Pay Up To Be Sent Packing?
In Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, the self-contemptuous femme fatale, Nastasya Filippovna, puts herself up for auction among her admirers. The wretched obsessive Rogozhin offers his entire wealth, which she ultimately throws into the fire.
Dostoyevskian women generally keep their men on a string with vain hopes, bombarding them with wildly contradictory self-revelations and demands, but even if we attribute this to misogyny on his part, what shall we make of his male characters who dance on those strings? At least a man would probably have performed whatever he promised in return for 100,000 roubles; she is in breach of contract but no one even points this out.
Before we consider Nastasya Filippovna merely an exotic Russian type, we might remember Swann’s Odette. The key to the fictional demimondaine, as reported by her lovers, is being impossible to please, and capriciousness appears to elicit a strange kind of Pavlovian response in certain men. If there be anything in the male soul that really does respond to utterly unreasonable behaviour with obsessive cathexis, we would do well to embark on a programme of identification, study and ruthless uprooting of this something, starting yesterday.
In: CULTURAL ODDS AND ENDS, Hark, I Hear The Canon Roar!