Part Two, Chapter Three
by Dennis Abrams
Myshkin, with only one night left in St. Petersburg before leaving for Pavlovsk, decides to visit a house on Gorokhovaya Street. “One house, probably because of its peculiar physiognomy, began to attract his attention from far away, and the prince later recalled saying to himself, ‘That’s probably the very house,’..Some, though very few, houses of this sort, built at the end of the last century, have survived precisely on these Petersburg streets (where everything changes so quickly) almost without change…Most often there is a moneychanger’s shop downstairs. The castrate who sits in the shop rents an apartment upstairs.” “House of the Hereditary Honorary Citizen Rogozhin.” “He knew that Rogozhin with his mother and brother occupied the entire second floor of this dreary house.” Paryan Semyonych aka Rogozhin’s reaction on seeing Myshkin: “…he went pale and froze on the spot, so that for some time he looked like a stone idol, staring with fixed and frightened eyes and twisting his mouth into a sort of smile perplexed in the highest degree…” Myshkin and Rogozhin, while in Moscow, had spent long hours together — it has been three months since they’ve met. Rogozhin’s harshness — was it his pair of staring eyes Myshkin had seen at the train station? “Your house has the physiognomy of your whole family and your whole Rogozhin life, but ask me why I think that — and I can’t explain it.” The portrait of Rogozhin’s father. The wedding between Rogozhin and Nastasya is still up in the air. Myshkin assures Rogozhin that he will do nothing to hinder the wedding, yet on the other hand, “…I’ve always said that marrying you means inevitable ruin for her. It also means ruin for you…perhaps even more than for her. If you parted again, I would be very glad; but I have no intention of intruding or interfering with you.” Rogozhin’s shifting feelings for Myshkin: “I’ve felt spiteful towards you every minute, by God. So that I could have up and poisoned you with something! That’s how it is. Now you haven’t sat with me a quarter of an hour and, and all my spite is gone, and I love you again like before. Stay with me…I trust your voice when I’m with you. I know we’ll never be equals, you and me…” Nastasya’s wild life in Moscow, disgracing Rogozhin with “that officer, that Zemtiuzhnikov,” and with Keller, and “the money…” Rogozhin afraid of Nastasya, unable to visit her for five days. Back in Moscow, Rogozhin and Nastasya quarrel, she tell him “I might not even take you as my lackey now, much less be your wife,” leading to Rogozhin beating her black and blue. After the beating, he doesn’t sleep, she doesn’t leave her room — she’s “like a crazy woman…she wept, she wanted to stab me with a knife.” After going to the theater with his friends, Nastasya returns to tell him, “I don’t want to forgive you, and I won’t marry you, you’ve been told.” The story of Emperor Henry IV pleading for forgiveness from Pope Gregory VII. If she won’t marry him, will he kill her, drown himself, or both? Nastasya, calming down, tells Rogozhin she’ll marry him, “and not because I’m afraid of you, but because I’ll perish all the same…I’ll be your faithful wife…You’re not a lackey after all. Before I used to think you were as complete a lackey as they came.” Nastasya set a date for the marriage, then, a week later fled from Moscow to St. Petersburg and Lebedev — when Rogozhin tracks her down, she tells him she doesn’t reject him all together, but needs to wait, ‘because I’m still my own mistress.” Is Myshkin’s pity worse than Rogozhin’s love? Myshkin doesn’t understand how Nastasya can still say she’ll marry Rogozhin — “…your love is indistinguishable from spite.” Would Rogozhin become his father? Rogozhin starts reading to please Nastasya. Myshkin says that Nastasya is convinced of Rogozhin’s love, “Of course, she doesn’t think as badly of you as you say. Otherwise it would mean that she was consciously throwing herself into the water or onto the knife by marrying you…Who consciously throws himself into the water or onto the knife?” Does Nastasya love Myshkin? “…she thinks it’s impossible for her to marry you, because she’d supposedly disgrace you and ruin your whole life…” Why does Nastasya keep running? Rogozhin: “So she wants to marry me out of spite…If she does it, believe me, she’ll be doing it out of spite.” Myshkin, Rogozhin and the knife. What did Myshkin want to talk to Rogozhin about?
I’m going to confess that this chapter left me feeling somewhat at sea, trying to navigate the mutually destructive relationship (if it can even be called that) of Rogozhin and Nastasya. I understand (or at least think I understand) her as a character much better than I do Rogozhin, whose motivations and desires, whose relationship with both Nastasya and Myshkin remains unclear, at least to me. What is your take on all of this?
I’ll have more to say in tomorrow’s post — Thursday’s reading is a short chapter, the conclusion of Myshkin’s visit to Rogozhin, and I’m hoping, one that clarifies some of what’s been going on.
Part Two, Chapter Four