Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Idiot
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881)
Idiot, The, by F. M. Dostoyevsky (1868). Prince Myshkin, the hero, is an epileptic, whose secluded invalid life has apparently destroyed the faults of the mind, the sins of egotism, ambition, pride, and deceit, and left him the wise fool of lovely simple childlike character who wins all hearts. He returns to St. Petersburg to a mad chaotic world of villains and egoists, a corrupt and frivolous society, which laughs at his sincerity and innocence, but cannot escape his gentle influence. The reckless beautiful Nastasia loves him, and Aglaia, a young society girl, becomes engaged to him. The jealousy of the two women is incomprehensible to his simple nature. He radiates love and goodwill to both, and finally breaks his engagement to Aglaia to save Nastasia from the passionate violent merchant Rogozhin. On the wedding day, the impulsive Nastasia leaves him knowing his love is only pity and goes to Rogozhin, whom she hates. The jealous Rogozhin marries her and kills her. Prince Myshkin’s exquisitely sensitive spirit cannot survive the horror of the night with the murderer in the room where she is lying dead, and he becomes in fact what he has often been called an “idiot.” The character of Prince Myshkin is revealed in conversations in which he expresses the sweetness of his nature, his sympathy with the unfortunate and his understanding and love for children. He says, “What has always surprised me in the false idea that grown-up people have of children. They are not even understood by their fathers and mothers. We ought to conceal nothing from children under the pretext that they are little and that at their age they should remain ignorant of certain things. What a sad and unfortunate idea! And how clearly the children themselves perceive that their parents take them for babies who can’t understand anything, when really they understand everything.” His kindness to those who try to exploit him and his humility enrages Aglaia. She exclaims: “There isn’t a person who deserves such words from you! here not one of them is worth your little finger, not one who has your intelligence or your heart! You are more honest than all of us, more noble than all, better than all, more clever than all! There isn’t one of these people who is fit to pick up the handkerchief you let fall, so why then do you humiliate yourself and place yourself below everybody! Why have you crushed yourself, why haven’t you any pride?” In the “idiot” Dostoyevsky has drawn his own ideal of a Christlike character. He was himself subject to epilepsy.  1

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.