Prince Mysjkin is an epileptic like Dostoyevsky himself. For a very large part of his life he has been in custody of doctors as he was in some kind of coma and was not awakened until he had elektroshock. That means that he steps out into the world as a fully grown newborn creature. To him only goodness and beauty exists. He simply is not able to see evilness and cruelty so when he meets these characteristics in the rich and spoilt people in the social circles that are opened to him he is not able to understand and to take it in. To him their cruelty and selfishness is unnatural and thus not real so he tries to mend the woes of first and foremost the young Natasha who is a so-called “fallen woman”. However, she is also a proud soul and hates being degraded by her past both in society and in her own eyes.
Unfortunately Prince Mysjkin fails to save this poor woman jesus a gospel of love when she is killed by the brute Rogosjin who is obsessed with her. This particular part of the book is hard to swallow for modern women who do not take too kindly to the concept of fallen women and their so-called irreparable sins. However, it is crucial for the plot as the Prince’s Christ like characteristics are exhibited by his instinctive understanding of her sufferings. Like Jesus he wants to heal, but not her body as he did. No, it is her wounded soul he is trying to heal, only she is too proud to accept his offer and pays for it with her life.
It is obvious that the novel is primarily about the mystery of selflessness and goodness. Evilness and selfishness are commonplace in this old Russia and not very interesting, whereas goodness is mysterious and intriguing, because what triggers it and how does it survive in a world of evilness? How does this child-man, this “idiot”-prince know so much about people and what makes him become this luminous and larger than life figure? It is his child like mind and eye that gives him his wisdom, but it is understandable that his surroundings do not take too kindly to him because in all he is and does he is like a gigantic magnifying glass, laying bare their all too human weaknesses. When the workings of the world finally dawns upon him after Natasha’s death he once again falls into a deep coma.