Study Guide

The Idiot Part 2, Chapter 7

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Part 2, Chapter 7

  • Just as Aglaya is starting with the poetry, in comes General Epanchin and some new dude—Radomsky. Myshkin is all, whose the new guy?
  • But they all listen up to Aglaya reciting. She is totes awesome, but also while talking about "the poor knight" and his obsession, she replaces words from the original poem with a hint about Nastasya. Oh snap.
  • Myshkin is really embarrassed but there's no time to think about it since everyone immediately starts hanging on every word Radomsky is saying. Turns out he has just given up his military commission. Also, it turns out that is Aglaya's new special friend.
  • Mrs. Epanchin is so impressed with Aglaya's poetic stylings that she demands a copy of the works of Pushkin and Lebedev immediately offers to sell her his set.
  • Meanwhile, Lebedev's daughter points out that are there a bunch of dudes waiting to talk to the prince and pretty much on the verge of busting into the room uninvited.
  • One of them claims to be Pavlichev's son—remember, that guy who was Myshkin's patron?
  • Apparently this is something that's been going on for a while, since everyone in the room already knows all about it and are scandalized on the prince's behalf. It's hard to know what they all know, but the reader is guessing that these new guys want some of his inheritance?
  • Clearly, it's something unpleasant, and Myshkin has a paranoid thought that their arrival at this time was a setup to make him look bad somehow.
  • Lebedev describes these guys as nihilists. Okay, time for a little history lesson.
  • So, you know how there was a revolution in Russia in 1917 and the country was turned into a socialist/communist state? Well, those ideas about sharing the wealth and not abusing the workers didn't come from nowhere—they came from the second half of the 19th century, and they were definitely on the less-scary end of the extremist idea spectrum. The most extremist? The nihilists, whose name comes from the Latin word "nihil" which means "nothing."
  • They believed in nothing—no laws, no morality, no social customs or culture. Now that's some terrifying stuff right there.
  • Anyhow, where were we now? Oh, right, the nihilists. So they come into the room, and Myshkin sees that he knows two of them: Kolya's friend Ippolit and Lebedev's nephew—the one who was complaining that Lebedev wouldn't give him money to get a job.
  • The third is an ex-military guy from Rogozhin old crew, and the fourth is the one who claims to be Pavlichev's son, even though his name is Antip Burdovsky for some reason.

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