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[85] The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky (’07 Review)

bk.jpgDostoevsky met a young man named Ilyinsky, who was serving a 20-year sentence in prison for parricide. Never noticing any particular cruelty in this individual who was endowed with the most cheerful frame of mind, he did not believe Ilyinsky was guilty of the crime. Later he learned that the man had been cleared after serving half the term. The story of his life, ruined in the time of its youth, under such a terrible and unfounded verdict, became the subject of The Brothers Karamazov.

The novel adopts a most symmetric structure and is told with such perfect pacing that allows a gradual unfolding of events at the disposition of its sizable skein of characters. Dimitri Fyodorovich thrives to drive away the ghosts of his disorderly childhood, longed with all his soul to vindicate his father and embrace him. Unfortunately, he becomes entangled with two women and his passion for them led to a horrifying murder. The victim of the murder is his father, Fyodor Pavelovich, the wicked and sensual old profligate who treats his first-born with cynical jeers, suspiciousness and pettifoggery.

The conflicts within this nice little family, which dictates the main story line, are tightly wound in the first half. Wrapped around the obscure account of the murder and its aftermath is a theme so quintessential of Dostoevsky: coexistence of faith and unbelief remained with him all his life and ultimately found its way in the artistic expression. The irrational value of life and purifying effect of suffering and this arm-race of opposing religious views manifest into a universal human drama in the Karamazovs.

Sucked into this eddy of religious wrestle are Alyosha and Ivan. While Alyosha believes in God’s grace and good deeds, Ivan asserts that God chooses everything that is so beyond man’s strength that the truth, if any, salvation is not worth a heavy price. As Dimitri’s destiny is being determined, these opposing views break down and become irrelevant, for the case has come to a point in which the division of humanity into good and evil can no longer set him free, because the meands with which such division is drawn often roots in erroneous prejudice and preconceived ideas.

A man of stormy and unbridled character deserves all too well to be treated with prejudice. That everyone is preoccupied with his vices has set him on a wrong footing and thwarted the justice he deserves. Strict analysis of his character and actions consists of psychological insights that penetration to such depths could have taken place even at the slightest amount of deliberate and malicious prejudice with regard to the person of the defendant. It’s under this point that Dostoevsky asserts man should not have the right to decide about the rest of the mankind, who is worthy to live and who is more unworthy. This evokes the theme in Crime and Punishment.

The novel has an allure to hope that those good memories in life, those cherished moments, preserved from over the years from childhood, may imprint in our hearts and do us good in times of troubles. However meager these memories might be in Dimitri, it’s his youngest brother who assures everyone that such tender memories will help one withstand suffering, even where veritable lie is taken to be the truth. That Alyosha stands his conviction to the end makes him the hero of the epic.

Extended Reading:
[16] The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Karamazov

6 Responses

  1. I’d forgotten what a good book this was. I think I need to put it on my ‘re-read list’. Both reviews are so well written.

  2. It’s such a long time I read this book and all I remember how engrossed I was and could not put it down. Definitely one for the ‘re-reading’ list, but when? Your reviews are excellent.

  3. […] The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Second review. […]

  4. […] me, which another 15 years later has laid the formation of my thesis! It wasn’t until I read The Brothers Karamazov did I truly fall in love with […]

  5. […] seems so foreign to me now. Summer session begins on May 26 and the class will read three novels: The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, and The Master and Margarita. I’ll be reading these books along with my […]

  6. […] with my students from Russian literature class, I read Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and The Brothers Karamazov. To step outside of obligation, I would like to read some monumental novels along with some of you. […]

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