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kevneese
08-16-2005, 02:24 PM
I just finished The Idiot last night and I must confess, it is Dostoyevsky's supreme masterpiece! It matches and in many succeeds BK and C&P. If you haven't read this yet, you must!!! :D

Idril
04-19-2006, 04:01 PM
It is an amazing peice of work and it has to be, easily, the most depressing thing I've ever read. I actually had to quit about half way through because I became completely overwhelmed by the dispair and sadness. I took a month and read nothing but comic novels to lighten my mood and then I went back to it, thinking that it couldn't get any worse, it could only get better, but I was wrong. It did get worse, so much worse.

Boris239
05-09-2006, 03:03 AM
I agree that Idiot is an amazing novel. It is, of course, a depressing thought that a man like Prince is considered an idiot in our world- I don't think that it would be different today. The second part of the novel is especially sad- but there is an explanation. As far as I remember, Dostoevsky was writing the first part when his wife was pregnant and the second part after the child was born dead. So it's not abig surprise that it's gloomy. Some critics don't think that the second part is as good as the first one. I do not agree. The happy ending is not realistic in this story- it wa bound to be tragic.
When I think about Idiot, I always question myself if there is such thing as too good or too kind? In real life you can't be good to evrybody- it just brings unhappiness to people you love. This "goodness" becomes weakness.
What do you guys think?

Idril
05-09-2006, 08:59 PM
As far as I remember, Dostoevsky was writing the first part when his wife was pregnant and the second part after the child was born dead. So it's not abig surprise that it's gloomy.

I didn't know that but it makes a lot of sense. The sense of grief is overwhelming in that book and you're right, a happy ending would not have fit this story, it would've seemed hollow and forced and tragic as it was, it was the only way to finish the story.


When I think about Idiot, I always question myself if there is such thing as too good or too kind? In real life you can't be good to evrybody- it just brings unhappiness to people you love. This "goodness" becomes weakness. What do you guys think?

I do think there's such a thing as 'too good', you let yourself be so dominated, you constantly put others' needs before yourself and that kind of continual self denial is most definately not healthy. I always think that kind of pathological desire to please and sacrifice has to be linked to low self worth because while there certainly is value is kindness and charity and sacrifice, there are limits and I always think these 'martyr types' feel that they only way they can be liked is to be constantly submissive. There seems to be no concept of self-preservation in these types and I think you need a sense of self-preservation every now and then or the world will swallow you whole.

MikeK
05-14-2006, 04:42 PM
This is very much what Dostoevsky is getting at with this book, the theme of what happens to a perfectly good person in this world. Christ was a perfectly good person, the only perfectly good person, and look what happened to Him. If even He was crucified, and His body decayed (as in the painting that Dostoevsky inserted into the novel twice) what chance is there in this world for us? Should we not develop a better sense of "self-preservation", as you put it, and conform better to the world lest we be swallowed whole?

Yet, before we ask someone to conform to something, in order to preserve themselves, we should consider what it is we are asking them to conform to, should we not? Strange, that upon seeing what may happen to a good person in this world (as Dostoevsky portrays with Myshkin - in imitation of Christ), that one would conclude that we need to be less good; that a person acting too good is pathological; that people need to toughen-up a little and conform to this world in order to preserve themselves; that being too good is a weakness. Why ask those who are too good (are people too good? or is the point just the opposite, that people are too bad?) to decrease themselves, and conform to the wicked world? It seems to me, and I think to Dostoevsky as well, that the whole point is not that people are too good and need to lessen themselves, but that people in this world are too bad, and need to improve themselves. (Incidently, how exactly can somebody be too good when we should strive to be perfect, and no one is yet there?) For goodness' sake, if you come across a person that seems to be too good, by all means imitate him, just as we should imitate Him, but don't tell that person that his goodness is a pathological weakness and that he needs to do a little better job of conforming to this world so as not to be swallowed whole.

If someone seems too good for the world, it is an indictment of the world, not that person; as The Idiot was an idictment of the world, not Myshkin; and Cervantes indicted the world, not the man of La Mancha; and Dickens indicted the world, not Pickwick. Why should we tell that person that he has gone awry? Have not we, the world, gone wrong?

mono
05-14-2006, 06:25 PM
I finished reading The Idiot a few weeks ago, and loved it also; then again, disliking anything by Dostoevsky seems unimaginable for me. :D In my opinion, however, it did not quite equal The Brothers Karamazov or Crime And Punishment; I loved it, regardless.
The Prince, in strange ways, reminded me, if any of you have familiarity, to Gimpel in a short story called Gimpel The Fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer - very intelligent, yet seeming to lack some common sense, very wise, yet lacking some knowledge, if that makes any sense. The Idiot and Gimpel The Fool had very different endings, yet I pitied them both - taken much advantage of for their simplicity, and the Prince, especially, remains a very memorable character for me in all literature. :)

Idril
05-14-2006, 08:56 PM
(Incidently, how exactly can somebody be too good when we should strive to be perfect, and no one is yet there?)



And no one ever will be there. Being 'perfect' is not an attainable goal, isn't that what "the Fall" is all about? By all means, people should strive to be good people, to be fair and kind and loving but no one can be perfect, we are children of a fallen humanity. Christ had a much higher purpose, He was sacrificing himself for the salvation of humankind so that kind of sacrifice would not be necessary for us to make because we are incapable of that kind of selflessness and perfection. He knew He would be killed, it's not like He was shocked by the cruelty of humankind, he was banking on it. And while Christ-like figures are a staple of books and movies, I think it's a somewhat dangerous road to go down. Christ was unique, His situation was unique, to put a regular person in that role just doesn't carry the same weight. What did Myshkin sacrifice himself for? What was his higher purpose? What came out of his 'goodness'? Who's life was improved because of his goodness? And I honestly think that to assume we can even attempt to imitate Christ is almost offensive on some levels. To think that we are able to do as He did, that if we were all just a little more focused and good, we too could be perfect like Christ is to belittle who He was and what He did. I do understand where you're coming from and I don't necessarily disagree with the sentiment but I don't think it's realistic. The world is a hard place and yes, we can make it a slightly brighter place by being considerate and kind to other peole but we can't change it, it is what it is.

And is it a good thing to let people walk all over you? Is it a good thing to let yourself be so manipulated and so dominated that you have no sense of self? Sacrifice is necessary sometimes, you sacrifice for your family, your children , etc, but how are you honoring the life God gave you if you're too busy pleasing others to enjoy it? I am a big believer in moderation, everything in moderation, even selflessness. ;)

Boris239
05-15-2006, 12:35 AM
Of course, Dostoevsky wants the world to change, to be better, etc. But being realistic this is not very probable, so we must deal with our not so perfect environment. And in this particular environment to be too good is dangerous not only to yourself, but to people you love. Since I'm not a believer, I won't talk about Christ as an example of a perfect man, but in general although I always try to become better in one way or another, I'd never want to become somebody like Prince Myshkin.

MikeK
05-16-2006, 07:34 PM
[QUOTE]And no one ever will be there. Being 'perfect' is not an attainable goal, isn't that what "the Fall" is all about?

Exactly. That's what I was saying in my post. So how is it that, as you claimed originally, someone can be too good? This sentence of yours that I just quoted is correct, but seems to contradict what you said in your previous post. The problem of people being too good isn't exactly what we have to worry about in our fallen condition. That's precisely what I was saying.



And I honestly think that to assume we can even attempt to imitate Christ is almost offensive on some levels. To think that we are able to do as He did, that if we were all just a little more focused and good, we too could be perfect like Christ is to belittle who He was and what He did.

To imitate Christ is exactly what Christians are called upon to do. That's the whole point.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
-Matthew 5:48



What did Myshkin sacrifice himself for? What was his higher purpose? What came out of his 'goodness'? Who's life was improved because of his goodness?

You may have answered your own question yourself. What did he sacrifice himself for (you ask first)? Maybe, for a higher purpose (your second question). But to follow that up by asking those third and fourth questions shows, I think, that you missed Dostoevsky's point. Whose life was improved because of his goodness? Well, we don't know. It could be that anybody's life may have been improved by his goodness, or may be improved by ours. It often happens that we don't even know how our goodness can improve somebody's life. Dostoevsky displays this much better in The Brothers Karamazov, through the teaching of Zosima and Alyosha, and the characters who later pick up their message, like Dmitri, and through the action of the novel itself. Maybe this is why Dostoevsky himself considered this novel, The Idiot, a failure. Because it is liable to draw responses such as these: 'Well, Myshkin's life didn't improve anybody else's, so I guess that he was just too darned good.' But, as much as Dostoevsky himself recognized that his novel may have failed, he certainly loved Myshkin, and called him his favorite creation. But to ask those third and fourth questions the way that you did, shows, I think, that you're not looking at things the way that Dostoevsky tried to get his readers to look at things. Here's a better example from The Brothers Karamazov to help me illustrate my point. Dmitri, in the chapter 'A Hymn and a Secret' is talking from prison to Alyosha:

"Then if He doesn't exist, man is the chief of the earth, of the universe. Magnificent! Only how is he going to be good without God? That's the question. I always come back to that. For whom is man going to love then? To whom will he be thankful? To whom will he sing the hymn? Rakitin laughs. Rakitin says that one can love humanity without God. Well, only a snivelling idiot can maintain that. I can't understand it. Life's easy for Rakitin. 'You'd better think about the extension of civic rights, or even of keeping down the price of meat. You will show your love for humanity more simply and directly by that, than by philosophy.' I answered him, 'Well, but you, without a God, are more likely to raise the price of meat, if it suits you, and make a rouble on every copeck.' He lost his temper. But after all, what is goodness? Answer me that, Alexey."

This seems to be the same discussion that we're having here about The Idiot, but which, as I said, Dostoevsky seemed to portray better in The Brothers Karamazov. I sense from your answer that you agree with Rakitin. Myshkin would have done better for humanity to try to keep down the price of beef, join a political movement, or work towards social improvement: "one or two more good national elections should do the business" as Robert Frost put it (sarcastically). But I, like Dmitri, don't understand that.

Idril
05-16-2006, 10:03 PM
Exactly. That's what I was saying in my post. So how is it that, as you claimed originally, someone can be too good? This sentence of yours that I just quoted is correct, but seems to contradict what you said in your previous post.

I don't really think I am, I think you see it that way because you want to. The question was whether someone can be "too good", if their goodness and kindness and sacrifice can be a bad thing for them and my answer is yes, I think there are times when that need or desire to do for others can be self destructive and self defeating and when that happens, it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate. You seem to be an all or nothing kind of guy and that's not really what I'm going for here. I think Myshkin did a lot of very admirable things, I think he was a very admirable person, I just think there were times, here and there when he really needed to stand up for himself.


To imitate Christ is exactly what Christians are called upon to do. That's the whole point.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
-Matthew 5:48

The great thing about the Bible is that you can find a verse to support pretty much any point of view you want. ;) And I don't think imitating Christ is the point, the point is that he died for us, that because of his sacrifice, because of God's grace, we are saved and not because of anything we, ourselves, do or don't do, it's simply there. We are to use Christ as a guide, certainly, to do as we think he would want but to think we can imitate him is just setting ourselves up for dissappointment. But you know what, there's a reason why I stay away from the Religion board, I hate having religious discussions, faith is so personnal and I hate saying my point of view is right and your point of view is wrong, we were obviously raised in different faiths with different traditions and doctrines and it's not my place or your place to to decide who is right or wrong. Let's try to turn the focus away from religion if we can.

MikeK
05-16-2006, 11:17 PM
Let's try to turn the focus away from religion if we can.

Agreed. Please do. A theological debate is the last thing I'm trying to engage in here. That's why I spent three long paragraphs at the end of my last post, and my entire first post, trying to relate Boris' original question (Can people be too good?) to Dostoevsky's work, referring constantly to The Idiot, and even relating it to The Brothers Karamazov in order to help me make my point (I went back and looked over my first two posts - they are consistently in the context of the Dostoevsky's work itself. Please reread them, and I think you'll agree). You ignored my thoughts about his work, responded to my one quote from the Bible (which was a response to something you originally posted), and then told me that we should not just talk religion. I've been trying in this thread to explain my view of what Dostoevsky was getting at in The Idiot, and in my last post, The Brothers Karamazov as well. But it's a little strange to say, "let's turn the focus away from religion if we can", when talking about Dostoevsky's works, and particularly The Idiot, wouldn't you agree? What I've been doing has precisely NOT been talking religion for my own edification, but trying to explain my views of Dostoevsky's work.

So, trying to sum up quickly what I was saying in my previous posts:

If your experience reading The Idiot leads you to believe that some people are just too good and should conform to the world in order not to be swallowed whole, then I think you've missed the point that Dostoevsky was trying to make (see, specifically, the last paragraph of my first post). And I've tried to explain, maybe not very successfully in my first two posts, how and why I think you've misinterpreted Dostoevsky's message. Talking about Christ (which Dostoevsky does quite a bit of in The Idiot) and quoting from the Bible (which he does as well) was meant to help me illuminate my interpretation of what Dostoevsky was getting at, not some attempt to merge the Dostoevsky board with the religion board. When discussing The Idiot, we can hardly get along without touching on some aspects of Christianity, no?

So, now, go to it. You can explain where my interpretations of The Idiot (or The Brothers Karamazov) in the first two posts are wrong. Those posts are chocked full of my interpretations of Dostoevsky - not simply my religious thoughts. To find my interpretations of Dostoevsky, please refer to the last three paragraphs of my last post, or all throughout my first post. Then you can avoid discussing religion (as much as a discussion of The Idiot will allow religion to be avoided), and you can respond to my literary interpretations. I ask you to respond sincerely. I do enjoy reading your posts.

Idril
05-20-2006, 04:06 PM
I do enjoy reading your posts.

I don't think you enjoy reading them so much as picking them apart. ;)



If your experience reading The Idiot leads you to believe that some people are just too good and should conform to the world in order not to be swallowed whole, then I think you've missed the point that Dostoevsky was trying to make (see, specifically, the last paragraph of my first post).

First of all, the question Boris asked and that I was responding to was not what we thought Dostoevsky was trying to say, it was whether or not you, whoever wanted to answer the question, thought there was such a thing as being 'too good', there was never any point where I was trying to say that my opinion on the matter was the same as Dostoevsky's.

And second of all, it's not reading the The Idiot that leads me to believe that people who are 'too good' can be taken advantage of and manipulated, it's life, it's personnal experience and I'm not really saying that people need to conform, I just think one needs to be conscious of the fact that human nature is not, generally, particularly gracious and if you let people walk all over you, they will. Again, it's this black and white thing you've got going on, I don't advocate that people should be selfish and cruel and uncaring, but I also don't think there is anything wrong with watching out for yourself, to know your limits and realize there are times when, for your own peice of mind and health, you need to walk away from people or situations.


So, now, go to it. You can explain where my interpretations of The Idiot (or The Brothers Karamazov) in the first two posts are wrong.

I never said you were wrong, it's an opinion, I don't necessarily have to agree with you but that doesn't mean that I think you're wrong, you just have a different take on it than I do.

And I didn't respond to the bit about The Brothers Karamzov because I know what I would have to say would tick you off. :lol: I don't care for that book, of all the Dostoevsky I've read, that is easily my least favorite of his works and a great deal of my dislike, pretty much all of it is focused on the character of Aloysha and his dominance in the narrative and I've already been told that that opinion is wrong in so many ways so I have no desire to be told again. :p And really, one of the biggest reasons why I don't like the character of Aloysha is because...wait for it...he's too good. :lol: Although I do think there are some very important differences between Myshkin and Aloysha, for Myshkin, there are consequences of his kindness and naivete, dire consequences for him and others but Aloysha is just this kind of golden child, everything he touches becomes more pure and holy and Aloysha's kindness comes out of strength and understanding, it's his temperment, certainly, but it's also something he's been taught and has chosen to do. Myshkin, on the other hand, his kindness seems to come from a place of a serious lack of self confidence and an inability to say 'no'. He's overwhelmed by the events in his life, I don't recall thinking at any point, and admittedly, it's been awhile since I read it so maybe I'm not remembering quite clearly and I'm sure you'll point it out if I'm not, but I don't recall any point where Myshkin is really in control of things, things happen to him and he responds instinctively. I agree that Dostoevsky puts Aloysha in a position to be admired, that his kindness and calm should be looked at as an example of how a person of faith should act but I honestly don't see that with Myshkin, I believe he wants us to sympathize with him, to even be angry that someone as innocent and kind as he, has been 'used and abused' in such a manner and came to such an end but I also think there is an acceptance by Dostoevsky that that is human nature and that while there is, of course, many things to admire in Myshkin, this world is a hard place for the innocent. As far as Myshkin being better off keeping down the price of beef, I did respond to that when I said in my previous post that I thought there were a great many things to admire in Myshkin, I don't think he needs to completely change who he is, that's not what I'm advocating but I do think there are moments when he needed to put himself and his mental health above others, most notably, Nastasya and Rogozhin.