Monday, August 31, 2009

The Brothers Karamazov (10)

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.]

Sample quotes and ideas:

“Why can I not say that you accuse my client, simply because you have no one else to accuse?” p. 667.

“Despair and penitence are two very different things.” p. 669.

“What troubles me and makes me indignant is that of all the mass of facts heaped up by the prosecution against the prisoner, there is not a single one certain and irrefutable…. Yet the unhappy man is to be ruined by the accumulation of these facts.” p. 670.

“…the father is not merely who begets the child, but he who begets it and does his duty by it.” p. 673.

“…the Russian court does not exist for the punishment only, but also for the salvation of the criminal.” p. 676.

“If I’d been in the defense lawyer’s place, I should simply have said straight out: ‘He murdered him, but he is not guilty….’ ” p. 680.

“You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory…but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education…and, if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us…. Perhaps that one memory may keep him from great evil and he will reflect and say, ‘Yes, I was good and brave and honest then.’ ”

Comment: What I appreciated in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is the complexity of character and the idea that it is not just the murderer who has killed, but the many people who are complicit in the murder, even if not consciously.

The theme has been repeated at later times. I once directed a play, The Remarkable Incident at Carson’s Corners, by Reginald Rose. A railing breaks and a young boy falls to his death. As the play unfolds, it becomes clear that just about everybody connected with the school was, in some way, part of the cause of that boy’s death. In Stephen Crane’s short story “The Blue Hotel,” the Swede is killed in a fight with a gambler, but his death is the result of a number of different people who contributed to it, including the Swede who was killed, even if few of them recognized their role. RayS.

Next blog: Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II.

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