This was not as good as other works by Dostoyevsky, of whom I am a BIG fan. Therefore, saying this is not his best work does not mean it is a bad book. In true Dostoyevsky form, character psychology takes the reins of this plot. Though it is a rather uneventful plot, in my opinion, it is still fairly intriguing; even though it lacks the thrill of Crime and Punishment or the depth of The Brothers Karamazov.
The story revolves around Prince Myshkin who is unfortunately labeled as an idiot. I think Dostoyevsky, if he were silently and considerately sitting next to you, waiting for you to finish the book, would eagerly ask you if you thought the prince was, in fact, an idiot. There are qualities of the prince’s character which reflect Dostoyevsky himself. So one might assert that this book may be Dostoyevsky’s own journey in deciding if he is an idiot. Yet even at the conclusion, there isn’t much of a definitive assertion in the narrative that the prince is or isn’t an idiot. Therefore I think Dostoyevsky may be leaving the judgment entirely up to the public.
I found myself defending the prince. The other character’s in the story found themselves loving and, in a way, depending on the prince in varying levels of relations despite their claims that he is an idiot…a simpleton. Yet are honesty and innocence synonymous with idiocy? Perhaps within certain social constructs, but, in my opinion, not inherently.
Though at the end, the prince makes decisions that are much more difficult to defend. His innocence and sympathy for others lead him to decisions that were judged by others as intellectual intrigue gone too far; resulting in real life consequences in relationships.
I liked the book. Even though it was uneventful and at times a challenge to get through, I still enjoyed the beauty of Dostoyevsky’s narrative and the undeniable talent he has. Because it was the first work he wrote living abroad with the number of re-writes and plot changes and continuous dissatisfaction with it, I would not call it the pinnacle of Dostoyevsky’s career. Some of the book seemed forced. But, again, even after saying this, we’re still talking about Fyodor Dostoyevsky and The Idiot was not half bad.