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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Character Analysis: Ganya

Gavril Ardalionovitch Ivolgin, called Ganya for short, is the secretary for the General Epanchin who befriends Myshkin and allows him to stay with his family upon arriving in St. Petersberg.  He has schemed with the general and Totsky to marry Natasya, receiving an incentive of 75,000 roubles, though he really loves Aglaia.  He writes her a note stating, "One word--one word only from you and I am saved"--saved, that is, from his marriage to Natasya.  However, Aglaia responds, "I don't make bargains."  At Natasya's party, Rogozhin shows up with 100,000 roubles and offers them to Natasya for her hand.  She offers the money to Ganya but throws the bundle into the fireplace and tells Ganya he must retrieve it if he wants it.  Ganya desperately wants the money but holds himself back to the point that he faints, and Natasya retrieves the bundle and lays it besides his unconscious body.  Natasya declares that "his vanity is even greater than his love of money."

While Myshkin wants to sacrifice himself for Natasya because he truly believes in her, Ganya wants to sacrifice himself for Natasya because of the money that marriage promises.  He is actually in love Aglaia and wants the latter to make the decision for him so he can blame her if he has regrets, but she refuses to be used in this way.  Myshkin calls him "weak and unoriginal," and Ganya responds that "when I have money, I shall become a highly original man."  Of course, Ganya fails to realize that originality can be a way of obtaining money.  Instead, embarassed by his family's poverty, Ganya decides to pursue the easiest way of obtaining money:  getting paid to marry someone he does not love and who does not love him.  When he faints from the strain of trying to decide whether to retrieve the bundle from the fire, Natasya recognizes that his pride prevents him from making a move, though he desires the money.  Apparently, he is willing to sacrifice anything to obtain money, except his own pride.

The above painting is The Hireling Shepherd (1851) by William Holman Hunt.

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