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'The Idiot'
Page Count
Word Count
New Statesman
Publication Year
Childhood, Simpletons, Religion

A story about a mentally-retarded boy who, having mistakenly left church with a coin from the collection plate, then interprets a thunderstorm as punishment.

Late that night, after convincing the bewildered minister to accept the coin, the boy then feels the 'calming earth, the sweet air, the fresh-smelling trees and the stars ...all whispering to him: The storm is over, the storm is over. And he began to sing.'

About one of his last visits to church, Bates would write that 'so far had my contempt for organised religion advanced by that time that I spent the whole duration of the sermon reading a volume of Tchechov's stories thinly disguised between the covers of a hymn-book...The next morning I sat down and wrote a story called, not inappropriately, The Idiot, the genesis of which had started in the middle of a hymn whose every word, like those of many more, I knew and still know by heart. I had now, in fact, reached the stage my grandfather had reached so long before me. He had long been sick of 'popery, humbug and singing in night-shirts' and now, I on a a parallel plane, but in a different faith, was sick too.' (The Vanished World, p. 179).

In The New Statesman (October 23, 1926), Day's End and Other Stories (1928),Thirty Tales (1934).