Dostoevsky wrote The Idiot after his much praised Crime and Punishment, so it is only fitting that this novel wouldn't have received the same acclaim of this masterpiece. And, while this novel doesn't have the sharp, precise narration and pull that Crime and Punishment had, it still is a significant work for what it strives to accomplish--the depth of the individual spirit.
Dostoevsky once wrote, "They call me a psychologist. That is not true, I'm only a realist in the higher sense; that is, I portray all the depths of the human soul." It's fitting he said this, because this novel exacts this same belief in many ways--many of the characters save the hero Prince Myshkin are greedy, shallow, conceited, scandalous, and back-stabbing. Yet with all the negative aspects of society, Myshkin brings a benevolent force and reaction to those who encounter him--some are affected in a positive light, if only for a small amount of time, while others remain without change. The great contrast gives credence to the depth of Prince Mushin, and for the most part makes his title "the idiot" quite ironic. His soul is examined and tested in many facets of life.
Prince Myshkin's "immovability" is depicted in encounters with various scandals and controversies. He doesn't change to conform to the conditions of society, and often doesn't seem to be swayed by greed or other pleasures, which sometimes leads to a strange reaction for those who meet him. Consider his first encounter with Aglaia and her family, when Madame questions him about who he is. Rather than being typical, he relates a story about Maria in the Swiss village and this gives a clue as to his idea of what love is. He feels a genuine pity for a girl, despite the fact that he doesn't really "love" her in a serious sense. This tale illustrates the sacrifice that the Prince often makes for people. This story makes a deep impact on Aglaia, even though she often laughs at Myshkin for his simplicity. Dostoevsky does a fantastic job of making the Prince both innocent and introspective at the same time; he is more reflective than other characters and is driven by philosophy and good will rather than worldly gains.
The main crux of the story is Prince Myshkin and the love triangle between two distinctly different women--Aglaia and Nastassya Filippova. Aglaia, despite her childlike quality, seems to have instances where she is close to bursting forth into adulthood. However, her restlessness makes it difficult for anything to happen between her and the Prince. Meanwhile, Nastassya Filippova is a character who is outwardly a scandalous woman unfavorable and unequal to the Prince. Inwardly, she is has moments when it appears that there could be some genuine love for the Prince, but these are negated by her relationship with Rogozhin. One of the flaws of Prince Myshkin is trying to appeal and love both women in his singular way. He ultimately must choose, but cannot.
There are some moments when the novel gets a bit bogged down with its "soap opera" like quality or long winded-speeches, but, still, this is a novel with many redeeming qualities. I think this one will appeal much more to those who have already read Dostoevsky and understand his style.