Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 1 Book 3 Chapters 3 5 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 1, Book 3, Chapters 3–5 : Sensualists | Summary



After the scene at the monastery, Alyosha heads off to see Katerina Ivanovna (Chapter 3) and accidentally runs into his brother while attempting to take the shortcut. Dmitri is loitering in a burned-out gazebo in the garden of the neighbors who live next to their father. Dmitri is in an exalted mood, and alternates between quoting lines of poetry and speaking in stream-of-consciousness fashion.

In Chapter 4, Dmitri confesses to cruelty and depravity and calls himself a bedbug and an insect. He tells Alyosha anecdotes about his military life in which he took advantage of women and then relates the story of how he became engaged. Katerina, the noble daughter of a colonel, was sought after for her beauty, education, and intelligence. Katerina haughtily ignores Dmitri, and he desires revenge. Later, the colonel gets into trouble over 4,500 rubles of embezzled funds and faces court-martial. Dmitri tells Katerina's half-sister to send Katerina to him and he will give her the money, because he has just received a handout from his father (his last). When Katerina comes to Dmitri to sacrifice her honor for the sake of her father, he simply hands her the money and bows to her. She, in turn, bows down to the ground to him and runs out.

Dmitri finishes the story in Chapter 5, explaining that Katerina unexpectedly became an heiress a few months later, returning the money and offering herself as his bride—to be "the rug you walk on." She wants to save him from himself. Dmitri accepts, sending Ivan with the message, and he promptly falls in love with Katerina himself. Dmitri gets engaged, although he now believes Katerina should marry Ivan. He wants Alyosha to take a message to her that he is breaking off the engagement and that he bows to her. He has been seeing Grushenka, and recently went on a spree with her with the 3,000 rubles that Katerina gave him to send to her sister in Moscow.

Dmitri believes his father has a moral responsibility to give him the 3,000 rubles he needs to make a clean break with Katerina, and wants Alyosha to ask him for it. In the meantime, he has learned from Smerdyakov that the old man has packaged 3,000 rubles for Grushenka, which he keeps in his house if she will come to him. Old Karamazov wants to send Ivan to Chermashnya for a few days to sell a woodlot, hoping Grushenka will come when Ivan is gone. Dmitri, meanwhile, is keeping watch in the garden out of jealousy.


Dmitri exhibits some of the same depravity as his father, and he equates his sensual nature to an insect nature, a symbol that is used repeatedly to indicate the life of the flesh divorced from mind and spirit. While Fyodor Karamazov lives primarily at the level of an insect, there is more to Dmitri. Katerina comes to him so that he can have intimate sexual relations with her in exchange for the money that will save her father. "She was beautiful at that moment because she was noble ..." Dmitri tells Alyosha; "she was there in ... magnanimity ... and I was a bedbug." He thinks that he will propose to her the next day, but in an instant realizes that she will refuse him. He looks at her for a few moments with "terrible hatred—the kind ... that is only a hair's breadth from love, the maddest love," and chooses to be noble.

Katerina's desire to sacrifice and even humiliate herself for Dmitri's sake is actually the manifestation of a terrible pride. "She loves her own virtue, not me," Dmitri tells Alyosha, and there is a sense in which she cannot forgive him because she approached him in her moment of vulnerability. She is a study in ressentiment, a psychological and philosophical term first used by the philosophers Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, which means a feeling of humiliation, resentment, or injury that cannot be expressed directly. Feelings of ressentiment are often satisfied through a type of spiteful self-injury that makes the resentful person feel superior to their enemies. Thus, Katerina wishes to be Dmitri's "rug."

He instinctively understands that Katerina both loves him and hates him. She deliberately tempts him with the money, knowing she will offer him forgiveness afterward if he decides to spend it on her rival. Dmitri genuinely loves Grushenka, however, which is why he wants to break it off with Katerina. Yet, he has dishonored himself and needs to return the money to her, and he thinks his father should give it to him. No doubt old Karamazov has heard about the 3,000 rubles he spent on the party, which is likely why he offers Grushenka the same amount of money if she will come to him.

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