Study Guide

The Idiot Part 4, Chapter 5

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Part 4, Chapter 5

  • So are they engaged or aren't they? Yeah, that's pretty much the question on everyone's lips apparently, since it turns out that Varya was exaggerating a little when she told Ganya that the whole thing was a done deal.
  • Instead, the Epanchin family can tell there is something going on between Myshkin and Aglaya, and that they both have some feelings, but she is such a weirdo and he is such a freak-o that no one can get a real read on the situation.
  • Mrs. Epanchin is totally torn about what to think. On the one hand, ewww Myshkin is a socially awkward weirdo with a lifelong debilitating illness. On the other hand, he's a good, moral dude.
  • She goes to talk things over with her friend and Aglaya's godmother, Princess Belokonsky.
  • This lady calms Mrs. Epanchin down and says, you know, keep your shirt on and just wait to see what happens. As far as this old lady is concerned, the worst thing about Myshkin is that he had Nastasya as a kept woman for a while. This is apparently what society thinks was happening between them during that time they lived together. Which, yeah, actually makes way more human sense than the weird-platonic-mega-suffering-angst-drama that they were actually involved in.
  • The next few days everyone is trying to read way, way too much into what Aglaya and Myshkin do.
  • She beats him at chess. He beats her at cards. She is a sore loser and has a fight with him. He goes away. Kolya brings by a hedgehog to show Aglaya, and she immediately buys it and sends it to Myshkin.
  • The rest of the family is all, well, clearly this means marriage, right? Okay, guys, you're probably over-thinking the whole hedgehog thing just a bit. Sometimes a hedgehog is just a hedgehog.
  • But when General Epanchin tries to advance this theory, he gets shot down.
  • Finally, Mrs. Epanchin loses it and demands to know the full relationship status from Aglaya. She goes completely into obnoxious teenager mode and shuts down the interrogation.
  • Myshkin shows up for dinner.
  • Aglaya comes to dinner late, and then stages a scene fit for the ages as revenge on her family for their questioning.
  • First she demands to know in front of everyone what Myshkin thought about the hedgehog present. He's all, uh, uh.…
  • Then she interrupts him and asks, well, so are you proposing to me or not? Seriously, she just busts it out in pretty much those words.
  • Myshkin, in his normal all-truth-all-the-time mode answers yes, he is proposing, and that he loves her very much.
  • She asks how much he's got in the bank.
  • Turns out it's 125 grand, not nearly as much as everyone thought.
  • Finally, she starts asking if this is enough for their future, or if he's going to get a job—and then bursts into laughter and runs away.
  • Mrs. Epanchin runs after her, yelling about the horribleness of this behavior.
  • All depressed, Myshkin sits around with General Epanchin, who tries to cheer him up by saying that she does seem to have feelings for him, despite this awful treatment.
  • Meanwhile, Aglaya and her mom have made up, and Aglaya declares the whole thing was a joke and that she has no intention of marrying Myshkin, but she cannot take her eyes off him whenever he says anything, and the family decides that the two are in love after all—until the next day when they have another fight.
  • They spend a few days fighting and making up over and over again.
  • One night Aglaya lets slip the idea that she won't replace anyone's mistress. Her mom decides to have a totally honest, no holds barred discussion with Myshkin about exactly what his relationship with Nastasya was like.
  • Meanwhile, Myshkin is on cloud nine. He gets to be around Aglaya all he wants, and that's enough for him.
  • He runs into Ippolit, who is still living at the Ivolgins' and cannot complain enough about Ganya's bad treatment of him. He floats the idea of moving back to Myshkin's.
  • Ippolit tells Myshkin that Ganya has designs on Aglaya, and Myshkin just kind of shrugs it off.
  • Then they start talking about how Ippolit is going to soon die. Ippolit is very bitter about it, but also he is depressed about the fact that he can't seem to just accept his fate.
  • They have a strange conversation about the different kinds of suffering that people undergo before they die. Myshkin has a theory that people from the past were so different that they were almost a different species or something. This is true of course—you know, evolution, the whole common ancestor situation. But yeah, that's not what he means. He is just talking about people who lived in the previous century. So, whatevs. It's hard to know what he means, really, or why this is relevant to their conversation.

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