Sunday, March 7, 2010
Light and Dark
I'm still trying to sort out the ending. The story had to end tragically but was surprised that Rogozhin actually sought forgiveness in Myshkin after what he had done to Nastya, although I think that Dostoevsky intended the two to be read as one, along similar lines as The Double. He kept Rogozhin a shadowy figure throughout the novel, ever lurking in the dark of the Prince's soul. Try as he might, Prince Myshkin could not alter events and thus the fantasy world he had lived in upon returning to Russia crumbled before his eyes, leaving him at a total loss as how to reconcile himself with it.
Once again, Dostoevsky plumbs great depths of the human soul. This is a psychological drama told in theatrical terms, perfectly suited for the stage. Characters appear and disappear as if moving from the shadows of the stage. I can see the "green bench" as the central stage piece. In the final part, one gets the sense that Lebedev is orchestrating events, and may even be the narrator himself, although Dostoevsky treats the narrator as "we," with events pieced together from various accounts.
What beguiles me is the relationship between Myshkin and Aglaya. It was obvious that Nastya fulfilled his vision of Marie, whom he described to the Epanchin girls in the first part of the novel. Marie was a village girl who found herself outside the small Swiss community the Prince was convalescing in,and in whom Myshkin had great sympathy for and eventually "saved." But, one doesn't know whether the Prince's stories are any more true than those of the General, who regales the Prince in stories of the time he served Napoleon as a 10-year old scribe.
Aglaya was fascinated with the Prince, but hard to say whether she really loved him anymore than he did her. They seemed to be drawn to each other more out a shared feeling for some ideal world that neither of them could attain. But, it was made all too evident in the final chapters that Nastya was the one Prince Myshkin loved and ultimately could not separate himself from, leading to his final fallout with the Epanchin family.
The odd part is the Prince still felt he could maintain a relationship with Aglaya, unable to understand Yevgeny Pavlovich's attempts to reason with him. The Prince seemed to regard his planned marriage with Nastya as a formality, as though he were saving her from Rogozhin, and that his real affinities still lay with Aglaya. Maybe Aglaya/Nastya is set up as a duality in the same way The Prince and Rogozhin are -- light and dark?