Study Guide

The Idiot Part 1, Chapter 3

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 3

  • The general is super suspicious of this bum dirtying up his nice little office, but Myshkin keeps saying over and over again how he doesn't want anything and he really just come over to say hey, what's up, broseph.
  • Epanchin has a really hard time buying this. We get the sense that pretty much no one stops by just for a chat with this guy—it's always about what he can do for them. He tells Myshkin that seriously, whatever he wants to buy or sell, Epanchin isn't having any of it.
  • Prince Myshkin is all, oh, okay then, see you later, and gets up to go. And this is when General Epanchin finally believes that he's just there to introduce himself.
  • Myshkin apologizes, sprinkles a little bit of his TMI dust around, and General Epanchin does a total 180 and decides to help him out after all.
  • In a halting, totally embarrassed way, General Epanchin asks Myshkin if he really is completely destitute. And, dudes, that's a pretty personal question to ask someone you just met, no?
  • But Myshkin is more than happy to fill Epanchin in on all the details. No, he has no money. No, he has no property or potential inheritance. No, he has no education, since he's been pretty severely epileptic for most of his life. But, yes, he is a really good copy writer. (Which, no, not Don-Draper-of-Mad-Men style of advertising copy writing—what Myshkin means is actually writing out copies of documents by hand, which is what they had to do back in the day before printers and copy machines were invented.)
  • The general gives him some note paper and tells him to write some stuff to give him a sense of his handwriting—maybe the general will be able to set him up with a job as a secretary.
  • Meanwhile, Epanchin and Ganya go over to another corner of the room and convo about Nastasya Philipovna.
  • From what we can gather, she's having her 25th birthday party that night, and these two are invited.
  • Ganya hints that she's expecting some special present, and Epanchin tells him that Ganya isn't rich enough to give her anything.
  • We get the sense that she and Ganya are engaged to be engaged, or something—basically, she is mulling over whether she wants to marry him or not, and is supposed to tell them that night.
  • Ganya is clearly not in love with her, and his family is not too psyched about the marriage.
  • Prince Myshkin perks up and is all, hey, I know all about Nastasya Philipovna, too.
  • Epanchin and Ganya are impressed and Myshkin tells them about meeting Rogozhin on the train.
  • Epanchin gets concerned—he's heard of Rogozhin, who might be a millionaire, and so might influence the outcome of the whole who-will-marry-Nastasya situation with his money.
  • Ganya seems kind of psyched to hear that she might run off with this sketchy guy and he won't have to marry her. Huh, wonder what that's all about.
  • The general hints that if Ganya is as smart as he says he is, he'll go through with the marriage.
  • Finally, they break off to discuss Myshkin's amazingly beautiful penmanship. General Epanchin offers him a letter-writing job (as in, he'll take dictation so the letters will be really pretty).
  • Also, Epanchin tells Myshkin that Ganya's family has a huge house and that they rent some of it out—and what do you know, they have an empty apartment right now.
  • Ganya is all, over my dead body, but then smiles and invites Myshkin to live there.
  • The prince tries again to bring up the one small bit of business that he was trying to ask General Epanchin's advice about, but Epanchin ignores him, and we don't find out what Myshkin wants.
  • Myshkin sees a portrait of Nastasya Philipovna and stares at it.
  • Ganya is all, well? She's totally hot, right?
  • Myshkin says it's hard to tell if she's a good person from a picture. But yeah, totes hot.
  • Ganya asks him if he'd marry her—and the prince says he can't marry anyone since he's sick. Ganya doesn't let up—would Rogozhin marry her? Myshkin says Rogozhin would marry her in a heartbeat. And then maybe kill her in the next heartbeat. It's hard to know why he thinks this, but we get the sense that he's right.

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