Ivolgin's theft?