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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 1 Book 3 Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 1, Book 3, Chapters 1–2 : Sensualists | Summary



Karamazov lives in a large, ramshackle house, currently with his son Ivan (Chapter 1). The faithful servants, Grigory and his wife Marfa, live in a cottage on the property, along with their stepson, Smerdyakov, who is Ivan's age. Grigory is devoted, honest, and religious, and is able to exercise some influence over his master. Alyosha has also managed to affect Karamazov with his loving, nonjudgmental nature, and Karamazov has developed affection for his youngest son. Grigory lost his own infant boy a few days before he and his wife became stepparents to Smerdyakov, their only child. They found him in Karamazov's garden, after his mother, Stinking Lizaveta, had given birth to him and then died.

Lizaveta was a mentally handicapped and mute vagrant who lived in the town (Chapter 2), wandering in and out of shops and people's houses. Lizaveta was considered to be a "holy fool," and everyone took care of her as much as she would allow them to do so. One evening, a group of drunken men returning home saw her sleeping and said such an "animal" could not be considered a woman. Fyodor Karamazov argued against the others, saying the idea even had some "piquancy." Everyone went home, but six months later Lizaveta turned up pregnant, and Karamazov was rumored to be the father, although an escaped convict was also in the neighborhood at the time in question. Although the women tried to keep Lizaveta confined, she escaped and jumped down from the fence of Karamazov's garden to give birth. Grigory named the child Pavel, and everyone agreed his patronymic is Fyodorovich (son of Fyodor). Karamazov found this amusing and did not object, although he continued to deny his paternity. Karamazov invented his last name from his mother's nickname of Smerdyashchaya (stinking woman). Old Karamazov sent the young man to cooking school, and he now serves as a cook in Karamazov's house.


Until now, Fyodor Karamazov's villainy has been mainly comic; now it becomes brutal. If he is in fact Smerdyakov's father, he is more than a drunken opportunist: he is a rapist and a sadist, forcing his bastard child to work as a servant in his own home.

Smerdyakov doubles for both the father and the son in the novel. His name is the reverse of old Karamazov's name, Fyodor Karamazov. He is also the same age as Ivan. His character is thus an interesting study as a sort of cross-type between the two of them.

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