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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The train from Warsaw is heading towards St. Petersburg. The train is crowded, especially the third class compartments. In one of the third class cars, two young men are sitting opposite each other. One of them, who is of medium height and has a good build, looks pale but is clothed well for the bitter Russian chill. The other young man, who is also of medium height, has an impressive face but is sparsely clothed for the freezing November climate of Russia. The two young men introduce themselves and pursue a conversation. The first youth is Parfyon Rogozhin and he belongs to a wealthy family. He had run away from home when his father had punished him for spending all his money on a beautiful girl called Nastasya. He was recovering from a sickness in his auntís house, when he received the news that his father had died and left him a fortune. He is now returning home. The other young man introduces himself as Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin. He had gone to Switzerland for treatment of a disease of the nerves that resulted in epilepsy. Before he could be cured completely, his guardian had died and left him helpless. Thus, he was now returning to St. Petersburg in the hope of getting acquainted with his people.
As the station nears, Rogozhin invites Myshkin to his home and offers him money and clothing. Myshkin thanks his train companion for his generosity and promises to call on him in the near future. Thus, as Rogozhin leaves for the comfort of his home, Myshkin goes in search of shelter.
Dostoevsky interestingly introduces the central characters of the novel through their conversation. As the two young men get to know each other, they relate incidents from their life that connects up to the present. And as they talk, they reveal themselves. Both the men are of a similar age, but they are different otherwise. While Myshkin answers questions put by Rogozhin, Rogozhin volunteers a lot of information. Myshkin is reserved and restrained, but Rogozhin is open and outspoken. Myshkin is more of a listener than a speaker. Rogozhin is short- tempered and prejudiced. He gets angry with the other passenger who tries to take advantage of his wealth and snubs him. Only when the other man provides him information about Nastasya Philippovna, he turns his attention on him. However, he volunteers to help Myshkin because he takes a liking to him.
By presenting two young men of almost the same age, height and build, and making them face each other in the train, Dostoevsky exposes not only the contrast in their personalities but the irony of their situations. Myshkin is the last remnant of a royal family but has no money to call his own. He is also sickly. Rogozhin, on the other hand, is from an ordinary family but he has inherited wealth from his late father. Unlike the Prince, he is an energetic young man who wants to taste the best of life and have fun. Thus, as the two young men get down from the train, their attitudes are different. Rogozhin walks towards his home with hope, while Myshkin treads towards an unknown destination with doubts.