Part Two, Chapter Ten
by Dennis Abrams
Tea is served — Lebedev breaks out the good cups. Myshkin is unwell. Evgeny Pavlovich wants to punish Lizaveta. Lebedev had proofread the newspaper article before it was published, but is certain the prince will forgive him. Lizaveta’s reaction, “That was when he was crawling before you and assuring you of his devotion. Ah, wretched little people! I don’t need your Pushkin, and your daughter needn’t come to see me!” Ippolit speaks of Lizaveta’s “extreme eccentricity,” as well as that he has “learned to have the highest respect for [her].” Ippolit’s surprise that Lizaveta would keep company with him. Mr. Epanchin comments that Lizaveta is visiting Myshkin not Ippolit, and that she stayed, it was “sooner out of amazement, sir, and an understandable contemporary curiosity to see some strange young people. And I myself stayed, as I stop sometimes in the street when I see something that can be looked on as…as…as…’As a rarity,’ prompted Evgeny Pavlovich.” Epanchin and Aglaya try to get Lizaveta to leave, she asks for two more minutes. Ippolit: “the prince here wants to help Burdovsky, offers him, with purity of heart, his tender friendship and his capital, and is maybe the only one among you all who does not feel loathing for him, and here they stand facing each other like real enemies…You all hate Burdovsky, because in your opinion his attitude towards his mother is not beautiful and graceful, right? right? right? And you’re all terribly fond of the beauty and gracefulness of forms, you stand on that alone, isn’t it so? (I’ve long suspected it was on that alone!)…You, Prince, I know, sent money to Burdovsky’s mother on the quiet, through Ganechka, and I’ll bet — hee, hee, hee!’ (he giggled hysterically) ‘I’ll bet that Burdovsky will now accuse you of indelicacy of form and disrespect for his mother, by God, he will, ha, ha, ha!'” Evgeny Pavlovich laughs at Ippolit. Jumping right to the right of force. Ippolit’s delirium. “He laughed again, but this was no the laughter of a madman.” “Do you know that I came here in order to see trees? Those…that’s not funny, eh? There’s nothing funny in it, is there?…But do you know that I’m not eighteen years old: I’ve spent so long lying on that pillow, and spent so long looking out that window, and thought so much…A dead man has no age, you know…But do you know what you’re most afraid of? You’re most afraid of our sincerity, though you despise us!…Do you think I meant to laugh at you earlier, Lizaveta Prokovyevna? No, I wasn’t laughing at you, I only meant to praise you…Kolya told me that the prince called you a child…that’s good…” From the trees to the brick wall, “red brick of Meyer’s house…across from my window…” Ippolit denies having corrupted Kolya, “I love his rapture, I haven’t corrupted him…” Ippolit on the mockery of nature: “Why does she…why does she create the best beings only so as to mock them afterwards? Did she make it so that the single being on earth who has been acknowledged as perfect…didn’t she make it so that, having shown him to people, she destined him to say things that have caused so much blood to be shed , that if it had been shed all ato nce, people would probably have drowned in it! Oh, it’s good that I’m dying…I, too, might utter some terrible lie, nature would arrange it that way!…I haven’t corrupted anybody…I wanted to live for the happiness of all people, for the discovery and proclaiming of the truth!…I’m not needed, therefore I’m a fool, therefore it’s time to go! Without managing to leave any memory!…Do you know, if this consumption hadn’t turned up, I’d have killed myself…” Lizaveta allows Ippolit to sob on her bosom, “There, there, enough, you’re a good boy, God will forgive you in your ignorance…” Ippolit calls Lizaveta a child and a saint. What’s to be done with Ippolit? The prince, in a feverish state, grants permission for Ippolit to stay with him, to be accompanied by Keller. Ippolit, “terribly pale and with a look of dreadful, despairing shame on his distorted face…[gave] a glance that he shot hatefully and timorously at the gathering,” and turns on the crowd, proclaiming his hate for all and especially for Myshkin, “but you, you Jesuitical, treacly little soul, idiot, millionaire-benefactor, I hate you more than anyone or anything in the world! I understood and hated you long ago, when I’d only heard about you, I hated you with all the hatred of my soul…I’d kill you, if I stayed alive! I don’t need your benefactions, I won’t anything from anybody, do you hear, from anybody!” Lizaveta turns on Myshkin, thanking him for such a pleasant evening, and “dear friend of our house, thank you for at least allowing us finally to have a look at you!…” Aglaya whispers to Myshkin: “If you don’t drop these loathsome people at once, I’ll hate you alone all my life, all my life!” Evgeny Pavlych, Kupfer’s promissory notes, Rogozhin, and Myshkin…
Fascinating. Ippolit, obviously, is going to become a major character in the book. I’m intrigued by the link that he makes between Christ and Myshkin by his rejection of both. It seems to me that his statement “I hate you more than anyone or anything in the world! I understood you and hated you long ago, when I’d only heard about you, I hated you with all the hatred of my soul…I’d kill you, if I stayed alive! I don’t need your benefactions, I won’t accept anything from anybody, do you hear, from anybody!” could easily apply to both Myshkin and Christ, especially given his earlier speech about the mockery of nature, “…why does she create the best beings only so as to mock them afterwards? Didn’t she make it so that the single being on earth who had been acknowledged as perfect…didn’t she make it so that, having shown him to people, she destined him to say things that have caused so much blood to be shed, that if it had been shed all at once, people would probably have drowned in it!”
Do you think I’m on to something here, or am I reading something into the text that simply isn’t there?
At the same time, Ippolit is also a kind of double for Myshkin, as Joseph Frank discusses here.
“The thematic motif of religious faith is also what saves the episodes involving Myshkin’s encounter with the group of so-called Young nihilists from becoming merely an acrid satire against the radicals of the mid-1860s. Dostoevsky wisely focuses the spotlight on the dying young consumptive Ippolit Terentyev, who detaches himself from the group to rise to major heights and become the first in the remarkable gallery of metaphysical rebels that Dostoevsky created. For Ippolit is revolting not against the iniquities of a social order but, anticipating Kirillov in Demons and Ivan Karamazov, against a world in which death, and hence immitigable human suffering, is an inescapable reality. Ippolit is another quasi-double for Myshkin — one who shares his obsession with death and his ecstatic sense of life, yet lacks the Prince’s sustaining religions faith in an ultimate world-harmony. For this reason, Ippolit cannot achieve the self-transcendence that is the secret of the prince’s moral effulgence and the response he evokes in others.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Part Two, Chapters Eleven and Twelve
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.