Slow-Read Sunday: The Brothers Karamazov, Part Three

Discuss the two previous parts here: Part One and Part Two. I recommend these sites for more information on The Brothers KaramazovDartmouth Resources for The Brothers KaramazovMiddlebury Study Guide.

If the past sections were about philosophy/ideas/religion then Part Three is where plot takes over. You can see Dostoevsky’s mastery of the murder-mystery genre.

Your reading of Parts Three and Four will be informed by the groundwork laid in the earlier parts. All the work you put in the previous parts comes to fruition as we see Dmitri put on trial. Part Three, in particular, is filled with death and debauchery.

Here are some areas for special consideration:

1. Why do those as devout as Alyosha still weep at the loss of men like Elder Zosima?

Alyosha weeps at the loss of Elder Zosima. p. 329. Has Alyosha’s faith been shaken? Does the odor change his perception of Elder Zosima? p. 329.

2. Alyosha leaves the monastery without permission, without caring what the monks thought.

Alyosha leaves because he had a sudden awakening to a “higher justice” which he believed “had been violated.” p. 339. What higher justice has Alyosha woken up to?

3. Alyosha’s rebellion

How does a Russian monk rebel? By eating vodka and sausage, of course. Bad joke, I know. I apologize.

4. The scene involving Grushenka and the onion fable.

Grushenka tells a fable about an onion. p. 352. What does the fable mean with regard to Grushenka? Alyosha? Mankind? Why might this fable have been so important for Dostoevsky?

Take this is a step further and you could try to analyze how the entire novel is like an onion. What evidence could you point to from this part that shows this is a novel of layers? Are the layers all connected in some way to the whole?

5. Dmitri’s comedy of errors.

We see the case made against Dmitri in two ways in this part. First, we see the debauchery unfold in real-time. Next, we see the same acts through the eyes of the investigators. When Dmitri is finally charged with killing his father it’s no surprise to the reader that they’d make that deductive leap. p. 444. It must have been important for Dostoevsky to lay out the case and have us understand it. Why was it so important for us to see how a deductive exercise like an investigation can fall short of finding the truth?

6. The image of the suffering peasant child.

Dmitri has a dream about a peasant child. p. 507. After this he gives a speech about how we’re all guilty, but maintains his innocence related to his father’s death. During this dream, Dmitri seems to be like Job. Bad things are happening in the world and it seems that he’s just now woken up to suffering other than his own. We see it when Dmitri asks, “why are the people poor…why is the steppe bare…why are they blackened with such black misery..why don’t they feed the wee one?” p. 507. After this dream, Dmitri’s face is “lit up with joy.” Why do you think he has this reaction to his dream?

Next Sunday I’ll point out what was important to me from Part IV and the epilogue.