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The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In The Brothers Karamazov, why is Grushenka a better mate for Dmitri Karamazov than Katerina?

Grushenka is a heart-centered individual, exactly like Dmitri Karamazov. She has intense, sometimes violent, emotions, and she has difficulty containing her emotions in the same way as Dmitri does. She has a checkered past, which is also true of Dmitri. Neither of the lovers are highly educated, and both of them are open and honest about their emotions. On the other hand, Katerina is of a higher class than Dmitri and is an educated woman. She disliked him when she first meets him, and makes herself believe she is in love with him only out of sense of misplaced gratitude. Katerina is ruled by her intellect and ideas, which is why she is a better mate for Ivan Karamazov. She admires and respects Ivan's intellect, and she has no respect for Dmitri who has proven himself to be an unreliable wastrel.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Part 4, Book 10 how does the relationship between Kolya and Ilyusha Snegiryov demonstrate the destructive consequences of withholding forgiveness?

Kolya, the older boy who takes Ilyusha Snegiryov under his wing, punishes him for hurting a dog by feeding him a piece of bread with a pin in it. Ilyusha learns this nasty trick from Pavel Smerdyakov and confides his distress to his mentor. In Part 4, Book 10, Chapters 4 and 5, instead of forgiving him for his error, Kolya turns his back on Ilyusha, thinking to punish him. But his punishment has serious consequences, including the continued bullying of Ilyusha by his tormentors. Moreover, Ilyusha's guilt about the dog, whom he thinks is dead, has a detrimental effect on his already poor health. Kolya withholds his forgiveness as well as the dog until it is too late to help Ilyusha. Kolya's lack of compassion for his young friend likely fueled the speed of his demise, and his judgment on Ilyusha created unnecessary pain and suffering in the young boy's life.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Part 4, Book 10 how does Kolya change as a result of Alyosha Karamazov's influence?

In Part 4, Book 10, Chapter 6, when Kolya sees how ill Ilyusha Snegiryov is, he is moved to tears. He tells Alyosha Karamazov that he is sorry to have waited so long to visit his friend. Kolya has been waiting to meet Alyosha for some time and wants the older man to like him and admire him for his precocity—he is already a budding socialist. Alyosha provides Kolya with affirmation. At the same time, he tells him he regrets that he is already being warped by "crude nonsense." Alyosha's active love disarms Kolya, and he confesses to Alyosha his fears and tells him his faults. Because Alyosha does not criticize or judge him, he wishes to take instruction from him.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Part 4, Book 11 why does Lise try to develop a relationship with Ivan Karamazov?

As related in Part 4, Book 11, Chapters 3 and 4, Lise has broken off her informal engagement to Alyosha Karamazov. She has a history of hysteria and is known to be a capricious child. When Alyosha comes to see her after she can walk again, she says she loves him but doesn't respect him, and she also accuses him of being the kind of man who would take a note to her lover without questioning it. Lise tells Alyosha that she has shared a violent and perverse fantasy with Ivan Karamazov, and then she gives him a note to take to Ivan. When Ivan gets this letter, he rips it up and says she is already "offering herself." Lise has mental problems, and she had become addicted to "disorder." She likely attempts to develop a relationship with Ivan to make Alyosha jealous. She is also aware of the triangle of Katerina, Ivan, and Dmitri Karamazov, so perhaps she perversely wishes to create a triangle of her own. She may also sense Ivan's own chaotic mental state and feel drawn to it, thinking he can commiserate with her.

In The Brothers Karamazov, how is Ippolit Kirillovich able to win Dmitri Karamazov's case against the famous defense attorney Fetyukovich?

Ippolit Kirillovich, the deputy prosecutor, believes that he is underappreciated in his job. He thinks he has special knowledge of psychology that helps him understand criminal behavior. When he hears that Fetyukovich has come to defend Dmitri Karamazov, he rises to the challenge and hopes that the prominent murder case will help renew his "flagging career." The two attorneys are old enemies in the professional sense, from their early days in Petersburg. In fact, Kirillovich does use psychology to create a likely story about Dmitri's behavior, and Fetyukovich puts his own spin on motivation and pokes holes in the district attorney's circumstantial evidence. Kirillovich more than holds his own against the defense lawyer, but what clinches his case is Katerina's letter in which Dmitri says he plans to murder his father.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Part 4, Book 12 which testimony creates sympathy for Dmitri Karamazov during his trial?

In Part 4, Book 12, Chapters 3 and 4, Dr. Herzenstube recalls when Dmitri Karamazov first came to town to discuss money with his father four years ago; one of the first things he did was visit the doctor to thank him for buying him a pound of nuts when he was a child. Herzenstube also remembered how Dmitri was barefoot and uncared for. This recollection reminds people of Dmitri's neglectful upbringing. The fact that Dmitri remembers being given a pound of nuts shows what a rare occurrence it was for anyone to take notice of him. Katerina's initial testimony also puts Dmitri in a favorable light. She tells the story of how she went to Dmitri to beg him for money for her father and how he gave it to her and then respectfully bowed. She does not tell the court it was his idea that she come or that he initially had bad intentions but changed his mind. Thus, Dmitri is painted as a man with a magnanimous and grateful heart.

In The Brothers Karamazov, why does Katerina initially become furious when she learns Grushenka will leave with Dmitri Karamazov when he escapes?

Katerina's emotions are not necessarily rational, which is often the case when jealousy or envy is involved, and her feelings are further complicated by her loathing of Dmitri Karamazov, spitefulness, and desire to continue punishing him for insulting and betraying her. Grushenka is Katerina's rival, and even though she does not want Dmitri, she is offended by his preference. Further, she initially feels resentment that, after all Dmitri has put her through, he will be allowed to escape with his desired love object and not stay around to be further lacerated by his ex-fiancée. Nonetheless, once Katerina betrays Dmitri so brutally in court, she feels remorse and becomes more committed to helping him escape. She finally accepts the idea that he has chosen Grushenka over her.

In The Brothers Karamazov, Part 4, Book 11 how does Pavel Smerdyakov misdirect the prosecutor Ippolit Kirillovich?

In Part 4, Book 11, Chapter 8, Pavel Smerdyakov explains to Ivan Karamazov that he carefully planned the murder ahead of time and actually advised Fyodor Karamazov to hide the money for Grushenka behind the icons, just in case Dmitri Karamazov tries to break in and take it. When he takes the money for himself, he rips open the envelope and leaves it behind, as someone who had never seen the package before might do. Dmitri, of course, has only heard about the money, so if he had taken the packet, he would have opened it to make sure it contained 3,000 rubles. Moreover, because he is not naturally a thief and would have thought the money rightfully his, he would not have worried about leaving evidence of the envelope behind. Smerdyakov leaves these "clues" and then hints at them when speaking to Ippolit Kirillovich, making him think that he came up with his analysis of Dmitri's psychology by himself. Thus, Kirillovich thinks that the ripped envelope clearly points to Dmitri.

In The Brothers Karamazov, in what ways does Ivan Karamazov give Pavel Smerdyakov encouragement or permission to kill Fyodor Karamazov?

Ivan Karamazov did not give Pavel Smerdyakov permission to kill Fyodor Karamazov, but he consciously did not protect his father after he was warned by Smerdyakov that Dmitri Karamazov might break in and kill him. On the one hand, he thought Dmitri not capable of the act, but on the other, he told Alyosha Karamazov that if viper were to eat viper, that would not be a bad thing. He witnessed Dmitri's violence with his father, and even if he thinks Dmitri would not deliberately kill his father, he could easily do so by accident—in a fit of rage. Even Alyosha questions Ivan's decision to leave after the violent quarrel between father and son. Smerdyakov has told Ivan that he is going to fake a fit and that Grigory and Marfa will be out of the way, following Grigory's back treatment. Thus, Smerdyakov indicates he is leaving the field open for Dmitri to commit parricide. In fact, when he confesses to Ivan, he says that at first he was only setting Dmitri up to commit the murder. Ivan had no legal responsibility to stay until things calmed down, but he had a moral responsibility. After Ivan decides to take the train to Moscow without going first to Chermashnya, he has feelings of dread, and when the train gets to Moscow in the morning, he wakes up thinking he is a scoundrel.

In The Brothers Karamazov, why does the devil appear to Ivan Karamazov?

Ivan Karamazov has an active conscience, and he begins to suspect that he is implicated in his father's murder. As he comes to the realization that Pavel Smerdyakov has committed the murder, seemingly on his behalf, he feels horror and revulsion and has a mental breakdown. The devil is the personification of Ivan's dark, unconscious desires. Thus, both Smerdyakov and the devil are synonymous with those desires, while Smerdyakov actually carries them out. In Ivan's view, all things are allowable if there is no God or immortality, so he can kill his father with impunity. But he does not really believe that. This is why the devil that Ivan sees regurgitates all of his philosophy and atheistic arguments. Ivan sees them as the cause of his father's murder, belonging to the same part of his mind that conspired with Smerdyakov to carry out the act.

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