Study Guide

Varvara Ardalyonovna Ivolgin (Varya) in The Idiot

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Varvara Ardalyonovna Ivolgin (Varya)

Ganya's younger sister Varya tries to help her brother marry Aglaya, and then ends up marrying the moneylender Ptitsyn.

Varya is basically the loving family-fixer. She is as patient, practical, and calculating as Ganya is rash, self-deluded, and overly ambitious. And really, there is something to be said for that. If Ganya weren't quite such a horrible failure of a person, it really seems like Varya could have actually gotten him in there with Aglaya through her slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach to ingratiating herself into the Epanchin family and building up a faux BFF relationship with the three sisters.

As it is, even though in the end, she can't quite manage Ganya's life, she does end up making quite a nice setup for herself. Instead of worrying about her feelings too much, she marries Ptitsyn, who is a steady and reasonable guy. They make a great team together, and the narrator assures us that they will actually end up becoming quite rich. So, what do you think—is Varya the mirror image to the cautionary tale of caring too much about love and passion and the rest of it? Or are we meant to cringe at her practical outlook on life? How can you tell?

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