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Literature Study GuidesThe Brothers KaramazovPart 4 Book 12 Chapters 6 9 Summary

The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Part 4, Book 12, Chapters 6–9 : A Judicial Error | Summary



The prosecutor's long summation recaps the history of the Karamazov family, equating it to Russia because the family members together encompass opposites (Chapter 6). He discredits Dmitri's claim that he carried half of Katerina's money around and argues that Dmitri was in his right mind and his crime was one of premeditation (Chapter 7). The prosecutor demolishes the idea that Smerdyakov could possibly be the murderer, painting a picture of him as a quaking lackey and citing the ripped envelope with hastily removed money as evidence the package was opened by someone who had not seen it before—a piece of "evidence" Smerdyakov left behind on purpose to incriminate Dmitri. Finally, he argues that Dmitri's plan to kill himself after one last fling with Grushenka, using the stolen money, is evidence of his guilt (Chapter 9).


The prosecutor uses his understanding of psychology to paint the Karamazov family as depraved and capable of spawning a murderer. The argument that the Karamazovs are Russia is one that the book has subtly been building. Each character in the family represents a paradox, as does Russia itself. It is a country that is undergoing radical reformation, even while it remains hopelessly far behind the rest of Europe. Its values are profoundly secular, while its practices are deeply religious. Its strength lies in its land and its people, but it privileges those who abuse them.

Ippolit uses psychological reasoning to analyze each participant's behavior in the murder drama, and because he has a good grasp of psychology, his assertions add up to a likely story. The amount of circumstantial evidence against Dmitri is overwhelming, and his violent behavior incriminates him. The prosecutor's assumptions about Dmitri prove Zosima's point that we are often misled in our judgments. Here, the evidence seems so clear against Dmitri, and yet he is innocent. No one truly knows what is in the heart of each man, except for God.

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