Quotes by an idiot. Oops, I mean THE Idiot

Personally I think that referring to any being, human or otherwise, as ordinary or commonplace is unfair to say the least. People only appear dull and uninteresting because they choose to. Well, that’s my opinion anyway.
Anyway Fyodor Dostoevsky clearly had his own ideas. The following is an extract from The Idiot, which I found strange but fascinating at the same time.
Keep in mind that the following is not said by any character in particular but written in the 3rd person.

What is an author to do with ordinary people and how can he put them before his readers so as to make them at all interesting? It is impossible to leave them out of fiction altogether , for commonplace people are at every moment the chief and essential links in the chain of human affairs; if we leave them out, we lose all semblance of truth. To fill a novel completely with types or, more simply, to make it interesting with strange and incredible characters, would be to make it unreal and even uninteresting. To our thinking a writer ought to seek out interesting and instructive features even among commonplace people. (Part IV. Chapter 1.)

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or scratch my head in bewilderment when I read this. Dostoevsky, I feel contradicts himself however. By highlighting “interesting and instructive features” in a commonplace person would render that person less common anyway. 
He goes on to explain what he means by a commonplace person. I don’t agree with the quote above but I love what he says below. I can see myself remembering this for years to come…

There is, indeed, nothing more annoying than to be, for instance, wealthy, of a good family, nice-looking, intelligent and even good-natured, and yet to have no talents, no special faculty, no peculiarity even, not one idea of one’s own, to be precisely ‘like other people’. To have a fortune, but not the wealth of Rothschild; to be of an honourable family, but one which has never distinguished itself in any way; to have a pleasing appearance expressive of nothing in particular; to have a decent education but to have no idea what use to make of it; to have intelligence, but no ideas of one’s own; to have a good heart, but without any greatness of soul… (Part IV. Chapter 1)

Profound? Yes. True? Make of it what you will. The only problem I have here is that he forgets one very important thing: emotion. It is also our feelings and emotions that set us apart and makes us unique. I suppose an intellectual like Dostoevsky would be forgiven for forgetting this…

NM 🙂


4 thoughts on “Quotes by an idiot. Oops, I mean THE Idiot

  1. I haven’t read “The Idiot” in years, but it was fun to read those quotes and ponder them. My novel-in-progress has an unlikely hero, not exactly a “normal” human being, but definitely one without much natural talent or training. He’s interesting because of his agreeability, and because he’s been diagnosed with a weak constitution (it’s a 19th century story) and kept inside most of his childhood. I’m hoping his emotions and his character growth will make him a real hero rather than an ordinary man being affected by society. We’ll see!

    • Nisha says:

      Hey your hero sounds almost like Prince Myshkin! Sickly, but very kind and simple. Kind of like a 19th century Forrest Gump.
      Like I said, I don’t believe in “ordinary” people. Every single person is unique or peculiar in some form or another; it just takes certain factors like the environment they live in, to bring out the best, or worst of their personalities out into the open.

      Thank you for your comment and good luck for your novel, sounds like an interesting read 🙂

      • There’s definitely a correlation between my character and Dostoevsky’s! Reading “The Idiot” really affected me years ago, and maybe subconsciously it has influenced this book. Yes–a 19th century Forrest Gump works too, especially as my character keeps finding himself in unusual situations, not always where history is happening, but definitely interesting moments. I feel like I know even more about my first draft after this little discussion. Thanks, Nisha!

      • Nisha says:

        We are all here to help and support each other, and your comments mean a lot to me as well. Thank you Laura! 🙂

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