Study Guide

The Idiot Part 1, Chapter 7

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 7

  • So, he really did all the faces, didn't he. Oh, wait, no, he didn't. Mrs. Epanchin is all, well, what about Aglaya's face? Her face is awesome, no?
  • Myshkin agrees that she is really beautiful. Then he blurts out, just as beautiful as Nastasya Philipovna.
  • Which, whoa, dude, that's a huge faux pas, right there. You don't mention the name of some kept-woman floozy in the presence of these high class ladies. Well, unless you are Myshkin, who somehow breezes along through life with two left feet and no tact or manners.
  • Mrs. Epanchin is immediately seeing red, demanding to know how Myshkin knows about this woman in the first place.
  • To which he again just busts out with, oh, you know, your husband and Ganya were just checking out a portrait of her in the office.
  • Ahem. Again, this is something that a normally socialized person just would not say.
  • But, as always, Myshkin's policy of always telling the truth gets him off the hook while getting everyone around him in trouble.
  • Mrs. Epanchin sends for the portrait.
  • Myshkin goes to get it from Ganya, and tells him that he totally spilled the beans about the little office meeting. Ganya totally flips out.
  • Then he gives Myshkin the portrait, and also hands him a note to give to Aglaya. But this time, because Ganya clearly spells it out—give it to Aglaya, don't read it yourself, don't let anyone else see you give it, don't throw it into the fireplace, don't eat it, don't cut it up into a doily. And you know what? In light of Myshkin's behavior it kind of makes sense to OCD the instructions a bit.
  • Myshkin slips the note to Aglaya and comes back to the ladies with the portrait. They check out Nastasya Philipovna and agree that she is way beautiful. Mrs. Epanchin drags it out of Myshkin that he is really attracted to that type of beauty—the suffering, dark type.
  • Of course.
  • Mrs. Epanchin is really mad because she realizes that there is only one reason why Ganya would randomly have a portrait of Nastasya Philipovna—some sort of marriage dealie. She demands to see him.
  • When Ganya shows up, Mrs. Epanchin grills him about the marriage and he lies, saying he's not getting married any time soon. She is still mad, and leaves the room. The two older daughters leave too.
  • Aglaya asks Myshkin to write something in her quote album since he's so awesome with the calligraphy. When she brings it, Ganya corners her and demands an answer to his note.
  • But she looks at him with no emotion and asks Prince Myshkin to write the words "I do not negotiate."
  • Bam! That's your answer right there, jerko.
  • Ganya is upset and goes off to get his things and leave. Myshkin is going to go with him since he's going to be renting a room from his family, but Aglaya quickly stops him and makes him read Ganya's note.
  • The note is sort of crazy. In it, Ganya basically demands that Aglaya tell him to break off the engagement with Nastasya in return for nothing—well sort of. Ganya is hanging his hopes on the idea that Aglaya might have feelings for him and that this would be a way to entrap her into some kind of commitment to him.
  • Aglaya is too smart to play this game. She tells Myshkin the deal, mocks how dumb Ganya's plan to trap her into a romantic relationship is, and gives him back the note to give to Ganya with no answer.
  • The two men go outside and Myshkin gives Ganya the note. Then he tells him everything that just happened with Aglaya. Okay, so the moral of the story is? Don't tell Myshkin anything that you want to stay a secret.
  • Ganya is all, how on earth are you suddenly BFF with all these people you met two hours ago? Myshkin has no idea—and a summary of the convo he had with the Epanchins doesn't seem to reveal the mystery.
  • Enraged, Ganya calls Myshkin an idiot several times, until finally Myshkin is all, hey, you cut that out now. He asks whether Ganya would rather just let him go find somewhere else to stay, but Ganya is firmly committed to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. He apologizes and Myshkin goes home with him.

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