Study Guide

The Idiot Part 2, Chapter 12

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 2, Chapter 12

  • On the third day, Mrs. Epanchin runs up to the terrace of Myshkin's house.
  • She's is sort of freaking out and starts yelling at him, but in what sounds like a friendly, exasperated way.
  • First, she knows about that letter he sent to Aglaya, and demands to know what was in it. Myshkin recites it. (Which, huh? How many of your emails do you have memorized by heart?)
  • Mrs. Epanchin calms down somewhat since it wasn't some declaration of love or proposal of marriage.
  • So, then, she asks, is Myshkin in love with Nastasya? He says no.
  • Finally she gets him to promise that he had nothing to do with Nastasya and the carriage-debts fiasco.
  • And now that he is in the free and clear, she gets to the point. It turns out that Ganya has been talking to Aglaya.
  • (Okay, fine, this doesn't seem like a huge deal to us now. But let's get into the time machine and check out what life was like for young, unmarried noblewomen back in the day. Basically, even the slightest hint of improper sexual behavior could pretty much take a woman like that out of the marriage market—and then, it's not like she could get a job or anything, so she would be stuck living the life of an old maid, trapped with mom and dad forever. Yeah. So, even something like writing letters to some potentially marriageable guy on the side starts to look suspicious. Plus, marrying Ganya would be a huge social step down for Aglaya.)
  • Myshkins is shocked about this, and that Ganya didn't tell him. Which, fair enough, but we know that Ganya totally was going to tell him the day before—except the prince was too distracted and ruined the mood.
  • Mrs. Epanchin then says that not only has Ganya been talking to Aglaya, but that she has also been in communication with Nastasya.
  • The prince is shocked again, and Mrs. Epanchin accuses him of being a gullible idiot—giving as an example, Burdovsky.
  • The prince then shows Mrs. Epanchin a letter from Burdovsky, who apologizes for the whole Pavlichev's son thing.
  • She gets mad for being proven wrong about this (we guess—she's kind of wacko, so it's hard to know what makes her tick), and starts to storm away, when Myshkin tells her that Aglaya sent him a note earlier telling him never to come visit them.
  • Mrs. Epachin is all, she did what? Obviously she wants you to come visit. But Myshkin is too literal-minded to get Aglaya's subtleties. Which, yeah, of course, when someone tells you to stay the heck away, you always want to go see that person. That makes perfect sense…in crazy town.
  • Mrs. Epanchin practically drags Myshkin away to her house, mumbling something about Aglaya needing someone to cut her teeth on. Which doesn't really sound all that appealing if you ask us.

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