Part Two, Chapter Two
by Dennis Abrams
June in St. Petersburg. The Epanchins have gone to their summer dacha in Pavlovsk. One or two days later, Myshkin returns, “as he was getting off the train, the prince suddenly thought he caught the gaze of two strange, burning eyes in the crowd surrounding the arriving people.” The wretched little hotel not far from Liteinaya Street. His new, “too fashionably made” wardrobe. Myshkin visits Lebedev. He finds Lebedev orating to a boy of fifteen, a girl of twenty holding a nursing baby, a thirteen year old girl, and “an extremely strange listener, a fellow of about twenty, lying on the sofa, rather handsome, dark, with long, thick hair, big, dark eyes, and a small pretense to side-whiskers and a little beard,” they are his children; the young man on the sofa, his nephew. Lebedev has become a lawyer, defending “not the old woman who had..fleeced by a scoundrel of a moneylender who took five hundred roubles from her…but the money lender himself…a Yid, because he promised him fifty roubles for it…” The nephew says that Kolya told him that “he’d never met anyone in the world more intelligent” than the prince, praise repeated by Lebedev, “The one loves you, and the other fawns on you…” The nephew’s losses at gambling, his need for money for boots and clothes to start his new job with the railroad. Lebedev’s prayer for Madame Du Barry, “Maybe I remembered her precisely because, as long as this world has stood, probably nobody has ever crossed his forehead for her, or even thought of it.” Lebedev lies about his name. Myshkin is looking for Kolya, who is either with his father at the Scales Hotel (Myshkin redeemed him from debtor’s prison) or in Pavlovsk with the Epanchins. Lebedev tells Myshkin that Natasaya, after leaving Rogozhin had fled to St. Petersburg, begging for his help, Rogozhin came after her, threatened Lebedev, and they are back together, although Nastasya will not marry Rogozhin. Natasaya and the Apocalypse. Lebedev as “professor of the Antichrist.” Myshkin agrees to rent most of the dacha in Pavlovsk that Ptitsyn is letting to Lebedev. Aglaya Ivanovna also goes to Pavlovsk to visit Darya Alexeevna.
Interesting section, as Dostoevsky once again puts us into Myshkin’s position, dropping right into the scene at Lebedev’s and trying to make sense of what is being said, who is related to who, and what exactly is going on.
1. Obvious changes in Myshkin — six months earlier would he have said to Lebedev, “You take me for a little boy…”
2. And I can’t help but think that this paragraph from Lebedev regarding Nastasya is important to our understanding of the book:
“I was reading the Apocalypse. A lady with a restless imagination, heh, heh! And, besides, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s much inclined towards serious topics, even unrelated ones. She likes them, likes them, and even takes it as a sign of special respect for her. Yes, sir. And I’m strong on interpreting the Apocalypse and have been doing it for fifteen years. She agreed with me that we live in the time of the third horse, the black one, and the rider with a balance in his hand, because in our time everything is in balances and contracts, and people are all only seeking their rights: ‘A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barely for a penny…’ And with all that they want to preserve a free spirit, and a pure heart, and a healthy body, and all of God’s gifts. But they can’t do it with rights alone, and there will follow a pale horse and him whose name is Death, and after him Hell…”
The question of course is this: Are these really Dosotevsky’s feelings?
Part Two, Chapter Three