Gothicism in Dostoevsky's Idiot
The novel “The Idiot” has employed Gothicism in various dimensions especially through the main character Myshkin and his rival turned friend Rogozhin. The element of gothicism which has been illustrated expansively in the novel is romanticism as the major characters are engaged in unending love triangles and strives. The novel employs Jung psychological theories of unconscious image development where doubles and archetypes have been applied. This is an essential aspect of gothicism since most of the psychological attributes of gothic are either developed internally or by use of the individuals mind to develop the gothic characters. Similarly, gothic has been attributed to being a psychological aspect that is created by an individual such as a reader. Therefore, armed with an appropriate outer space and an unconscious mind, a reader can create their own gothic impressions of the novel (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Consequently, presence or absence of gothic in “the Idiot” depends on the reader’s ability to formulate the perfect physical or psychological creativity. The novel has also illustrated other forms of gothic such as fantasy which is related to romanticism and the lack of reliable mental orientation provides ample gothic settings for the novel.
The other elements of gothic in the play are the descriptions of various settings and objects that are contrasted heavily such that some are bright while others are rather dark. Darkness is a key trait in gothic as the eerie episodes in gothic are more pronounced in the dark. This could be due to the fact that the characters in gothic novels or plays often carry out their gothic activities under the cover of darkness. This dissertation chapter will seek to describe the psychological and physical states of gothic in “the idiot” while at the same time relating the Gothicism with Jung’s psychological theories, as well as, other theories related to the perception of Gothicism by readers.
Gothicism is used to refer to a genre of literature where horror and feminine beauty are the key themes in the work. Horror defines hair raising eerie scenes which are often accompanied by screeching and howling of out of the world creatures. The horrific scenes are often tailored to make the reader or viewer develop unimaginable perceptions of the play or story hence attaining the horrific theme. Gothic plays and novels are often developed in dark settings which could be castles or expansive halls where echoes are likely to be heard. Gothicism also tends to include non-human beings such as ghosts, vampires and fairies that could be behind the terror or they actively contribute to the horrific scenes developed in the novel. Terror is another version of horror in the gothic story such that the reader gets thrilled and enthralled to continue reading of watching the play.
Gothic is also illustrated in its episodes where love is evident such that characters in the play fall in love while most come upon tragic endings in their romantic quests. In Dostoevsky’s novel, feminine beauty is the key element of Gothicism that has been outlined vividly in the entire play. Similarly, the element of fantasy has been employed exclusively especially by the idiot in the novel. A poor mental state has also been developed to create the relationship between romance and fantasy as each is often dependent on the other in the imaginative state.
In this novel the theme of gothic is clearly defined and portrayed; in the residence of Rogozhin and his threatening presence. Ippolit comments his place to be like “like a cemetery (VIII, 338).Gothicism is also seen in the fact such a situation holds realistic and terrifying aspect of death. The painting of the Holbein acts like a representation of the maggot ridden corpse through is wax model. This is an aspect which Dostoevsky derived from his childhood novel called The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radicliffe. The painting is therefore an object of terror placed in a very terrible environment. This acts as a further reminder of evil inspiration and the underground deeds. The painting further represents the lack of Christ’s divinity and his eventual death which is a gothic theme being introduced through this painting. The painting thus implies something which is painful and even more startling.
The aspect of Gothicism provides a thereat to the life of Myshkin who was ones a hero. His visions are being hindered by the changes he had undergone and also his illness. This affects Myskin’s entire worldview. Another character who represents various gothic characteristics is Nastas’ia Filippovna, the heroine. Darkness plays an essential or inherent aspect in the gothic feature seen among the novel characters and the changes that they have undergone after a long duration away from St. Petersburg.
The Hero is afraid of looking at the Christ painting because it represents the failure of Christ, him as the man who is stripped of this attributes which are divine and even his beauty who is unable to fight against the nature’s laws. Through his death he is seen as an object and a man who has lost meaning on earth (Dostoyevsky, 1965). This makes Myshkin to deal with his own failure through confronting his weakness. He thinks of his appointment to fulfill the mission of saving Nastas’ia Filippovna and at the same time incorporating the qualities of Christ which he was interested in when coming from Swaziland to Russia. The Prince changing representing in the novel as well as the painting portraying the death of Christ acts as a symbol that the internal promise is being overtaken by a finite and transient aspect. Myshkin in his confused psychological state and in the Holbein, he confronts his changed life by examining his failure and the aspects he has lost (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Through the painting, we can say that Myshkin is confronted a lot of evasive issues which makes him to act in a conscious manner of suppressing the events of the Petersburg visits, rather than through repression in the unconscious mind (Leatherbarrrow 2000, pp 1-12). Through the realization of his inability and failure, he fights on through acknowledging that there is a clear line of his past and quest to forget all that as happened in the past. The Prince ideology is questioned and crystallized in the Holbein (Dostoyevsky, 1965). This is a process which begins later in the novel after we the readers have been left in maximal uncertainty by the author. The suspense e and the heroes mind which is full of confusion creates the impending catastrophe feeling in an intense manner. The senses of foreboding are at an increase within Myshkin leading to his change of direction. The significant aspect is his timing of attack because it introduces the hero’s experiences and his worldview after his demonstration of his inspired actions and ideas in a supernatural way.
Through his compassionate actions and nature and his perspective, in the opening chapter, Myshkin comes to the discovery of a positive light but his doubts come later as he returns to Petersburg. The appearance of doubts is the inherent aspects of the underlying ideology of the hero, leading to the compromise of his actions and philosophy. the other chapters of the novel major on the shift in focus, portraying the darker side of the vision of Myshkin which is a force which asserts itself in a strong way leading to weakening of the ethical stance of the character(Dostoyevsky, 1965)..
The aspects of murder further enhance the gothic theme in the novel. As Myshkin travels to St. Petersburg from Europe, he encounters Parfen Rogozhin whose father is a wealthy merchant. They become friends especially through the repelling or opposite characteristics which each of them has. Rogozhin unlike Myshkin is jealous, brutal and passionate. He is also too obsessed with Nastas’ia. He regards the Prince but he also sees him as a rival making him want to murder him (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
This attraction between the opposites is seen in the physical nature of Rogozhin verses Myshkin spiritual nature. Prince Myshkin is depicted by Dostoevsky as a Holy Fool and a beautiful person who is Don Quixote descendant. This means a type of a human being who is Christ-like. The severe epileptic fit saves Myshkin from the plot of him being murdered by his friend. The same epileptic fit follow after he gets overexcited and knocks down the Chinese vase at is prospective family in-law house as he was demonstrating the possibility on earth of being a harmonious society. This is the family of Aglaia whom she had asked her hand in marriage. But after his recovery from the epileptic attack, he changes his mind and chooses Natasha (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Nastasia is a strong-willed and intelligent woman with a purity ideal despite of her having courtesan reputation. She becomes interested with Myshkin whose innocence and ideals are not like the corruption and cynicism of the many men she has seen in her life. She is also not sure of her own purity and goodness because she thinks she might ruin the innocence of the prince. This is an aspect which also makes her to prefer Rogozhin. On the day of her marriage to Myshkin, she meets Rogozhin on the way on the church and she decides to run off with him. On realization that Natasia heart is undecided and that he can never fully take possession of her, Rogozhin decides to murder her. This is an unsuspected and gothic aspect in the novel from the melodramatic technique. The two rivals are left watching over the dead body of Nastasia, leaving Myshkin in a fragile psyche and he goes back to Switzerland while Rogozhin is not killed for his action but is send to Siberia (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Another character who enhances the theme of Gothicism is Ippolit Terentiev. He is only eighteen years old with accurate consciousness and with metaphysical rebels at a self-reabsorbed level. During the Prince birthday, he reads his suicide note known as the “Indispensable Explanation”. In this note, he talks of his death which he will die from illness associated with his alcohol consumption addiction. He decides to kill himself because he doesn’t believe life after death and in front of his audience he decides to take away his life but his suicide attempt fails when there is no bullet in his revolver. Ippolit is a character who symbolizes or is similar to the Underground man who is subjected by the laws of nature but he tries all means to rebel against the physical constraint. For Ippolit case, he faces a real wall of his rebel against the tyranny and his impending death. For him he knows that life is all about suffering. This means that he is a nihilist and he sees the materialists convictions turning to nothingness thus he there is no meaning to life (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The gothic setting
Dostoevsky employs the social gothic through his phase “carnival world of the gothic (pp 125) in his novel The Idiot. The novels of horror and mystery began as a tradition during the romanticism age with the works of Horace Walpole (1764) Castle of Otranto. This book gave a clear indication of the gothic situation of the heroine who is in a dungeon who is tormented and confined. Other early gothic books such as the Mysteries of Rudolph by Ann Radcliff, Mathew Lewis Ambrosio, and the Monk are book which influence Dostoevsky's book The Idiot. The setting of these novels is in large ruined castles, passageways in the underground, hidden staircases of decaying houses and secret rooms (Lantz, 2000).
The locations of such gothic setting help in enhancing the threatening evil atmosphere from the actions of the supernatural forces or forces which imitate the existence of the supernatural forces. Dostoevsky's main character Myshkin sees a vision which drives him to changing his life. The use of vision, dreams and even the epileptic seizures seen in Myshkin are gothic aspects which an author uses in plot advancement. The development of a gothic plot is also filled with startling and sudden incidence with abrupt reversals. One common situation of a gothic plot is that of an innocent and young woman who is in distress from the powerful actions of the tyrannical and powerful male. The merging of such opposite aspects brings forth the gothic sense through the force marriage of a grotesque man who is depraved with the beautiful innocent girl. Dostoevsky’s The Idiot has the taste of the gothic fiction plot characters, themes techniques and setting from the earlier writers.
Much of Dostoevsky’s influence is from Ann Radcliff who he had read his book at a very tender age. Through the adoption of the gothic fiction techniques he has managed to develop an absorbing narration of his novel the Idiot which maximum engages the attention of the reader. The use of vision and dreams for example shows the darker side of humanity which is filled with passions and at the same time they portray the intimidation of aspects in real life (Lantz, 2000).
Dostoevsky uses these aspects to explore into the unconscious and the irrational side of human aided and psyche in the discovery of reality’s fantastical nature. His novels the Idiot andCrime and Punishment portray the gothic setting the novels are based on. There is the presence of tenement houses, and the squalid alleys with dim lit rooms. There are also the dark and narrow stairways as well as cramped corridors which lead to the top floors. Such a setting evokes the dread sense to the readers which is typically a gothic aspect.
The sinister and violent character Rogozhin in The Idiot in the scene where Myshkin senses his presence and his eyes following him, despite Rogozhin not being there. This is a manifestation of the gothic roots of evil. The innocent girl Natasha is also being pursued by the old strong man is another aspect which Dostoevsky has incorporated from the work of Anne Radcliff and Horace Walpole. Natasia is portrayed as a demonic and proud woman which has close relation to femme vampires and fatales; aspects of gothic fiction (Lantz, 2000).
Dostoevsky employs the melodramatic effect in his book The Idiot through giving the six months gap to create the aspects of suspense to the reader. Through this melodramatic effect, the author is able to create his own sudden reversals and various complexities in the plot development as well as the incorporating the aspect of coincidence. This gap is seen between part one and two of the novel. This is a period which a lot happens but the reader learns in bits of the events that took place during this period (Lantz, 2000).
Gothic spaces in “the Idiot”-Myshkin
The main character in the novel prince Myshkin is an example of gothicism as he as been portrayed as a mortal who is not only too good but also too beautiful. According to human activities and the life of mortals, all men are bound to possess at least some percentage of evil and lack of perfections as being human incorporates the godly strength as well as human weakness. However, in the novel, there is no indication of the prince failing to live as per his traits as in all his activities he is able to depict a high degree of godliness. This character is only present among the Holy Trinity second person of Jesus Christ who was a mortal with no sin or human weakness.
In gothic novels, the only instance when characters or spaces are known to possess out of the world perfection where no bad occurrences are evident is only when certain eerie elements of the ghosts and fairy tales are concealed. Therefore, the perfect character traits of the prince could have been concealing a section of mortals that were only meant for antagonists like Rogozhin which were evil in very way. Upon seeing the portrait the prince says “this picture is enough to make any Christian loose all the hopes he or she has in Christianity” (Lantz, 2004).
The perfect perception of the prince is used by the author to bring out the anomalies and evils in human beings as it presents an opportunity to contrast with other traits seen in man. For instance, the prince does not succumb to the evil repercussions of a failed romantic relationship such as the one with Aglaya. He does not give in to the evil demands or offer unreasonable answers when faced with dilemmas on choosing marriage partners. This could be the reason as to why he never chose any of the two women Aglaya and Anastassya Filippovna as a marriage partner as such an action would have caused unmeasureable pain to the one left out. Hence being the noble prince he was, he decided to suffer alone by failing to make the decision rather than hurt his fellow human beings (Lantz, 2004).
Similarly, when the prince Myshkin meets Rogozhin for the second time and after he had murdered Anastassya Filippovna he neither shows remorse or relief over the incidence. This is because he never wanted to hurt Rogozhin though himself he had been subjected to so much humiliation by the same man. On the other hand he does not revenge Anastassya Filippovna as would have been expected among other mortals. The other element of gothicism is that the prince and Rogozhin do not show any signs of remorse or psychological trauma after the incidence when Nastasya Filipovna was murdered (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Myshkin as a human being demonstrates gothic in a psychological manner as he is able to shift his passionate love feelings over Aglaya to Nastasya Filippovna almost immediately a scenario that is not normal. The drastic change is so intense for him that he fails to make a decision when confronted with the same women. Physically, Myshkin portrays gothic in the manner through which he follows Rogozhin and Anastassya Filippovna without taking any action when he meets them. Like in the other gothic stories, if it was a vampire following the duo, most probably one would have been killed or parted from their partner. However, Myshkin derives satisfaction from following the two as they go about their lives such that he could have been fantasying on the aspect of him and Anastassya Filippovna being married (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The prince portrays the gothic element of love turned tragic in an elaborate way as he shifts his love from one woman to the other in the hope of settling with one of them in marriage. The first episode where the prince exhibits his passionate side is when he rescues a little girl who had been subjected to a cruel childhood and Myshkin provides a home full of laughter as well as love for the young girl. The same compassionate love is shared with Nastasya Filippovna who had been subjected to a similar childhood and Myshkin came to her rescue when he provided her with a proper home. This form of love is at times compared to pity rather than love as the two are bound by sympathy for each other. Finally Myshkin meets Aglaya his distant cousin and immediately falls in love with her mainly due to the beauty and youthful agility. This is the only true relationship which is present in Myshkin life. However, he fails to impress Aglaya due to his openness and the ability to share personal details with almost everyone hence making him look like the idiot he was (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Consequently, despite the attempts by Myshkin to love these women fully, he fails to get a bride amongst them since he is very much alienated from the present world. This is demonstrated by the nature of life he led while at the mental clinic as he was completely isolated from the real world. Such a life only made him more mentally unstable as he could not relate with the reality which came as challenges in life. For instance when meets Aglaya by the bench in the park for three days he lets Aglaya carry out the talking alone and even after she clearly spells out to him that she loves him, he still could not understand what she was saying (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The differences in the definition of seductive relationships and love among Myshkin and the women in the novel are attributed to the fact that both categories existed in diverse worlds. While the women were more concerned with the material aspect of the husband to be Myshkin was interested in the religious way of life with no mention of how the marriage life would be shaped. This difference made the women to back off as the idea of an idiot was still looming behind him though Myshkin could not relate it with his life (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
According to the world of fantasy which Myshkin had previously entertained, there was no application of the fantasies in the real romantic situation like the one he had been presented. It is for these reasons that Jr. Gose’s imagination indulged calls for individuals to employ their dreams and fantasies in the physical scenes. Similarly, he encourages people to remember their dreams so that their conscious and unconscious can apply such scenarios in the physical gothic settings making them more real. The basis of psychological gothic is based on the ability to relate with the real occurrence of the event hence making it more solid. For instance the dream that Myshkin had when he was sleeping in one of Rogozhin’s rooms is a better explanation of memory in collaboration with real life (Lantz, 2004).
"Neither during my illness nor at any previous time had I ever seen an apparition;--but I had always thought, both when I was a little boy, and even now, that if I were to see one I should die on the spot--though I don't believe in ghosts. And yet now, when the idea struck me that this was a ghost and not Rogozhin at all, I was not in the least alarmed. Nay--the thought actually irritated me. Strangely enough, the decision of the question as to whether this were a ghost or Rogozhin did not, for some reason or other, interest me nearly so much as it ought to have done;--I think I began to muse about something altogether different. For instance, I began to wonder why Rogozhin, who had been in dressing--gown and slippers when I saw him at home, had now put on a dress-coat and white waistcoat and tie. I also thought to myself, I remember--'if this is a ghost, and I am not afraid of it, why don't I approach it and verify my suspicions? Perhaps I am afraid--' and no sooner did this last idea enter my head than an icy blast blew over me; I felt a chill down my backbone and my knees shook (Dostoyevsky, 1965).”
All in all the character of the prince is gothic as the tragic love he had been subjected to made it almost impossible for him to raise issues regarding his love life. The prince behaves in an extraordinary way that is least expected for a young man seeking for a marriage suitor. Similarly, being a prince of noble origin, one would have expected him to revenge for his rivals as well as make the ladies love him back for who he was.
Psychic powers and concepts have been widely used in the novel as a way of illustrating gothic in the traits of Myshkin when he communicates with Rogozhin in a non-verbal mode. For example the scene where Myshkin feels that Rogozhin has entered the room and not only that but also started at him. These revelations are carried out without him turning to ascertain that indeed Rogozhin has entered the room and not only that he is even staring at him. The application of psychic powers is paramount even in the gothic novel as an example of evil which is a key element in gothic novels. Similarly, when Rogozhin was using his eyes to follow Myshkin as he walked around, the sole intent was to stab him or even kill him. Thus the psychic powers are an illustration of the implication of evil in the story (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
In the course of pursuing Rogozhin, Myshkin encounters an old woman who Rogozhin refers to as his mother. The woman is frail and weakly though she mounts sufficient energy to cross his fingers thrice. Old women are used in gothic novels to depict witches whose mission is always evil. Similarly, Rogozhin could have asked his mother to put a spell on Myshkin so that his mental condition would worsen hence he would no longer bother Nastasya Filippovna and he would have her to himself. The other reason as to why Rogozhin could have asked his mother to cast a spell upon Myshkin could have been so that he would be placed under his power hence killing him be easier. The old women could have been an accomplice of Rogozhin in evil while the prince could have been the sacrificial lamb being sold to the evil spirits through this blood curdling encounter (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The Jung’s psychological theory on archetypes applies to the gothic character of Myshkin in that he relied on his unconscious to develop his perfect world as the hero in the novel. Myshkin employed his fantasies on romance to create a perfect character as he used mental images to tailor the true relationships with beautiful women he always dreamt of. This is exhibited by the compassionate love he had for Nastasya Filipovna that turns horrible that had no foundation rather than the innate perception of a perfect relationship that would end up in marriage (Young-Eisendrath and Hall, 1991).
In the Russian noble lineages, the chronological aspects of life are often predetermined way before an individual is born such that their childhood, marriage and supposed wife are known before they make their first steps. The prince Myshkin however only had the mindset of his future in his dreams as the innate concepts of his future life were not as smooth as he had been made to believe. In order to attain the most appropriate turn of events for the prince, he should have established a close relationship between his unconscious and the physical environment so as to attain the desired goals (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
According to the events following the description of the various activities which Myshkin took place in such as the meeting with Aglaya in the Pavlosk gardens plenty of gothicism has been applied. This is in line with Jr. Gose’s imagination indulged where the author indulges the reader in a descriptive activity that involves pointing out the details and ideas in the princes mind that are not said by him.
In such a scenario the reader is able to take part in the psychic activities of the prince such that by reading through his mind, the reader is in a position to commune with the prince though the communication is one direction. Psychological gothic is also part of the exposure of Myshkin mind such that second and third parties are able to read through his plans way before he accomplishes tem in the same way that psychic in gothic takes place (Mathew, 1991).
The other gothic element of the prince in the novel is the faraway look he adopts when he is with Aglaya. For instance at one point he had the most faraway look that she had to ask him what he was making up in his mind. Similarly, the prince could have been using the look to depict his being in a stance a phenomenon that is quite common among the gothic characters. Ghosts and fairy takes are main characters that are known to go into stances where they travel or make their minds wander in far away places while their physical bodies are immobile. The stances in gothic novels are used to illustrate the dreaming aspect of the doubles. The faraway look demonstrates Jung’s doubles by portraying a person who was very much eager to utilize the beauty and feminine weakness in women as a tool in winning their hearts over. Yet at the same time the person seems not interested in their partner for whom they have been harboring secret thoughts. This is not only disheartening but also degrading as the woman starts to imagine all the evil thoughts that could be in her counterparts mind at that time when they are together (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Jung attributed the doubles to the presence of opposite personalities in individuals such that each one of us is in a position to draw out the personalities and make them adopt our usual self. The doubles in Myshkin could have been presented as the love struck Myshkin self wandering in the land of fantasy while the Myshkin other self could have been present at the bench trying to woe Aglaya. It turns out that Myshkin does not engage in any major fete to make Aglaya reciprocate the love they should be celebrating hence each ends up in psychological turmoil due to a love that is not reciprocated be either. The doubles in this case are seen in the two personalities of Myshkin both of which are exposed to similar psychological gothic as the scenes preceding the courtship and seduction are nothing less that horrible.
Such split personalities are essential in attaining of a perfect gothic narration and transforming it to reality especially if the balance between the conscious and the unconscious are equalized. However, Myshkin failed to control his conscious and Aglaya could not obtain the real contentment from the relationship and at one instance she even pointed out that the look in Myshkin eyes was horrifying. This could be because she failed to understand why her partner was not recognizing her presence. Similarly, the faraway look could have been inhuman such that Aglaya could have equated Myshkin to a ghost at that instance hence her worry (Mathew, 1991).
Myshkin applies this archetypal image when he realizes that Anastassya Filippovna is not going to accept his marriage proposal, he dissuades her to reject Ganya and instead offers to marry her. However, Myshkin realizes that his nobility will not make him get married to his love hence he offers to share his bequeathed wealth with her if she agrees to marry him. The prince applies the psychological and physical element of emotion so as to portray his immense love for the girl though she ends up turning the offer down.
From the actions of prince Myshkin he failed to maintain a stable balance between the conscious and unconscious efforts due to the fact that he was mentally unwell. This reduced the capacity of the mind to make up solid decisions which increased the fantasies on relationships. Similarly, the poor mental health could have hindered the unconscious part of the prince’s ability to regard the inheritance as being small rather than seeing as large enough to woe his girlfriend. The aspect of his outspoken idiocy happens to be the hindrance towards the attainment of a normal relationship which is not affected by the horrible scenes such as being stabbed to death (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The same conscious as well as unconscious acts are attributed to the scenario where Nastasya tells her guests to play a game of confessions. Each person present presents a story based on the things they have ever done which haunt them. The game gets out of hand with the guests narrating stories concerned with cold blood murder and robbery. Darkness is a major element of the stories as each narrator conducted the action under the cover of darkness. The forms of murder that are seen among the narrators are not only horrible but blood chilling as most of them revolve around brutal murders and inhuman actions leading to death of the victims (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
In the course of visiting Rogozhin, Myshkin is subjected to a horrifying portrait of a dead Christ which was hanging on one of the walls in Rogozhin’s house. The portrait elicits an eerie feeling on Myshkin who believes it would dissuade any faith which was earlier on possessed by a Christian. Despite the mental problem and idiocy that is part of Myshkin life; he is able to portray thorough knowledge of Christian beliefs. Upon seeing the portrait the prince says “this picture is enough to make any Christian loose all the hopes he or she has in Christianity (Dostoyevsky, 1965).”
However, this does not reduce the amount of horror that is profound in the image though the others in the house do not appear disturbed by its presence (Mathew, 1991).
The other psychological application of the theories illustrating the essence of dreams is linked to the fact that the prince had been admitted to a mental clinic for four years prior to visiting St. Petersburg. During the hospitalization tenure, the prince could have been dreaming of life with a loved one and eventually marriage. This could have been the reason as to why he had come to the town to fulfill the dreams or fantasies which had already been formulated.
Jung’s theories depict dreams as playing key roles in the entire life of the prince while at St. Petersburg. This is because dreams are developed from experiences which are integrated into the unconscious when one is asleep hence formulating a fantasy. However, the dream only becomes real if the individual integrates the real life to the dream such that by giving flesh to the characters in the dream, the person is able to attain the fantasy. Similarly, the psychic powers which are present in gothic plays and novels are attained after creating a close link between the dream and reality hence one may think it was a double life yet it is only materializing the dream. Myshkin failed to create this link due to his idiocy and epileptic health condition hence reliving the dream was difficult for him (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Myshkin has been an archetype in the novel hence illustrating the Jung’s psychological theories of mind-created beings. This is illustrated by the fact that the guests at Aglaya’s home during the engagement party had learnt of the prince’s openness and innocence hence they masked their aristocratic ways in order to make the prince speak on the matter with the thought that they were on his side. Through use of the conscious, these guests were able to manipulate the prince into believing that he was addressing the noble Russian members. The move was choreographed to trap the “poor knight” into believing that all was well and despite the many warnings from Aglaya not to speak unnecessarily, he failed to heed the advice so that he exposed his inner feelings about aristocracy.
Similarly, Myshkin demonstrated Jung’s archetypal images of a wise man who is never questioned by the audience he is addressing. In this aspect the archetypal image was manipulated psychologically by the fact that the prince could be made at ease through false social masks by the guests in order to make him open up to their talk (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
There are also several instances in which Jung’s archetypal images on psychological theories have been portrayed by the novel. For example the archetypal events in the gothic novel such reunion of characters who are opposites such as the union between Myshkin and Rogozhin where the traits of both characters are rather diverse though they meet several times in the course of the novel. The Christian stories which are explained passionately by Myshkin are part of the gothic aspect illustrating archetypal actions by the hero in the story (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Gothicism in Rogozhin
Rogozhin is portrayed in the novel as a twenty seven year old dark haired young man who leads a group of rowdy youths to Nastasya Filipovna’s birthday party. His full name is given as Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin. As a most probable suitor to Nastasya Filipovna, Rogozhin has one competitor named Ganya so he tries to bribe the young woman with 100,000 but upon at the party he is faced by yet another competitor Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin, Myshkin. After this first meeting Rogozhin and Myshkin are literary tied together in their future activities such that their activities of one are dependent on the presence of the other party (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
As a character who presents gothicism in the novel, Rogozhin creates an atmosphere of terror such that his personality is quite opposite to that portrayed by Myshkin. While Myshkin demonstrates all the good themes and actions in the novel, most of the evil present in the novel which is characteristic of gothic novels are carried out by Rogozhin. The very first instance of gothicism in Rogozhin is exhibited by his house which is unique among the urban landscape in St. Petersburg. Rogozhin’s house is built in a similar way as the castles which are described in gothic novels. Despite the locality at the heart of the city, the house can be easily confused with a monastery. As is common in gothic houses or castles, Rogozhin’s house has very many mazes and unending corridors such that lodgers would easily loose their way around even during the day (Lantz, 2004).
For instance when Myshkin is first introduced into the castle as a lodger he is taken through lots of tiny rooms which are located in various corridors and the steps are found at different points along the way. The role of the mazes and unending corridors could have been aimed at disorienting already epileptic Myshkin so that Rogozhin would encounter him at close range when he got lost trying to look for his way out. The ghosts and vampires of gothic novels are known to use disorientation as a move to draw their prey closer to them as in most cases through psychic mode the owner of the place will most probably get to the lost victim way before they realize they are being followed.
Therefore, Rogozhin could have used the same technique to get Myshkin lose his direction in order to scare him against wandering alone in the house. This would act as a defence mechanism in protecting the well kept secrets of the rogue landlord (Dostoyevsky, 1965).The other gothic element about Rogozhin’s house is the dark and gloomy attributes of the house. According to Myshkin perception of the entire place, despite the large size, the lighting is so poor that one can hardly see their way around. Darkness especially in the castles or halls making up the homes of gothic characters is rather common where darkness is used to elicit fear and horror to the victims. Similarly, the dark rooms are used as cover by ghosts and gothic characters to execute their evil actions. For instance the dark alleys are quite efficient in attacking the victim while howling and echoes are common along the dark corridors. The evil spirits are used by Satan and his team as a cover up for evil such that the blood curdling actions which involve murder and death are carried out in the darkness to reduce the number of roaming eyes. Hence under the cover of darkens Rogozhin was sure of executing his devilish acts with no one interfering (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Inside Rogozhin’s house is a portrait of his father that is posed on a canvas in the form of an oil painting. The portrait depicts a face that is not only menacing but also austere. The prince describes the yellow face full of wrinkles as exhibiting a pair of mournful eyes that seem to be in the mourning mood. All the gothic stage props often have oil paintings as landmarks especially if the person in the portrait is the head of the family or he/she holds an eminent post. The picture further on increases the terror inside the room as it depicts gloomy and sad times which could be characteristic of Rogozhin (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Prince Myshkin points out to Rogozhin that the house though inhabited by him only and the oil painting of his father plays a great role in illustrating the dark family secrets that are harbored by Rogozhin. Similarly, the prince is surprised that someone could live in such a dark place though he does not relate the darkness to the evil nature of Rogozhin which makes him hide in the darkness of the castle. However, Myshkin is not the only one who notes the eerie and suspicious nature of Rogozhin’s house as during the time when Rogozhin runs off with Nastasya Filipovna, she at times fears that there could be dead people lying hidden below the floor boards. The sinister air around the house raises her doubts on the nature of secrets which are held by Rogozhin. Similar remarks on the gothic appearance of Rogozhin’s gloomy house are echoed by Ippolit who equates the house to a graveyard. The secrets that are housed there are so many that the public refrains from nay instances that would bring them to close proximity with the dreaded house (Lantz, 2004).
According to gothicism, isolation of the evil characters house is relevant as it reduces chances of the public stumbling upon the activities of the inhabitant. Similarly, other than physical isolation, there is a bigger element of psychological isolation where the victim is alienated from their original self through exposure to inhuman thoughts and scenes. For instance the feeling that there were dead bodies hidden in the house could have been a sort of preparation for Nastasya Filipovna to for her death in the same house. Hence as her thoughts would be inclined towards the world of the dead, it would not be surprising if she was found dead as Rogozhin could tell the public that she was mentally disturbed due to the effects of the gothic house (Mathew, 1991).
Crosses or crucifixes are another vital element in gothic novels where evil is kept away through use of the crosses. However, some evil characters in gothic novels often use the crosses to conceal their evil ways or the intended evil actions. The gothic novels have witches, evil men and vampires possessing crosses which are used to demonstrate identity of the sect members or to identify a marked victim. Therefore, Rogozhin could have issued a marked cross such that he incorporated him as part of his family without the prince’s knowledge. Consequently, when Rogozhin takes the prince Myshkin to visit his mother she crosses his fingers three times a phenomenon which was quite new and surprising to Myshkin. This could have been made possible through use of the crosses that made Rogozhin and Myshkin believe that they were brothers by the pact of the exchanged crosses yet the real meaning of the entire procedure was rather disturbing (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The other element of gothicism in the novel based on the character of Rogozhin is the romantic love he possesses for Nastasya Filipovna. This makes romantic gothic quite elaborate as he uses all means to show the woman his love for her. The scenes preceding the proposal even demonstrate Rogozhin extending a monetary gift to Nastasya Filipovna during her birthday as a sign of the passionate love he had for her as well as a way of dissuading other suitors from making the same move (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
The love that Rogozhin bears for Nastasya Filipovna is real such that he gets jealous when other suitors such as Myshkin air their admiration for his loved one. The same romantic love is exhibited by eth reluctance of Rogozhin to love other women when he realizes that he cannot have Nastasya Filipovna alone. This is the predicament that makes him stab her as his pride is hurt and the only way to avenge is through murder. Later on when the prince calls to visit Rogozhin, they adopt a newer gothic manner of communication where whispers are used widely though at some point Rogozhin bursts into a loud weird laugh that makes the prince tremble even further (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
In Mathew C. Brennan's “The Gothic Psyche", Rogozhin has managed to relate his dreams on the various aspects of gothicism into reality. For instance he uses his dark and dreary house to portray his self to the prince. Similarly, he chooses to work and live in an atmosphere which best fits his actions such that it would have been entirely impossible to execute the same evil deeds had the house been well lighted. This was made possible by used of his imagination of the veil activities he was undertaking such that in his dreams he could fathom how he would use the dark alleys to reveal his dark secrets to the public. This is how he ended up with the prince who was not only given a leeway into the dark chambers but also to Rogozhin’s house such that as he followed the couple he was able to witness the murder of Nastasya Filipovna (Mathew, 1991).
Though depicted as all evil in the novel Rogozhin has a shadow archetype which according to the Jung psychological theories refers to the split personality that allows us to perceive our hidden intents Rogozhin has a shadow that demonstrates his good self. This is the shadow which could have been nurtured psychologically through childhood dreams or internally as a normal human being would. The shadow archetype of Rogozhin is responsible for the development of the romantic relationship with Nastasya Filipovna and the ability to stick to that one woman (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
As an innate gothic space, Rogozhin could have always dreamt of having a normal life where he would get married to a woman he loved and eventually settle down with her. The aspect of dark alleys could have been subversive in the novel as a result of physical gothic development (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
However, despite the claims by Jung that most individuals often refute the actions or perceptions of their shadows, Rogozhin does not fight or deny any of the accusations made on his personality. For instance when he exchanges crosses with the prince, the prince regards him as his brother and even after the attempts top stab him he does not hate Rogozhin. Consequently, the ability of Rogozhin to accept the varying differences of his split personality could have contributed to the success when he realized that the prince was not going to hate him or disclose his evil actions to the public (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
The anima archetype in Rogozhin did not require him to throw his mask away such that he never hid his real self from the public. This is illustrated in the way in which he appears with a gang of rogue men at the birthday party such that he does not conceal his evil nature. Similarly, he belittles everyone else during the party and eventually when he murders Nastasya Filipovna he acknowledges his mistake thus he does not run away from the law. The female side of the anima archetype in Rogozhin is responsible for the night long vigil with the prince in the hope that maybe his beloved one could raise to life again. The dreams lived by Rogozhin and Nastasya Filipovna could have merged together in the murder scene which was relived by Rogozhin murdering Nastasya Filipovna and most probably hiding the body in the dark house had the prince not emerged (Mathew, 1991).
The unrealized dream marriage between Rogozhin and Nastasya Filipovna was as a result of the differing traits exhibited by the female and male archetypes. With the male in Rogozhin being dominant in the relationship such that he was dictating its course while the woman portrayed a complex personality that derailed the entire marriage process. Hence Jung’s psychological theories are distinctively exhibited by the gothic romance between Rogozhin and Nastasya Filipovna (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
The other element of psychological gothic in the character of Rogozhin is in the psychic communication with the prince. This is even more gothic as among a crowd of people, the prince identifies a single pair of eyes which follow him up and down. Similarly, from the penetrative aspect of the intrusive eyes, the prince is filled with fear of the unknown as he gets an insight into the evil that is hidden by the eyes. All these psychic communication is carried out by accurate application of the imagination hence the two individuals are able to commune effectively (Dostoyevsky, 1965). The imagination of the gothic characters aided by remembrance of dreams, which are incorporated via the conscious efforts of the individual, make the psychic mode of communication more vivid in describing the entire gothic scene. Consequently, Rogozhin could have been dreaming of stabbing the prince since the first time they set eyes on each other.
Hence the real event could have been replayed in the prince’s apartment for the second time following the incorporation into the physical act. The dark features that surround Rogozhin in the novel are symbolic of his shadow full of dark secrets hidden in a dark house with limited human habitation. Therefore, the shadow and the real Rogozhin are equally comfortable in a world full of deceit (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
The women in “the idiot” as gothic characters
The major women in the novel namely Aglaya and Nastasya Filipovna are depicted in gothic as interpretations of the female vampires in fiction. Their virile personalities are exploited by men who strive to possess the women amidst plenty of resistance from society. For instance, the traits of Aglaya as being young and beautiful are synonymous with the romantic love that is accorded to her by the prince. Similarly, by virtue of the women in the novel being young the older generation of men has taken advantage of the opportunity to make advancements towards them (Lantz, 2004).
The women such as Aglaya though young and innocent have developed her own perception of a seduction as a one way ticket towards relationship and marriage. This is portrayed in the endless night dates in the Pavlovsk’s parks where she tells the prince of her idea of an ideal husband and marriage. The prince however, idiot as he is fails to see the picture been drawn by the woman and he disappoints he even more when he looses grip of the entire talk. Aglaya does not however use her vulnerable beauty as a trap to for the prince but rather works on the capability of the prince to move back to the real world where fantasies do not exist (Mathew, 1991).
Nastasya Filipovna on the other hand is illustrated as a devilish woman who is keen on using her feminine prowess to manipulate women. This is popular in gothic literature where women are prone to using their power to seduce men into executing their will. For instance when Ganya’s family fails to accept her as the chosen bride-to-be for their son, she hurls insults at the entire family until the prince intervenes. Subsequent seduction is seen in the use of letters to Aglaya asking her to marry the prince. This is rather contradictory as Nastasya Filipovna failed to consider the prince’s proposal yet goes ahead to ask her counterpart to marry him. This is an example of psychological gothic where an individual is made to believe that he is loved by the woman yet the motive behind it could be evil. For instance Nastasya Filipovna used the tactic to show the prince she still cared for him but she does not leave Rogozhin completely for him hence living a double live amongst two men (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
These two women have similarly been used to portray the theme of gothic love in the romantic fantasies among the men. Ganya wishes to marry Nastasya Filipovna while disguising under real romantic love for her though his intent is to gain a share of the inheritance under acquisition hence regain his individuality. The only man who loves Nastasya Filipovna passionately is Rogozhin who does not waste any time to tell her of his love for her but she only reciprocates his love when he offers her substantial amount of money (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The prince on the other hand loves Nastasya Filipovna out of mere pity and Christian love which is a superior kind of love above the romantic love accorded to the other women in the novel. Aglaya on the other hand loves the prince based on the pure heart he abodes and the sympathy he extended to Nastasya Filipovna when she was rejected by Ganya’s family (Dostoyevsky, 1965). A conflict of the various types of love in the novel demonstrates the level of gothic which has been applied by the author to show the manipulative nature of women in attaining their desires. Eventually the men are left out without partner as the supposed brides overuse their seductive powers hence making the men less dominant in the relationships hence the failure. Rogozhin for instance tries his best to make Nastasya Filipovna love him as much as he loves her but she does not change her attitude towards marriage hence he kills her (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
Consequently, Aglaya gets married to a Polish who not only cheats on her but abandons her shortly after marriage. This leads to loss of the marital status among the two women as well as subjecting their suitors to endless pain. The role of romance and women in gothic is always harm or an end to the life of their suitors or men in the novel. Hence physical gothic is described vividly by the author (Young-Eisendrath, 1991). From the archetypes in Jung’s psychological theories, the women in this gothic novel are complex as their animus types that are considered as complex among the male and female archetypes (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
The lack of a divine couple among the many relationships in the novel could be due to concealing of the societal mask such that the women accepted and rejected their suitors based on the expectations of society (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).This blinded them into believing that they would access the ideal husband who would be accepted by all in society. This gothic space is psychological since there is no one time when society will accept suitors who have problems in their lives. This is rather difficult as there is no perfect person who has wealth, values and intelligence at the same time. Hence the gothic in psychological setting presents a fairy tale story of a beautiful woman falling in love with an intelligent handsome prince and all is well. Thus in order to attain such fantasies, Jr. Gose’s indulging imagination calls for the incorporation of the dream into life and ensuring that a workable balance is maintained between the two such that one does not override the other(Gose, 1972).
The psychological theory of the doubles as per the Jung’s theories is also explained in the depiction of women as gothic characters in the novel. For instance when Aglaya starts loving the prince, she does not admit publicly her feelings towards him yet afterwards she labels the prince as an idiot when he fails to portray desirable traits. Similarly, Aglaya later on takes it upon herself to request the prince for dates at the local park where she presents her well prepared monologue on the intentions of marriage. This is a contrast to the earlier reluctance by Aglaya to declare her love for the prince (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Nastasya Filipovna also exhibits her love for Rogozhin in doubles as one self wish to stay with hi, while the other self wants to move in with the prince. In the course of the doubles fighting over who is the best suitor, Nastasya Filipovna moves from one man to the other until she eventually dies hence loosing both of them. The cause of death could have been eliminated had she learnt to balance the doubles as Rogozhin was jealous of the lack of total dominance over her hence the decision to end her life (Mathew, 1991).
Similarly, Nastasya Filipovna is earlier on attached to Totsky as a prior to the encounter with Rogozhin. However, she fails to attain the much needed satisfaction and freedom she was aspiring to gain that she ends up running away with a rogue by the name Rogozhin. The Jung’s doubles of archetypal self are demonstrated in the similar behaviors of Nastasya Filipovna as a concubine and as a wife. In both scenarios, she comes across as a woman who does not understand what she wants from men. One would have thought that by taking off with Rogozhin she would eventually settle down but that was not to be as her fantasy about marriage was not attained (Young-Eisendrath, 1991).
Settings depicting gothic in the novel
“The Idiot” has employed a number of settings or atmospheres which exhibit varying lengths of gothicism. The very first instance where gothicism is present is in the prince’s train journey from the Swiss clinic to eth town of St. Petersburg. Though it was past dawn, the entire places were foggy and damp a rather strange phenomenon of eth place which was never known to have fog (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The author describes the fog as being so thick that it was impossible to see a few yards from where one stood. Fog and mist are characteristic of gothic novels where the aspect of darkness and hopelessness is presented by the poor visibility in the place. Similarly, reduced visibility makes it easier for the evil character to strike while at the same time reducing the hopes of visitors in the place hence they are hopeless on the future (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The other ghastly site which is exhibited in the initial; stages of the novel are the faces of locals in St. Petersburg which are described as being yellow and similar to the fog hence representing gloom. The town thus is made up of nightmares as neither the weather nor the people are welcoming and warm. Though it is quite usual to have a thick fog where visibility is reduced, the aspect of people possessing yellow faces could have been formulated by the author to showcase the degree of nightmares portrayed by the locals (Dostoyevsky, 1965). This could have been in turn significant in demonstrating the imagination of the reader in illustrating horrid faces of eth gothic novel. Hence by use of diverse human traits, the author is able to engage the readers mind in understanding the elements of gothic and their interrelations with the mind (Lantz, 2004).
Consequently, the buildings on the town are as gloomy and eerie as the people who live there. An example of the gothic surroundings and building is the house where Rogozhin lives, as well as, the hotel rented by Myshkin that is made up of complex mazes in addition to staircases leading to numerous corridors. These houses other than the complexity in structure are so dark that visitors loose their way round (Gose, 1972).
Similarly, the gloomy feeling that is accompanied by the darkness makes the houses inhabitable without encouraging thoughts of the secrets which could be hidden in the many rooms. In Jung’s psychological theories the dark houses where the evil characters live are an illustration of the mental status of the individual (Young-Eisendrath, 1991). According to the theories however, the mental condition of the individual has no direct impact on their ability to create accurate balances between the dream and reality. Similarly, the gothic characters who engage in evil are known to live in such dark places which are also complex as a way of concealing their evil ways from the public. This is because their doubles could ruin the already formulated personality in society such that introducing another self would be disastrous to the character (Gose, 1972).
The other gothic setting in the novel is the prediction and occurrence of murder at the houses which are depicted as grotesque. Rogozhin’s house is the first to be called a graveyard in the novel by Ippolit while Nastasya Filipovna imagines that there is a dead body hidden in the house. Similarly, the death of Nastasya Filipovna occurs in the same house hence provide adequate evidence on Jung’s psychological theories where he attributes occurrences in real life as extensions of dreams which are ingrained in our minds. Similarly, the hotel where Myshkin was another indication of the death related occurrences in the dark halls of the buildings (Dostoyevsky, 1965).
The use of storm or dark clouds has also been used to demonstrate gothicism in the novel though scantly. On the day when Rogozhin was trying to stab Myshkin, a dark cloud is said to have covered the sun such that temporal darkness filled the entire place.
In Jr. Goses’s imagination indulged, the storm or dark clouds are used to relate the inner feelings of the evil doer and his actions which are gloomy and out of the world (Gose, 1972). This shows a unique interaction between the outer space and the personality of an individual to provide a perfect gothic scene. This interrelation is also attributed to the innate ability of the evil doer to carry out certain evil actions when the weather is gloomy thus the connection is made possible by the characters instinct to execute the task at that particular time when the weather is bleak. Consequently, according to Mathew C. Brennan's “The Gothic Psyche", the ability of the outer space to interact with the gothic character’s evil actions is attributed to trait of power which is seen in the ability to balance between the mind and purpose of the action (Mathew, 1991).
“The Idiot” as a novel incorporates various characters and settings such that there are various attributes of traits and scenes in the diverse scenarios. The main character does not elicit much gothicism but he gets to meet many gothic character and settings in the course of his life activities. Similarly, almost all the major themes of gothic in the novel are attributed to his meetings with various characters. Similarly, Myshkin and Rogozhin make a perfect couple in bringing out the various gothic traits in the novel. Although both characters posses opposing gothic traits and personalities the psychological as well as physical interactions have resulted into numerous gothic episodes in the novel.
Myshkin as the hero-victim and Rogozhin as the hero-villain have managed to present gothicism in other aspects of the novels, as well as enable the author to utilize the psychological archetypes in the novel. Similarly, the element of imagination and dreams has been equally emphasized by use of the gothic characters together settings to illustrate gothicism in the novel.
Various settings in the novel such as buildings and weather are used to illustrate varying degrees of gothic. Similarly, the reader is given a vivid description of the various scenes where the characters are present and engaging in their usual activities. The descriptive words make it easier for the reader to relieve and experience the gothicism in the place though not presently there to witness the real situation.
In conclusion, various psychological theorists have tried to describe the actions of mentally able and disabled individuals hence making it clear that the mental status of the individual plays no major role in implementation of the dream to reality. Consequently, the fantasies in gothic are related to the childhood experiences hence making them the same regardless of whether they occur in reality or in the dreams.
Dostoyevsky Fyodor .The Idiot, Washington Square Press, Inc. 1965
Gose, Eliot B.Jr., Imagination Indulged: The Irrational in the Nineteenth Century Novel. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 1972. 73-97. 21
Lantz, K.A. the Dostoevsky encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. pp, 160-170
Mathew C. Brennan. The gothic psyche. Columbia: Camden House. 1991
Young-Eisendrath and Hall Albert James. Jung's self psychology: a constructivist perspective. Guilford Press, 1991.
Leatherbarrrow W (2000) Misreading Myshkin and Stavrogin: the representation of the hero in Dostoevsky’s Idiot and Besy, SEER, 78.1, 1-12
Lantz R, (2004) The Dostoevsky encyclopedia, Publisher Greenwood Publishing Group, pp 170