The Powerful Character of Nastasya in The Idiot
Few of the principal characters in Dostoyevsky's novels are female. However, in his novel, The Idiot, we find one of his strongest female characters. Nastasya Filippovna, a proud, yet exploited woman, is by far one of Dostoyevsky's most intriguing characters. She has an instantaneous and dramatic affect on the characters surrounding her. Nastasya Filippovna has been systematically destroyed by her surroundings. She finds she is unable to survive in the society of her time. Valued by men only for her beauty or her possessions, feared by jealous women, Nastasya Filippovna succumbs to insanity and finally, her own murder. Believing herself to be guilty and in need of punishment and purification, Nastasya Filippovna fights yet, finally, submits herself to destructive forces that surround her.
Nastasya Filippovna, defined by her sensual beauty and remarkable looks, is already mentioned by page ten. Her presence remains strong throughout Book One and we may learn a great deal from this section about the proud Nastasya Filippovna. The most dominant feature of Nastasya Filippovna is her beauty. Even the Prince, who at first we may believe is not inclined to notice sensuality of women, is overwhelmed by her great beauty. Looking at her picture he calls her"astonishingly pretty"; he notes her"exquisite simplicity", her "dark, deep eyes" (31). Even from her youth Nastasya Filippovna's beauty has caused her to become the object of men's sexual desires. There are three men who are particularly dominant in Nastasya Filippovna's life prior to the arrival of the Prince: Afansy Ivanovich Totsky, Gavrila Ardalionovich (Ganya), and Parfion Semyyonovich Rogozhin.
Totsky is the first of the three men to become enchanted with Nastasya Filippovna. Living on Totsky's land with a German family, the orphaned Nastasya Filippovna developed into a "delightful little girl of about 12, a clever little thing, winsome and spirited" (42). Apparently she was also already showing "promise of extraordinary beauty; in this regard Afansy Ivanovich was an infallible judge" (42). Around sixteen, she was moved into her own home,"[a] fortnight later Afansy Ivanovich himself came visiting...After that he seemed to develop a particular fondness for this remote, steppe-land hamlet of his,..." (43). It appears Totsky engaged himself in an affair with her, taking from her her childhood, her innocence and her self respect. In a society in which female virginity prior to marriage and the chaste life is prized, Nastasya Filippovna has already been robbed of the decision to take control of her own sexuality.
It is this first sexual encounter that has fueled the intense self-destructive activities of Nastasya Filippovna. Resting quietly for four years, the young girl becomes a woman. Upon hearing a rumor that Totsky is to be married, the fierce fury of Nastasya Filippovna is wakened. Up until this point we have...