Thursday, February 18, 2010

Myshkin's dilemna

Wrapped up Part II the other night and have to say that Dostoevsky certainly has a comic's eye, although one senses the potentially tragic undertones.  For Dostoevsky the aristocracy seems to be one largely made up of capricious souls more obsessed with good manners than any profound sense of their being.  This is particularly true for the Epanchins, who comically wrestle with their emotions in one scene after another as he places them in very odd and unnerving situations that test the limits of poor Lizaveta Prokofyevna's endurance.

Of her daughters, Aglaya, is the most interesting.  A real beauty much along the same lines as Nastasya Filippovna Barashkov, who likewise seems to have a hold on Prince Myshkin's emotional strings.  Part II ended with Lizaveta demanding to know the extent of the Prince's interests in her youngest daughter.  The Prince insisted his feelings were Platonic, but one senses there is more to be said on the matter in later chapters.

Nastya played a relatively minor role in Part II after having been such a big part of the action in Part I.  We find out that she continues to elude Rogozhin's advances and still seems to have a pretty strong hold on Myshkin's imagination.  In a pivotal scene between Rogozhin and Myshkin, Rogozhin says that she truly loves the Prince and not himself but that eventually he will win.  Rogozhin had seemed to be following the Prince upon his return to Petersburg leading to a suspenseful scene in the dark corridor of a hotel.

But, halfway through the book it really is hard to gauge the seriousness of Dostoevsky's intentions.  Rather, I get the feeling he is playing the situations more for comic effect as he did in The Village of Stepanchikovo.  Prince Myshkin appears to have a  noble soul, but Dostoevsky casts doubts on his title character, making the reader wonder, as the Epanchins do, what it is that Myshkin is after.  Myshkin himself doesn't seem to know.

Interesting to see that Kurosawa made an adaptation of The Idiot in 1951.  Here's a clip.

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