Darwin & Dostoevsky Passages

Alyoshas seizure demonstrates that illness may not be

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Alyosha’s seizure demonstrates that illness may not be a punishment for sin because Alexei is the most virginal of the brother’s Karamazov. Dostoevsky may
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be influencing the reader into thinking that illness may be unrelated to sins as he describes his own symptoms through Alyosha. Furthermore, Grigory’s sudden onset of back pain and Smerdyakov’s sudden fit, may represent the random nature of illness. However, there are instances were illness seems to result directly from an inner turmoil or repentance for sin. For example, Ivan’s sickness when he learns of his father’s death. “ ‘Why should I be informed as to Dmitri Fyodorovich? It’s not as if I were his keeper,’ Smerdyakov answered quietly, distinctly, and superciliously. ‘But I just asked if you knew,’ Alyosha explained. ‘I know nothing of his whereabouts, and have no wish to know, sir’” (226) Smerdyakov also formed a reaction formation against his mother and father and acts as a Cane-like brother towards Dmitri, unable to form a connection with anyone because of his inability to commit matricide against his image of his mother: Stinking Lizaveta. o Smerdyakov’s inability to form a connection is exemplified with his interaction between himself and the neighbor’s daughter. Every attempt the neighbor’s daughter makes to flirt with Smerdyakov he shoots down, unable to connect with a woman because he couldn’t remove the mother figure from his psyche. “ ‘You’re so smart about everything! How did you every amount to all that?’ ‘I could have done better, miss, and I’d know a lot more if it wasn’t for my destiny ever since childhood’” (224) o He dislikes his father just as much and eventually commits literal parricide. As a result of his disconnect from his mother and father he “seemed to despise the female sex as much as the male” (126). Each of the brother’s Karamazov exhibits some form of mental illness, or trouble in their psyche as a result of a disconnect from the mother, father, or both, unable to mature without matricide or parricide. o Smerdyakov has to overcome the likely truth that his father raped his mother and he was the result. He cannot forgive his father without ultimately betraying his mother. He ultimately kills his father as an actual parricide because he is unable to remove the father figure through forgiveness without betraying his own mother. o Ivan has a similar reaction as Smerdyakov, unwilling to take responsibility for, and form an attachment to, his family beneath a repressed image of his mother, and a hatred for his father. o “Am I my brother Dmitri’s keeper or something?” Ivan snapped irritably, but suddenly smiled somehow bitterly. ‘Cain’s answer to God about his murdered brother, eh?’ Maybe that’s what you’re thinking at the moment?
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