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Monday, March 15, 2010


Towards the end of Part II, Dostoevsky gives the reader a clearer portrait of Ippolit, who had been introduced momentarily earlier in the novel.  He is the best friend of Kolya and the 17 year old son of Gen. Ivolgin's mistress.

He had an intelligent face, though it was usually irritated and fretful in expression. His skeleton-like figure, his ghastly complexion, the brightness of his eyes, and the red spots of colour on his cheeks, betrayed the victim of consumption to the most casual glance. He coughed persistently, and panted for breath; it looked as though he had but a few weeks more to live.

He appears in Part II with the band of accusers of Myshkin who seek to extort money from the prince.  Though he apparently is unaware of the plot, he tries to help make the case that the prince should surrender his inheritance.  When Ganya reveals the truth, Ippolit accepts it, though he is offended that Myshkin will still attempt to offer some money to his accusers.

Kolya describes him as clever but a "slave to his opinions."  An atheist, Ippolit describes nature as ironical and accuses Christ of being leader of a genocidal movement:

"Yes, nature is full of mockery! Why"—he continued with sudden warmth—"does she create the choicest beings only to mock at them? The only human being who is recognized as perfect, when nature showed him to mankind, was given the mission to say things which have caused the shedding of so much blood that it would have drowned mankind if it had all been shed at once!"

This unsuccessful attempt at perfection causes Ippolit to hate Myshkin, whom he sees as an imitator of Christ.  To Ippolit, Myshkin is purposely naive and only chooses to see the best in people.  His hate is unchanging, unlike that of Rogozhin.  Like the latter, Ippolit threatens to kill Myshkin, though he chooses not to do so because he himself is about to die.  He "wanted to live for the happiness of all men, to discover and proclaim the truth," but his life is being cut short; he despises the prince for possibly being able to do what he has been denied.

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