Nastasya Filipovna

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Nastasya Filipovna Barashkova is the principal heroine in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot, based on Polina Suslova. She is the daughter of an aristocrat with no money and, when still a young child, falls under the "protection" of a rich rogue named Totski. Realizing that Nastasya will become a great beauty, Totski decides that she should have a suitable education and he provides her with a sort of one-on-one finishing school.

As she grows older, Totski visits her only occasionally on the estate where he has left her. Implied by much reference to her 'dishonourable' position throughout the novel, though not explicit in the text, it seems likely that during this time the beautiful, young Nastasya was coerced into the position of a kept woman by Totski. Nastasya grows tired of this humiliating life, and when she learns that Totski is to be married, she goes to Saint Petersburg to confront him. Totski by now just wants to be rid of Nastasya, and he hopes to satisfy her by giving her an apartment in the Russian capital.

There she meets Prince Myshkin. The Prince is deeply moved by the combination of pride and suffering that he sees in her face. "Such a beauty is a terrible force", he says, "Is she good?... if only she were good, then all could be saved!". Totski has a less charitable opinion of her: "Nastasya Filippovna is unbridled and pitiless in her desires and she will stop at nothing to satisfy them because she cares about nothing--least of all herself".

Nastasya also has an immediate effect on the principal antagonist in the story, Rogozhin, who develops an almost insane passion for her. In order to buy Nastasya a pair of diamond earrings, Rogozhin steals ten thousand roubles from his father. Rogozhin flees to the countryside to escape his father's wrath, and while he is in Pskov the elderly man dies and Rogozhin comes into a large inheritance. This he determines to use in order to win over Nastasya.

During Rogozhin's short exile, Totski and General Yepanchin (himself enamoured with Nastasya) devise a plan to marry her off to one of the general's aides, Ganya Ivolgin. Ganya may once have had feelings for Nastasya, but now he is principally interested in a dowry of 75,000 roubles put up by Totski. Yepanchin's interest seems to be an unspoken agreement between himself and Totski that the latter would marry the generals oldest daughter, Alexandra and another unspoken agreement with Ganya that he will be able to satisfy his infatuation with the other man's wife after the marriage. Nastasya refuses to accept the offer immediately, but promises to give her answer at her birthday party late on the evening of Myshkin's arrival in Petersburg.

At the party, in the presence of Totski, Yepanchin, Ganya, and the uninvited Myshkin among others, she surprises the assembly by suddenly turning to Myshkin and insisting that if he tells her to accept the offer she will marry Ganya. He, stunned in equal measure by her beauty and suffering, tells her to refuse the scheme, and proposes marriage himself.

At this point Rogozhin interrupts the party, storming in with a crowd of drunken low-lifes, and a package containing 100,000 roubles with which he vaguely intends to out-bid Totski's dowry. Nastasya, seeming to make up her mind, refuses Myshkin, claiming that she cannot 'ruin him,' and tells the company that she will marry Rogozhin.

Myshkin tries again to save her from the fate that she feels she deserves, telling her:

"You're so awfully unhappy that you really think you are yourself to blame... I- I shall respect you all my life, Nastasya Filippovna."

His words have a great effect on Nastasya, but are not enough to save her from her self-destructive rage. She agrees to go with Rogozhin.

As a final act of spite, Nastasya takes the package and throws it in the fire, saying that the 100,000 is for Ganya if he will disgrace himself by burning his hands in his greed to get it. Ganya, in a rare moment of nobility, refuses, turing to go and fainting dead away. Nastasya removes the package with the fire tongs and lays it beside his body, before leaving with Rogozhin and his drunken cohorts.

The Prince is crushed, and the company disperses. Totski, in private conversation with one of the other guests, compares the scene to an act of Seppuku, but feels himself free to pursue his plans.

Nastasya however does not marry Rogozhin, but flees to Moscow. Both Rogozhin and Myshkin follow her, and she runs to each in turn, asking to be saved from the other until finally she leaves for Pavlovsk, a fashionable Petersburg suburb, with Rogozhin.

She does not feature directly in the book again until Aglaya Yepanchin, who has fallen in love with Myshkin and he with her, comes to her with the Prince to try to break the influence that Nastasya still exerts over him due to his 'pity' for her horrible suffering. The two women quickly descend into a feverish contest, and Nastasya claims that the Prince would return to her if she only says the word. Aglaya gets up to go, horrified, and the Prince, to his despair, hesitates out of concern for Nastasya who seems about to faint. Aglaya storms out, and refuses to see Myshkin again.

The Prince finds himself engaged to Nastasya, though he himself is still dazed by the loss of his true love, Aglaya. The wedding preparations are made, seemingly without his realising their implication. However, on the morning of the wedding, Nastasya absconds again with Rogozhin who takes her to his house in Petersburg.

Myshkin follows a day later, and after much futile searching, is brought into the home by Rogozhin, who finally shows him the lifeless body of Nastasya Filippovna. Rogozhin and the Prince spend the night in the room with the corpse. When the morning comes, friends of the Prince discover Rogozhin gravely ill and feverish, petted by the completely absent-minded Prince.

Myshkin is sent back to the Swiss clinic that he had so recently returned from, an "Idiot" once more. Rogozhin falls dangerously ill with brain fever soon after, and upon his recovery is sentenced to hard labour in Siberia with time off in light of the 'extenuating circumstances'.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Le Dictionnaire des personnages, Laffont-Bompiani, 1960