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The Core Curriculum

The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1992

Relates to: 

The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1992.

Excerpt from the back cover of the edition by Oxford World's Classics:

"Into a compelling real portrait of nineteenth-century Russian society, Dostoevsky introduces his ideal hero, the saintly Prince Myshkin. The tensions subtly unleashed by the hero's innocence, truthfulness, and humility betray the inadequacy of his moral idealism and disclose the spiritual emptiness of a society that cannot accommodate him. Myshkin's mission ends in idiocy and darkness, but it is the world that is rotten, not he."

Many have seen Don Quixote as an idealist, while others have gone as far as to consider him a saint (or a model for a saint). He inhabits a world that is flawed and potentially disillusioning. Prince Myshkin, an idealist or a Christ figure, also inhabits a deeply flawed and disillusioning world. Unlike The Idiot, which is dark and tragic, Don Quixote is, generally speaking, a light-hearted comedy. Why is comedy an important aspect of the idealist/harsh reality theme in Don Quixote? Can you imagine the novel without humor or with only very dark humor?  


Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Idiot. Translated by Alan Myers.  Oxford: Oxford U P, 1992.  (Reissued as an Oxford World’s Classics paperback in 1998. Reissued 2008.)

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