The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky Part Four


Before delving in to Part Four, I’d like to apologize for not posting on Part Three and for not posting at all over the last (almost) two weeks. I have just felt awful, and my energy level has been at about a 1.5. I was reading, but I barely even made it into my office or near my computer. I am finally feeling a little better and actually did finish The Brothers Karamazov in correlation with other bloggers and the ever-gracious Dolce Belleza. It has truly been a pleasure to know others out there are reading and struggling with sections but also to see what sections of the book engaged other readers. I really enjoyed reading other bloggers’ notes and perspectives, so thanks to all!

After the tediousness of Part One, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. Sure enough, the same elements that bothered me early on continued to bother me. I still say the novel was much too wordy. Parts of the narrative of the trial were painful, and as a former legal secretary I have sat through painful trials. This had to be the worst. The women were idiotic and beyond annoying. I couldn’t identify with any of their ridiculousness, and I don’t like that Dostoevsky didn’t really bother to flesh out his women and make them more believable.

However, (and that’s a whopping big ‘however’) I can honestly say I liked this story. As I mentioned in a comment in Dolce’s wrap-up, the more bloggers commented on the identity of the murderer, the more I had the inkling Dostoevsky would leave us without the satisfaction of a smoking gun killer. It was interesting that there is no finality, no neat wrap-up to this whodunnit. For an avid mystery reader, I really thought I would be more bothered by this, but I wasn’t for a couple of reasons:

  1. I really think Smerdyakov was the killer. Had Ivan not taken the money from his room, everyone would have known Smerdyakov was the killer once he hanged himself. I found him a despicable character from the beginning, more so because I think he was intelligent and yet manipulated everyone around him. I am thoroughly aware of his position and status, but I expected more of him. He could have been valiant and still prideful, but his pride goes beyond Dmitry and even Ivan. He’s intensely proud, which is ultimately what I believe leads to his suicide. He cannot survive as a pawn.
  2. It doesn’t really matter. Each character has base, vile intentions (with the exception of Alexei), and Karamazov was universally hated. Each person he came into contact with was repulsed, angered, and yes, maybe a little fascinated by him. He was so self aware. He knew he was despicable, yet he goes out of his way to continue to be so. Sadly enough, I was ready for him to die. I was so thoroughly repulsed by him, and even during Dmitry’s trial, there comes a moment when the attorneys talk about patricide and how each present wishes he/she had committed the crime. I don’t really buy into that, but I certainly think you can sympathize with Ivan and Dmitry for wanting to be rid of their father’s shadow.
  3. The ending plays out so well, showing innocence exists but for such a short amount of time, and that all are guilty and should be judged accordingly. Dmitry knows this. Ivan understands this before and during his illness. Even Alexei, sweet, innocent Alexei knows this. He even tells Dmitry that had he committed the crime, he would not want him to escape but to serve his time. Hardship is inevitable, but the form that hardship takes can be changed or maneuvered.

As Dolce mentions, I certainly see this as a love story to Alexei, the son Dostoevsky lost, as even in the ending Alexei is extremely naive, telling the boys and friends of Ilyusha:

“You know, boys,” Alyosha said, “you needn’t be afraid of life! Life is so good when you do something that is good and just.”

Dostoevsky paints a picture of his son as he will always be: sweet, innocent, and in love with life no matter what befalls him. Alexei feels things intensely as do all the brothers. This may be a very ignorant statement, but having now read a couple Russian novels, that seems to be the trademark – intense, powerful emotion tends to rule the characters, to their benefit or detriment. I think that’s why I have difficulty identifying with the characters and yet, it is this same overflow of emotion that makes the characters endearing.

Overall, I’m glad I made it through The Brothers Karamazov, and I am so grateful to Dolce for giving me the ever-so-gently kick in the pants to pick this one up from my bookshelf!

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10 responses to “The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky Part Four

  • Shelley

    I didn’t do a Part 3 either! I just read all the other posts.
    As I was reading I didn’t get the sense that we wouldn’t find out who the killer was, I just felt like Dostoevsky didn’t seem to care who did it. It seemed like the least of his concerns. I agree, the women were very annoying! I thought Grushenka would be a strong character until she started freaking out in Part 3. I think they all needed sedatives.

  • Bellezza

    What a thorough review, and I agree with you on every point. I wonder if Smerdyakov’s heritage (born a bastard, abandoned by his mother) had much to do with his character. Sometimes people overcome their unfortunate history, and somnetimes they don’t; like you, I saw him as manipulative and sneaky throughout the entire novel. At no point did I see him try to rise to anything nobel, and I conclude that he is the killer with you. I was frustrated, though, that it wasn’t clear cut, in case I’d missed something major in the story!

    I’m so glad that you read along with us, and that you’re feeling better. I’m glad to read your reviews and thoughts because they help mine coalesce as I ponder this novel.

    • pickygirlfoodfilmfiction

      I am absolutely sure it has something to do with his heritage. As you say, they don’t always overcome it, and I see it making Smerkyadov bitter and intensely angry. I think his confession and explanation was as clear cut as it was going to be, but I certainly understand your frustration.

      Reading everyone’s thoughts was really my favorite part of reading this book. Lately I have read that some bloggers are annoyed when multiple bloggers are reading the same thing (I can understand that if they’re not involved), but from my perspective it is incredibly interesting and helpful. Thanks again!

  • Steve Holt

    Where is the resolution of Dmitri? Earlier in the book Dostoevski alludes to the fact that he dies shortly after the trial, but this is never resolved. Dies how? Any thoughts?

  • Amateur Reader

    Steve – Dostoevsky actually planned a sequel to Karamazov, but died before beginning it.

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