The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Epilogue, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Unconscious Ivan is being cared for by Katerina (Chapter 1). He had left her the plan for Dmitri's escape, along with money, in case he became ill. When Alyosha comes to visit, Katerina explains that on the night before the trial, when he found them quarreling, she had become furious when she learned Grushenka would escape with Dmitri. Ivan took that as a sign she still loved him. That is why she called Ivan back and said he had convinced her of Dmitri's guilt. She did it for spite, to hurt him, and she believes he testified in court to prove to her he was noble. She is also suffering because of her betrayal of Dmitri in court. Katerina wants Alyosha to give his blessing to the escape plan so that Dmitri will agree to it. (He has been sentenced to 20 years of penal servitude.) Alyosha is in favor of the plan, but he has been sent by Dmitri to ask Katerina to come to the jail and show herself in the doorway.

At the jail, Dmitri admits to Alyosha that he does not have the strength to do 20 years of hard labor (Chapter 2). Moreover, he will not be able to endure incarceration without Grushenka nearby. Alyosha says he is innocent and is not ready for such a cross, which is why it is best for him to escape and work hard to keep alive the regenerated man he discovered in himself in jail.

Katerina does come to the jail, but instead of simply standing there, she enters for a heartfelt reunion. Dmitri asks if she has forgiven him. She tells him he does not need her forgiveness because "all my life you will remain a wound in my soul, and I in yours—that's how it should be." When Katerina gets up to go, she sees Grushenka, who has come in quietly. Katerina asks for forgiveness from her, but Grushenka replies, "'We are wicked, sister, you and I! It's not for us to forgive. Save him, and I'll pray to you all my life."

Analysis

Katerina has always loved Ivan, but she initially gets angry that Grushenka is going with Dmitri because she still feels the humiliation of Dmitri's rejection and his preference for Grushenka over her. It is an insult to her pride. Ivan misunderstands that anger, which is why he thinks she still loves his brother. But she punishes him severely by claiming he convinced her of Dmitri's guilt. This is not true, but it pushes Ivan to visit Smerdyakov one last time, which results in his learning the truth about the murder and his subsequent collapse.

Alyosha has been in favor of the escape plan all along because he knows Dmitri is innocent and will be destroyed by a prison sentence. He wants his brother to have a second chance to become a new man. Katerina will never be able to forgive Dmitri, despite what she says. In the final analysis, Grushenka is much the superior woman. She is honest about her feelings, and her love is unselfish in a way that Katerina's can never be. She is not concerned about forgiveness or appearing in a good light. While Katerina knew was bad shape Ivan was in, she did not hesitate to hurt him on the night of his collapse to satisfy her own pride and rage. On the other hand, Grushenka's entire being is focused on saving Dmitri. Even though she hates Katerina, she will be eternally grateful to her rival if she is able to pull that off.

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