The novel's protagonist, the 26-year-old Prince Myshkin, returns to Russia after several years at a Swiss sanatorium. Scorned by Saint Petersburg society for his trusting nature and naivety, he finds himself at the center of a struggle between a beautiful kept woman, Nastasya, and a jealous but pretty young girl, Aglaya, both of whom win his affection. Unfortunately, Myshkin's goodness precipitates disaster, leaving the impression that, in a world obsessed with money, power and sexual conquest, a sanatorium may be the only place for a saint. Myshkin is the personification of a "relatively beautiful man", namely Christ. Coming "from above" (the Swiss mountains), he physically resembles common depictions of Jesus Christ: slightly larger than average, with thick, blond hair, sunken cheeks and a thin, almost entirely white goatee. Like Christ, Myshkin is a teacher, confessor and mysterious outsider. Passions such as greed and jealousy are alien to him. In contrast to those around him, he puts no value on money and power. He feels compassion and love, sincerely, without judgment. His relationship with the immoral Nastasya is obviously inspired by Christ's relationship with Mary Magdalene. He is called "Idiot" because of such differences.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the new Pentecostal movement drew participants from the Holiness movement and other movements in America that already believed in divine healing. By the 1930s, several faith healers drew large crowds and established worldwide followings.
The first Pentecostals in the modern sense appeared in Topeka, Kansas, in a Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness teacher and former Methodist pastor. Pentecostalism achieved worldwide attention in 1906 through the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles led by William Joseph Seymour.
During the Azusa Street meetings, according to witnesses who wrote about them, blind, crippled or other sick people would be healed. Some of the participants would eventually minister extensively in this area. For example, John G. Lake was present during the years of the Azusa Street revival. Lake had earned huge sums of money in the insurance business at the turn of the century but gave away his possessions with the exception of food for his children while he and his wife fasted on a trip to Africa to do missionary work. Certain people he had never met before gave him money and keys to a place to stay which were required to enter South Africa at the dock. His writings tell of numerous healing miracles he and others performed as over 500 churches were planted in South Africa. Lake returned to the U.S. and set up healing rooms in Spokane, Washington.
Smith Wigglesworth was also a well-known figure in the early part of the 20th century. A former English plumber turned evangelist who lived simply and read nothing but the Bible from the time his wife taught him to read, Wigglesworth traveled around the world preaching about Jesus and performing faith healings. Wigglesworth claimed to raise several people from the dead in Jesus' name in his meetings.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Aimee Semple McPherson was a controversial faith healer of growing popularity during the Great Depression. Subsequently, William Branham has been credited as the founder of the post-World War II healing revivals. By the late 1940s, Oral Roberts was well known, and he continued with faith healing until the 1980s. Roberts discounted faith healing in the late 1950s, stating, "I never was a faith healer and I was never raised that way. My parents believed very strongly in medical science and we have a doctor who takes care of our children when they get sick. I cannot heal anyone God does that." A friend of Roberts was Kathryn Kuhlman, another popular faith healer, who gained fame in the 1950s and had a television program on CBS. Also in this era, Jack Coe and A. A. Allen were faith healers who traveled with large tents for large open-air crusades.
Oral Roberts's successful use of television as a medium to gain a wider audience led others to follow suit. His former pilot, Kenneth Copeland, started a healing ministry. Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, and Peter Popoff became well-known televangelists who claimed to heal the sick. Richard Rossi is known for advertising his healing clinics through secular television and radio. Kuhlman influenced Benny Hinn, who adopted some of her techniques and wrote a book about her.