Quick Synopsis of The Idiot
- Prince Muishkin, 26, was abroad for years, being treated for epilepsy. Referred to as his “fits” throughout novel.
- Now he is back in Petersburg, and is meeting up with his only known relative, Mrs. Epanchin.
- The Epanchin family has three daughters. Everyone thinks Muishkin is pretty weird, but they also like him, so he pals around, finds a place to stay.
- Muishkin is enthralled with Natasia, who has a bit of a reputation. She is really beautiful, though.
- Gania, a sort-of new friend of Muishkin, almost married Natasia, for money, but she said no and ran away with Rogojin, a guy she liked more. Oh, also, Muishkin proposed to Natasia at the same time. Still, Rogojin.
- Love triangle. Rogojin tries to stab Muishkin, but Muishkin has a seizure and scares him away.
- Muishkin now has feelings for Mrs. Epanchin’s daughter, Aglaya. She is mildly interested.
- Muishkin has another seizure, in front of lots of Aglaya’s socialite company.
- Muishkin and Natasia are going to get married!
- Nope. Rogojin kills Natasia. He goes to prison, Muishkin loses it and goes back to the seizure hospital, Aglaya marries an awful person. Russian closure.
Many of the non-familial characters of David B’s Epileptic reacted to Jean-Christophe’s seizures with shock, or fear.
The characters in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Idiot, tend to respond to Prince Muishkin’s seizures with pity, or aversion.
In fact, “The Idiot” refers to the term that many of the secondary characters in the novel use in reference to Muishkin. Often the term is not used directly toward Muishkin as an insult, but is instead used as a descriptive term.
It is not easy to discern that Muishkin has epilepsy, or any illness, unless he actually has a seizure in front of someone. This is generally true for most epileptics. In the above quote, Ferdishenko is alerting new-comer Natasia to Muishkin’s condition, even though it has no bearing on the situation. It is a way for Ferdishenko to immediately distance Muishkin; he becomes an outsider.
Muishkin tells his new “friends” that he has epilepsy because they ask why he has been abroad; it is not in his nature to lie. Had he simply invented a reason for his absence he could have avoided the stigma that followed him like a rank perfume. Although he was displaying normative behavior (albeit quite friendly and honest), the characters throughout the narrative treat him as though he were an undiscovered creature. Mrs. Epanchin was very concerned that someone hold a napkin below his mouth while he ate with them.