“The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” is considered as a fantastic story, though it is a complex philosophic story dealing with important social, religious and existential issues. The theme of social injustice, bordering on the moral ugliness is widely used by Dostoevsky in order to reveal the weak points of human spirituality. The author often resorts to the religious topics in his literary works in educational and moral purposes.
“The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” discloses the problem of social imperfection and hypocrisy hiding the indifference; and the importance of the spiritual transformation of every person in order to make the whole world better. The characters of Dostoevsky’s literary works are complex, with difficult inner feelings and deep examination of their selves. The same thing happens with the character of this story.
The second part of the story starts with his gloomy and oppressive thoughts concerning his inner state. The reflections of this type are quite typical for Dostoevsky’s characters. The passage presents a deep philosophical insight into the mind of a person suffering from inner discord and self-doubts: “I saw clearly that as long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions.”
Once he was a good, kind man, who loved his parents and felt compassion for other people. The time and treatment of other people have subdued him and his inner world to the rigidity of the outer world. And this has led him to the suicidal thoughts. At the same time he is not completely indifferent, he feels ashamed for not having helped the girl: “I had felt pity that evening. I should have certainly helped a child. Why, then, had I not helped the little girl?”
He is concerned with deeper problems of higher order, concerning the perception of reality, the state of a person after death: “I shall turn into nothing, absolutely nothing. And can it really be true that the consciousness that I shall completely cease to exist immediately, and so everything else will cease to exist, does not in the least affect my feeling of pity for the child nor the feeling of shame after a contemptible action?”
The complexity of the inner world of the characters makes Dostoevsky’s literary works of great value. His works create a new world, new reality, where nothing seems to be so easy, and everything depends on the inner choice and inner conclusions of every character. The magic of his works is that they seem unreal, at the same portraying reality with frightening trustworthiness.
One of the peculiar features of Dostoevsky’s style is the indirect description of his characters, which means he does not simply define their state of mind, inner world and conflicts by just stating them. On the contrary, the inner conflicts and nature of his characters are revealed through their direct actions, utterances and inner monologues. This approach gives the reader space to think about, to analyze and to make proper conclusions on what is going on in the novel.
I agree with the Bakhtin’s statement concerning the fact that “Dostoevsky’s narrations function as much to withhold the key information from the reader as to provide it”. Dostoevsky provides only information necessary for the reader to get the general idea about the character, not more and not less. Everything else is presented throughout the action and thoughts of the character.
In Dostoevsky’s famous novel “The Idiot” there are several major characters, which are presented throughout the novel in constant progress and changing. The main character of the novel is Prince Myshkin, whom the author intended to depict as “a completely beautiful human being”. Not much is known about his past, except the illness he is suffering. Myshkin appears before the reader as a pure and compassionate creature, the embodiment of goodness. The background about his past is not necessary to the reader for the complete perception and understanding of his character. The lack of background information is compensated with the abundance of his thoughts and inner monologues, giving information sufficient to understand him and his interactions with the other characters, and, which is of utmost importance, he makes conclusions about the other characters.
The character whose inner state is presented in a different way is Anastassya Filippovna. The author provides the information about her varied past, leaving the space for the reader to think up the missing episodes. The author never provides her inner thoughts. The only ground for making meaningful conclusions concerning her personality is her actions and relations with the other characters, especially through her relations with Parfyon Rogozhin and Prince Myshkin. Though Dostoevsky doesn’t provide the information about her inner state, he skillfully depicts it throughout the plot of the story. As a talented psychologist, Dostoevsky depicts her inner state through the actions and dialogues and through the perception of the Prince Myshkin. She is a contradictory character, who seems on the one hand cruel and composed, but on the other – deserving compassion and love.
One more important character in the novel, which exemplifies the author’s narrative style, is Aglaia Epanchina. The author gives no information about her past, but it is not difficult to imagine the life of a family of the well-to-do Russian general. Aglaia is the youngest in the family and she differs from her sisters not only outwardly – she is extremely beautiful, but with her inner world as well. How do we know this? This is revealed throughout the novel, especially through her relations with Prince Myshkin. She understands the queer ideas of the prince, which everyone attribute to his illness, she even shares these ideas. To her family, especially mother, she seems a dreamy girl obsessed by her unreal passion, and probably this is true for her at the beginning of the novel. But this character is shown in a progress, and at the end of the novel it is a completely different woman.
These two characters prove Bakhtin’s statement that “as author he keeps his characters free to change in surprising ways by omitting information about their earlier life”.
One more distinctive feature of the Dostoevsky’s style is that he doesn’t make any conclusions about his characters himself, as Bakhtin stated it: “he tends not to take a clear position towards his character or towards their stories as a whole”. This is one of the distinctive features of the Dostoevsky’s psychological insight. His novels are deprived of the personal assessments. He does not provide any evaluation of his character’s actions; he leaves it all up to the reader. At the same time the character’s actions are deprived of the definiteness. All the characters are complex and overflowed with feelings, which is so typical of Dostoevsky’s novels. One of such character is Parfyon Rogozhin, who is the embodiment of uncontrolled passion. On the one hand he believes in God and deeply respects Prince Myshkin for his nobility and goodness – they exchanged their crucifixes worn on the neck, which is the symbol of fraternization; and next moment, possessed by his destructive passion and jealousy, Parfyon tries to kill the prince. On the one hand this character causes the reader’ pity, because he is suffering from his love and from Anastassya Filippovna’s attitude towards him, and somehow his actions can be justified. But on the other hand he is the cause of the other’s sufferings and his actions are destructive.
Due to all the complexity of the characters and situations created by Dostoevsky, his works are full of tragedy, caused by human weaknesses and passions. At the same time, through all this inevitable tragedy the author caries the idea of the above good, hinting at the Christian values of love, kindness and compassion. All these ideas are found in his novel “The Idiot”. Bakhtin has very exactly characterized his style concerning the depiction of the characters – ambiguous, deep and complex at the same time.