Study Guide

The Idiot Part 1, Chapter 8

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 1, Chapter 8

  • Ganya and the fam live in pretty nice digs—but their place is made small and cramped by the fact that they rent half the rooms out to randoms. This isn't the most high class thing to do with a house and Ganya, who is really trying hard to be a social climber, is totally embarrassed by it. He also tyrannizes his family. What a catch.
  • Anyway. First things first—we get to meet all the Ivolgins and all their tenants.
  • Ganya's mom, Nina Alexandrovna, seems nice, but is clearly under a lot of stress.
  • Varya, Ganya's sister, is beautiful but doesn't care too much about her appearance. She's got a suitor, Ganya's BFF Ptitsyn, who seems to want to marry her, but whom she isn't really into.
  • There's also Kolya, Ganya's little brother, who immediately makes friends with Myshkin. Which makes sense—dude's all about kids, remember?
  • When Myshkin goes to his new room, he meets Ferdishenko, who busts in uninvited and generally tries to act as strange and mysterious as possible, with limited results.
  • Finally, there is General Ivolgin, Ganya's dad, who is a strange combination of seeming to suffer from dementia or delusions or something and also of being really haughty and self-important.
  • Everyone asks Myshkin not to give General Ivolgin any money.
  • The General spins a long story about how he used to be really close to Myshkin's dead dad. Except he gets all the details of the man's life wrong, so most likely he didn't really know him? It's really, really weird and hard to explain.
  • Nina Alexandrovna kind of tries to brush this behavior under the carpet with excuses and we get the sense that the General is mostly just wackadoo.
  • Meanwhile, Varya finds the miniature portrait of Nastasya Philipovna that Ganya has been carrying around.
  • The family examines it, and talks about how grossed out they are by the idea that this woman would come to live in their house.
  • Seriously, can you believe she's had sex before? Disgusting.
  • Ptitsyn tells them that the marriage question is supposed to be decided that night at her B-Day party.
  • Ganya comes into the room and his mom immediately starts asking questions about the party and how the marriage thing will be resolved. Ganya loses it and starts yelling at Myshkin for spilling the beans.
  • For once though, it's not Myshkin who overshared, and Ptitsyn fesses up.
  • Ganya gets all set for a scene, but no, surprisingly, his mom tells him that she's changed her mind and is willing to live with whatever decision Ganya makes.
  • Psyched to hear this, Ganya promises that however repellent Nastasya seems to be, she will only ever be respectful to his family. (Which smacks of all that stuff about making her pay for it later, right?)
  • But it's not a Dostoevsky drawing room scene unless there's yelling, so Varya starts threatening to leave the house if Nastasya moves in. Ganya is all, okay, that's fine. Yelling ensues.
  • Myshkin leaves, and the yelling escalates—now Ganya's mom is no longer fine with everything and again they are having it out.
  • Meanwhile, the doorbell rings. Myshkin answers it. It's Nastasya Philipovna. Oh, boy, that's going to be fun.
  • Myshkin is dumbfounded to see her and she mistakes him for a servant. He goes back into the drawing room and announces her name.
  • Dun-dun-DUN.

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