The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince Lyov, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. The 26-year-old Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin returns to Russia after spending several years at a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by the society of Saint Petersburg for his trusting nature and naivet , he finds himself at the center of a struggle between a beautiful kept woman and a virtuous and pretty young girl, both of whom win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin's very goodness precipitates disaster, leaving the impression that, in a world obsessed with money, power, and sexual conquest, a sanatorium may be the only place for a saint.
Dostoevsky's THE IDIOT is a powerhouse novel of passion and spiritual purity. Prince Myshkin, a Christ-like figure, is the meek yet steadfast holy fool who changes the lives of desperate men, fallen women, and yet stands a helpless witness to their passionate self-destruction.