Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Brothers Karamazov (1)

The Brothers Karamazov (1). Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 1879/1880. New York: Airmont Publishing Co. 1966.

Why read it? First, it’s a mystery. Who killed Fyodor Karamazov? He deserved it. He was a tyrant.

Plot: “An old profligate, Fyodor Karamazov, is murdered and his eldest son is tried and convicted for the crime; all the sons of the Karamazov family, however, each In his own way, feel complicity and the need to atone for their part in the death of the old man.” p. 7. “The ‘punishment’ that comes to each of the brothers involved in the crime against their father is self-realization.” p, 9. [Introduction. O. H. Rudzik.]

The family? A group of people who work to help and support each other? Or a disjointed group of individuals with distinctly different personalities and motives?

“…emergence into light of the hurtful hostility felt by all sons to all fathers, by all men to all imposed authority.” p. 10. [Introduction. O. H. Rudzik.]

A study of character—symbolic of the essential traits of the Russian people? All the brothers’ personalities combine to compose a single complex human being?

Sample Quotes and Ideas:

“Immediately after the elopement Adelaida Ivanovna discerned in a flash that she had no feeling for her husband but contempt. …rumor had it that Fyodor Pavlovitch did not beat his wife but was beaten by her.” p. 12.

“He [Fyodor Karamazov] completely abandoned the child of his marriage with Adelaida Ivanovna, not from malice, not because of his matrimonial grievances, but simply because he forgot him.” p. 13.

Fyodor Pavlovitch was all his life fond of acting, of suddenly playing an unexpected part, sometimes without any motive for doing so, and even to his direct disadvantage.” p. 14.

“At her [his second wife’s] death almost exactly the same thing happened to the two little boys as to their elder brother, Mitya…completely forgotten and abandoned by their father.” p. 17.

“There was something about him [Alyosha] which made one feel at once…that he did not care to be a judge of others—that he would never take it upon himself to criticize and would never condemn anyone for anything. He never resented an insult.” p. 22.

Fyodor to Alysosha: “I feel that you’re the only creature in the world who has not condemned me.” p. 27.

“Though these young men unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices, and that to sacrifice, for instance, five or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply ten-fold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them as their goal—such a sacrifice is utterly beyond the strength of many of them.” p. 28.

“When you choose an elder, you renounce your own will and yield it to him in complete submission, complete self-abnegation…this terrible school of abnegation is undertaken voluntarily, in the hope of self-conquest, of self-mastery, in order after a life of obedience, to attain perfect freedom, that is, from self; to escape the lot of those who have lived their whole life without finding their true selves in themselves.” p. 29.

“…he [the elder, Zossima] had acquired the keenest intuition and could tell from an unknown face what a newcomer wanted, and what was the suffering on his conscience…sometimes astounded and almost alarmed his visitors by his knowledge of their secrets before they had spoken a word.”

Comment by RayS. You can tell from these quotes that Dostoevsky is a serious philosophical novelist who explores his characters in complex detail. The reader turns the pages in order to follow the revelations of character. The novel is not easy reading.

To be continued.

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