Will Beauty Save the World?

Toward the beginning of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, the central character Prince Myshkin is shown a portrait of a young woman named Nastassya Filippovna by a Madame Yepanchin, his hostess. She holds Nastassya in contempt because her moral reputation is tarnished.

“So, you appreciate that kind of beauty?” she asks the prince.
“Yes. That kind—” the prince replies with an effort.
“Why?” she asks.
“In that face—there is much suffering,” he says, as though involuntarily, as though he is talking to himself.
“Beauty like that is strength,” one of the other women in the room angrily declares. “One could turn the world upside down with beauty like that.”

Nastassya is indeed physically beautiful. She is also suffering from her victimization (she was seduced by a wealthy guardian at a young age).

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