The Brothers Karamazov

This review may not do justice to this treatise on ethics, morality and god. I will not talk about all the books, there plot is arranged in books, except I will mention just a few parts in the novel that caught my attention, a brief description of the important characters and those conversations that grabbed my attention. I however encourage everyone to read it.

I had mentioned about this book in one of my recent reviews but I think it deserves a post on its own. The author of this book, Fyodor Dostoevsky died less than four months after it’s publication. He had meant this book to be the first part in an epic titled The Life of a Great Sinner.

The novel is a passionate philosophical treatise on ethics, god, morality and family. The author is a great story-teller. The novel is a first person narrative set in a small town in Russia. The major characters are the Karamazovs, who consist of the father Fyodor Pavlovich and sons Dmitri the ex- Lieutenant , Ivan the atheist and Alexey the young monk. Their father is an irresponsible daddy. He does not take care of his sons, who are taken care of by well wishers and their valet Grigory.

The major conflict in the book that ends in tragedy has two antagonisers; on one side the Karamazov family and on the other two ladies Katerina and Grusha who are presented as two very opposite ladies in way of character. Grusha we are made to believe is a lady of lose morals who is the source of conflict between father and Dmitri. Both of them are in love with her and here lies the greatest rivalry in the book. Katya though betrothed to Dmitri is also falling in love with Ivan or should i say Ivan has fallen in love with her. This however is not a source of conflict between the brothers. There is however a conflict between the two ladies that finally as we will come to see is the reason Mitya is destroyed.

We are introduced to all the major players in the story by book 3. There is a discussion between Ivan and Alexey, though it is Ivan who talks the most. The Grand Inquisitor, where Ivan shows Aloysha why rejects god’s world. He talks about the problem of suffering and the Spanish inquisition and goes ahead to give a hypothetical situation that even Jesus were to show up at that moment, the old bishop would have him killed.

The tragedy that I refer to is the murder of Pavlovich Karamazov and all the evidence when considered together point to Dmitri as the offender. The reader is however shown the real culprit, Smerdyakov, rumoured to be the illegitimate son of Fyodor and Lizaveta. There is an investigation and then the trial. It is the trial that interests so much, there is a blatant travesty of justice. The witnesses for the prosecution keep to their stories though the lawyer for the defense manages to show the witnesses are not reliable and that the evidence is all circumstantial. In his closing remarks, the prosecutor gives his greatest performance to all Russia. He grows through the whole case for the jury in his closing remarks painting Mitya as guilty of the murder of his father. Mitya, from the moment of his arrest has maintained he is a scoundrel but not a thief and that he is not guilty of the murder of his father. The prosecution is determined to have Mitya pay for the murder of the old man and doesn’t even try to look for a different suspect as we would expect from an impartial officer. The lawyer for the defense in his star performance shows in detail that the prosecutor’s case is based on circumstantial evidence and that in his closing remarks, the prosecutor has romanticized the whole case and he feels, rightly so, that his client is not guilty. He then raises an important question of who is father, laying ground that even if Mitya had killed Pavlovich, the man doesn’t deserve to be called a father. He is done nothing, other than begetting the sons, to be worthy of the title father. He is addressing all fathers in Russia and generally all parents and invokes scripture to make his case. Am saddened by the verdict of the jury, there is no way of explaining their attitude towards Mitya! It is a railroad all through, all circumstantial evidence and conjecture and the evidence from Katya, who gives two contradictory testimonies in the same court in the same day. I think the president of the court ought to have struck her evidence from the transcript.

In the final book, Epilogue, we are told of a plan to help Mitya escape. This plan arranged by Ivan who has been taken ill and Katya, we are told involved bribing some guards at one of the interchanges. In her visit to Mitya in the prison before the transfer, Katya and Grusha meet, and she [Grusha] gives a condition for forgiving Katya, that is freedom of Mitya. We don’t know every detail of this plan however and we don’t know whether it succeeded. The curtain closes with the Illusha’s funeral and Alexey imploring the boys to love one another and to always remember each other.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

2 thoughts on “The Brothers Karamazov

  1. Daniela says:

    It is a fantastic book, and as in all his work Dostoyevsky is the great story-teller, social analyst and witness of his time.


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