Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Myshkin

Prince Lef Nicolaievitch Myshkin (lehv ni-koh-LI-eh-vihch MEWSH-kihn), a noble man whose behavior at first is only strange and unconventional but who later shows a deterioration of mind. Short, slight, with light hair and moustache, nearly white beard, and searching blue eyes, he arrests the attention of all who see him. His naïve, unblemished goodness, in part the result of his long epilepsy, causes men to doubt him and women to love him. Toward the end of his life, he is wholly compassionate, selfless, and pitying. In his weakened, susceptible condition, he degenerates until he is unable to cope with life, decisions, hatreds, worldliness. Able to see human foibles without malice, to reverence the human condition without judgment, to love without the thought of attainment, he is a Christ figure set in a corrupt society where the facile, dishonest, worldly, and unconscionable prevail in absolute terms of money and position. His deterioration under heavy pressures of murder, disloyalty, vituperation, and vindictiveness is saintly, a martyrdom to unheroic life. A tragic figure, he is destroyed by those whom he loves most, and he is sent to a sanitarium in Switzerland.

Nastasya Filipovna

Nastasya Filipovna (nahs-TAH-syah fi-lih-POHV-nuh), the tragic figure of despair...

(The entire section is 596 words.)