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The Idiot

The Idiot


by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Idiot Suffering Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"Such suffering! […] when that man stepped upon the scaffold he cried […]. Imagine what must have been going on in that man's mind at such a moment; what dreadful convulsions his whole spirit must have endured; it is an outrage on the soul that's what it is. […]. If there's torture, for instance, then there's suffering, wounds, bodily pain, and it means that all that distracts you from inner torment, so that you only suffer from the wounds until you die. But here I should imagine the most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all—but the certain knowledge that in an hour,—then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now—this very instant—your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man—and that this is certain, certain! […] I believe that to execute a man for murder is to punish him immeasurably more dreadfully than is equivalent to his crime. A murder by sentence is far more dreadful than a murder committed by a criminal.


"Doubtless there may be men who have been sentenced, who have suffered this mental anguish for a while and then have been reprieved; perhaps such men may have been able to relate their feelings afterwards. Christ spoke of this suffering and horror. No, you can't treat a man like that!" (1.2.60-63)

This is probably the key passage about suffering in the whole book. It's totally obsessed with the idea of the condemned person who knows that death is just around the corner. To be fair, Dostoevsky has every right to be fixated on this, since he is one of those men who "have been sentenced and then were reprieved" (check out the "In a Nutshell" section, peeps). Here he puts forward the notion that knowing about one's own certain death is way too cruel and unusual to be used as a punishment. This works well for Myshkin's characterization. But for Myshkin, this idea seems to equate to this: no one should ever be punished for anything, and everyone should always be forgiven. Isn't there some kind of in-between?

Quote #2

Mrs. Epanchin examined the portrait of Nastasya Philipovna for some little while, holding it critically at arm's length.

"Yes, she is pretty," she said at last, "even very pretty. I have seen her twice, but only at a distance. So you admire this kind of beauty, do you?" she asked the prince, suddenly.

"Yes, I do—this kind."

"Do you mean especially this kind?"

"Yes, especially this kind."


"There is much suffering in this face," murmured the prince, more as though talking to himself than answering the question. (1.7.52-58)

Myshkin is a suffering fetishist.

Quote #3

"[Myshkin] is another alternative for me," said Nastasya, turning once more to the actress; "and he does it out of pure kindness of heart. I know him. I've found a benefactor. Perhaps, though, what they say about him may be true—that he's an—we know what. And what shall you live on, if you are really so madly in love with Rogozhin's mistress, that you are ready to marry her—eh?"

"I take you as a good, honest woman, Nastasya Philipovna—not as Rogozhin's mistress."

"Who? I?—good and honest? […] Oh, you get those ideas out of novels, you know. Times are changed now, dear prince; the world sees things as they really are. That's all nonsense. Besides, how can you marry? You need a nurse, not a wife."

The prince rose and began to speak in a trembling, timid tone, but with the air of a man absolutely sure of the truth of his words.

"I know nothing, Nastasya Philipovna. I have seen nothing. You are right so far; but I consider that you would be honouring me, and not I you. I am a nobody. You have suffered, you have passed through hell and emerged pure, and that is very much. Why do you shame yourself by desiring to go with Rogozhin? […] Nastasya Philipovna, I love you! I would die for you. I shall never let any man say one word against you, Nastasya Philipovna!" (1.15.46-62)

It's interesting that this passage really connects Myshkin with Pavlichev, the man who semi-adopted Myshkin as a child, and who is later described as having paternal feelings for sick or disabled children. Check out how Nastasya figures out that what Myshkin really wants is to be is her "benefactor."

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