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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 3 Book 9 Chapters 1 3 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 3, Book 9, Chapters 1–3 : The Preliminary Investigation | Summary



Chapters 1 and 2 return to earlier in the night. Pyotr goes back to Grushenka's to speak to her servant, Fenya, who tells him Dmitri admitted to killing a man, although all he said was that the blood on his hands was human (Chapter 1). Pyotr next goes to Madame Khokhlakov, because Dmitri, in his frenzy, joked that she had given him 3,000 rubles. Madame tells him Dmitri came to murder her, exaggerating the violence of his leave-taking. Pyotr asks her if she loaned him any rubles. She answers in the negative and then declares he must have killed his old father. Pyotr determines to go to the police commissioner.

Pyotr finds the commissioner playing cards with the local deputy prosecutor, Ippolit Kirillovich (Chapter 2). Also on hand is the young district attorney, Nikolai Parfenovich. Pyotr arrives just after they get the news that Fyodor Pavlovich has been murdered and robbed in his own house. According to Grigory's wife, Marfa, she was awakened by Smerdyakov's epileptic scream and then went outside to look for her husband and found him covered in blood. When she looked in her master's window, she saw that he was dead. Fyodor's head had been smashed, and someone recovered the pestle, which is presumed to be the weapon. The police commissioner leaves for Mokroye while the lawyers draw up an indictment.

Back at Mokroye (Chapter 3), Dmitri denies killing his father but says he killed the servant Grigory. They reassure him Grigory is alive, which brings Dmitri great relief. He recalls how Grigory took care of him as a child, after he had been "abandoned by everyone." Meanwhile, Grushenka takes responsibility for the crime, saying she drove him to it. Dmitri says he realizes it looks bad for him. His nature is noble, he says, even though he has done many "dirty things." Moreover, because he is "not so beautiful" himself, he had no right to consider his father so repulsive. He is moved by Grushenka's willingness to take on his guilt, saying he does not deserve it.


Pyotr investigates Dmitri's guilt because he feels responsible that he let a murderer get away. Because Dmitri has such a bad reputation and has committed many violent deeds, people exaggerate anything concerning him, which adds to his predicament. In many ways, he has brought this treatment upon himself by his own behavior. He did not confess to murder, as Fenya says, and he was gentle with Madame Khokhlakov, getting angry with her only after she refuses him money, and then he merely spit on the ground. Still, the response of the people negates the possibility of redemption, an essential component of the Christian worldview Dostoevsky espouses.

Ironically, Grushenka is the very embodiment of redemption, claiming responsibility for the crime and sacrificing herself for her former lover, admitting that she pitted the father against the son for her own amusement. She loves Dmitri and will remain faithful and loyal to him because, like him, she is a sinner who nevertheless is basically good. One of the themes that pervades the novel is that suffering leads to purification and redemption, and both Dmitri and Grushenka will be transformed by their ordeal.

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