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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Party

Myshkin shows up unexpectedly at Natasya's birthday party where she decides to announce her marriage plans.  Totsky (her seducer and benefactor), General Epanchin, Ganya, and Rogozhin are among the guests that have a strong interest in her decision. Natasya shows surprise as well as pleasure at his appearance, and proceeds to asks Myshkin if she should marry Ganya.  Sensing that Ganya does not truly lover her, Myshkin responds that she should not, throwing the company into an uproar.  After lamenting that no one but Rogozhin could love her because she has nothing, Natasya is shocked at Myshkin's declaration of love and his calling her an "honest woman."  Though flattered, Natasya states that she doesn't want to ruin Myshkin and runs away with Rogozhin.  Thus Part I of The Idiot ends.

Natasya has never had a man truly love her:  Totsky seduced her as a young girl and was done with her, Ganya just wants the money that marriage to her promises, and Rogozhin loves her beauty but wants to control her.  Though she takes her bad  reputation to heart, Myshkin sees her as a good woman in whom "everything is perfection."  When Natasya rejects his proposal, it is because she feels obligated to live up to her reputation.  She is willing to sacrifice herself to a relationship because she has little self-worth, but Myshkin is the first to claim that she is more than worthy of his love.  She cannot be with Myshkin because he values her more than she values herself, which is foreign territory to Natasya.

Nevertheless, Myshkin is only capable a child-like love.  He loves her because he senses she does not love herself and feels he can help her to love herself by loving her himself.  He is not in love with her but does hope to elevate her self-worth through his love for her.  Natasya recognizes that he is not in love with her and is not interested in placing value in herself, though she appreciates that he sees her as more than an object. 

The above painting is, The Awakening Conscience (1853) by William Holman Hunt

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