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The Brothers Karamazov | Study Guide

Fyodor Dostoevsky

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The Brothers Karamazov | Quotes


Why is such a man alive! Can he be allowed to go on dishonoring the earth with himself?

Dmitri Karamazov, Part 1, Book 2, Chapter 6

Dmitri Karamazov says this about Fyodor Karamazov after he reveals to those sitting in Elder Zosima's cell all of Dmitri's private business. He is managing to insult the honor of Katerina and imply that Dmitri is only interested in seducing Grushenka. His language is prurient and suggestive. He also brings up Dmitri's violence with the captain without providing context. Dmitri came to settle the money dispute with his father in good faith, and his father simply wants to discredit and humiliate him. Dmitri means that his father is such a despicable human being, he is amazed that his father is allowed to exist at all because he is a dishonor to the name of man.


I say a man falls asleep and does not wake up, and that's all. ... That is my philosophy.

Fyodor Karamazov, Part 2, Book 4, Chapter 2

Fyodor Karamazov has just been telling Alyosha that he needs all of his money and will not give any to his sons. He plans to live a long time and will need it to seduce women as he gets older. He asserts he wants to be "wicked" until the end, meaning a base materialist and unapologetic sensualist. His philosophy is to have fun in the here and now, because that is all there is to life. He also shows himself to be an atheist who has no fear of God.


If the devil does not exist, and man has therefore created him, he has ... in his own image and likeness.

Ivan Karamazov, Part 2, Book 5, Chapter 4

Ivan Karamazov is arguing about the evil of mankind and how people torture and kill for pleasure. People speak of the animal cruelty of men, he says, but that is an insult to animals, because no one can be as cruel as man. Thus, if the devil does not actually exist, then certainly people's image of the devil is based on their own evil. Moreover, in this quote, Ivan is playing on two famous quotes and refashioning them for his own purposes: the first is the biblical statement that man is created in the image and likeness of God; and the second, a famous quote by Voltaire that "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."


It's not that I don't accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket.

Ivan Karamazov, Part 2, Book 5, Chapter 4

Ivan Karamazov has just finished telling Alyosha about the torture of children to make the point that even if God renders higher harmony at the end of days, such harmony is not worth the suffering of even one child. If all of suffering, including that of children, is the price to be paid for truth, then truth is not worth the price. It does not comfort him that the torturers will suffer damnation and the children will be avenged. Moreover, he does not want the child to forgive the torturer. He chooses unrequited suffering rather than redemption. Therefore, he gives God back his ticket to higher harmony.


Each of us is guilty in everything before everyone, and I most of all.

Elder Zosima, Part 2, Book 6, Chapter 3

Elder Zosima is repeating the words of his brother Markel, who at the end of his life accepted God and attained an extraordinary depth of spiritual understanding. This is the key teaching of Zosima: that all men and women are brothers and sisters, and, therefore, responsible for one another. The corollary is that when someone commits a sin, everyone is guilty. When a person says they are guiltier than anyone, they acknowledge their bond with other humans and their shared original sin, which forestalls the judgment of others. Thus, when a person practices this doctrine, they practice active love and enlarge their compassion.


Love all of God's creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand.

Elder Zosima, Part 2, Book 6, Chapter 3

Elder Zosima represents faith, and Ivan represents doubt. Here, Zosima says exactly the opposite of what Ivan said in his rebellion. Rather than hand God back his ticket, Zosima embraces all of creation—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Zosima loves the sinner, too. He counsels that if a person loves each thing or person individually, they will come to love the whole world and will see God's mystery everywhere they turn.


You've gotten angry with your God now ... they passed you over for promotion.

Rakitin, Part 3, Book 7, Chapter 2

Rakitin is making fun of Alyosha. He is angry because Zosima's body stinks, and everyone was expecting a miracle in which his body did not become corrupt—something that is said to happen when a person is a saint. Alyosha has not lost faith in Zosima; rather, he is angry at God for allowing his beloved teacher to suffer disgrace. His feelings are not rational but make sense in the light of his emotions.


I came here looking for a wicked soul ... because I was ... wicked myself, but I found a true sister.

Alyosha Karamazov, Part 3, Book 7, Chapter 3

After Alyosha Karamazov gets angry because God has allowed Zosima's body to become corrupted, he takes Rakitin up on his offer to go to Grushenka's—presumably to be seduced. Grushenka teases him and sits on his lap. But when she hears his elder died, she immediately jumps off. Alyosha realizes she wants to spare him. He now applies Zosima's teaching—that he is more wicked than Grushenka. This immediately has a transformative effect on Grushenka, who is touched by his calling her "sister."


Tonight a falcon walked in, and my heart sank ... 'You fool, this is the one you love,' my heart whispered.

Grushenka, Part 3, Book 8, Chapter 8

Grushenka runs to Mokroye to meet with the man that abandoned and betrayed her and finds that he is a paltry specimen. She has been in love with an ideal that existed in her head for five years, which in no way resembles the real man who seduced her. When Dmitri walks in, she realizes that he is the one she loves. Thus, after she sends her exlover packing, she confesses her love to Dmitri.


He is a beast! He was sure I would go on trembling before him all my life out of shame for having come to him.

Katerina, Part 4, Book 12, Chapter 5

Katerina at first provides evidence in the trial that is favorable to Dmitri. She tells the court how she came to him for money to save her father and offered herself to him, and he acted honorably. When Ivan puts himself forward as the murderer, she panics and wants to save him. Thus, as evidence she submits Dmitri's incriminating letter. She also says he meant to throw her humiliation in her face for all of her life. But she is wrong about Dmitri. She judges him by her own yardstick of wanting to be superior to everybody.


We are wicked, sister, you and I! It is not for us to forgive! Save him, and I'll pray to you all my life.

Grushenka, Epilogue, Chapter 2

Grushenka addresses Katerina in this quotation. Katerina has gone to the jail at Dmitri's request, and he has asked her for forgiveness. They have a reconciliation, and then Grushenka unexpectedly arrives. Katerina feels guilty about betraying Dmitri in court. She does this to save Ivan. Now she is asking for Grushenka's forgiveness. She responds that neither of them is good enough yet to grant forgiveness. However, she acknowledges their kinship. Grushenka says that if Katerina saves Dmitri, Grushenka will be grateful all her life.

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