The Brothers Karamazov, one of his most celebrated works, is the final novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The author wrote it between 1880 and 1881 (mostly in Staraya Russa) and died less than four months after its publication, on 28 January 1881. The book portrays a parricide in which each of a murdered man’s sons shares a varying degree of complicity (or lack thereof) – at least one of them is guilty; the novel explores the faith, doubt, pride, and prejudice that permeate humanity. The novel consists of 12 chapters, each covering one hour in the lives of The Brothers Karamazov (hence its sub-title: The Preliminary Investigation).
The brothers are Alyosha, Dmitry, Ivan, and Alexei. The story begins with a parricide – or does it? The main plot is quickly dispensed with as Dostoevsky leads us onto another plane – the spiritual trial by which men live – to uncover great truths about human nature – love and self-sacrifice – above all else to demonstrate that only those who believe in God and strive to be like him can attain the truth that surpasses human understanding. The novel is steeped in Russian culture, folklore, and mysticism. The main themes are morality, religion, and redemption.
The events of The Brothers Karamazov take place against a backdrop of actual historical figures – Dostoevsky’s brother was imprisoned for participating in a mock execution – The mock executioners – an underground society who study judicial procedure with a view to better carrying out this type of murder (they eventually carry out the murder of Tsar Alexander II). The novel was written as one chapter per week over six months for publication in The Russian Messenger. The final chapter was published in December 1879, but it took another 19 years before The Brothers Karamazov was finished.
The characters in The Brothers Karamazov represent different aspects of Dostoevsky’s own psyche and life, and he attempted to resolve the conflicts that these diverse traits brought into his life through his detailed elaboration of them and their often tragic fates. The combination of this self-revelatory device and the novel’s other profound themes has ensured The Brothers Karamazov its place among the most memorable novels ever written.
Dostoevsky was at heart a romantic; however, due to unfortunate circumstances beyond his control (he was imprisoned for treason for three years after taking part in a society dedicated to overthrowing Czar Nicolas I), he became embittered against God and fate. The central theme in The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot (the novel Dostoevsky wrote immediately before The Brothers Karamazov) is redemption: The possibility of it, the desire for it, and the quest for this salvation.
The character of Alyosha, whom we can consider a Christ figure, represents hope; his brother Dmitri, who is the murderer in Brother Karamazov, represents love; their father Fyodor Pavlovich represents lechery or lust; Ivan Karamazov represents rationalism when its limits are reached; Smerdyakov represents evil when all boundaries are passed. Fyodor Pavlovich is seen in The Brothers Karamazov as an abject sinner. He constantly seeks carnal pleasure and is a lecherous, impious individual.
Dostoevsky uses The Brothers Karamazov to explore the outer boundaries of sin, but also show how Fyodor Pavlovich’s impiety comes from his own father’s hatred towards him, stemming from Fyodor Pavlovich’s childhood. In The Brothers Karamazov, the figure of The Grand Inquisitor represents an extremely powerful critique of institutional Christianity. The poem in question presents Christ in Seville during Holy Week in front of the newly installed inquisition, where He is told that if He returns to earth once more he will be imprisoned by men.
The story ends with Christ refusing to come down when offered freedom by The Grand Inquisitor, who claims that men need to suffer. The Brothers Karamazov is deeply concerned with the problems of religion and religious institutions. The Inquisition, The Grand Inquisitor’s beliefs, and The Legend of The Grand Inquisitor are all exposed as having no basis in Christ’s own teachings but rather being human corruptions of them.
This poem provides Dostoevsky with his opportunity to express his own views on Christianity and how he believed it should be practiced without challenging the Orthodox Christian Church itself. Dostoevsky had experienced bouts of epilepsy for most of his life–most notably during the time he wrote The Idiot, The Possessed (or The Devils),and, especially, The Brothers Karamazov. As a result, he often wrote about epileptic characters.
The personification of The Idiot, Prince Myshkin is an epileptic who has the power to “see into people” and understand their pasts and futures–but this gift also gives him extreme insight into his own epilepsy. The novel The Possessed focuses on the internal struggles of the men in The Possessed, which Dostoevsky believed were caused by political turmoil within Russia. Also, The Gambler discusses gambling addiction as a metaphor for life itself.
The following analysis will reveal the character-personality correlations and connections between Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, and its characters. At first glance, The Brothers Karamazov seems to be a novel based on nothing more than the story of a murder mystery involving three Karamazov brothers: Dmitri, Ivan, and Alyosha. The three brothers have different characteristics that distinguish them from each other in many ways. The most obvious dissimilarity is their personalities.
The eldest brother Dmitri is quite easy going compared to his siblings; he does not hold an abundance of intelligence but rather a large amount of ignorance instead. Although he has recently fallen in love with Katerina Ivanovna whose father’s estate was recently left to Dmitri (on the condition that he marry Katarina), he is also quite preoccupied with other women, especially Grushenka. The middle brother’s name is Ivan; his distinguishing personalities are an air of superiority and deep thought. He can be considered to be a philosopher due to his inquisitive nature.
The youngest Karamazov is Alyosha; certainly, he lives up to his name in more ways than one; this young man has the most important characteristics of Dostoevsky himself: love for mankind and religion. The three brothers have very unique views on life which reveal their characters’ inclinations toward certain ideals. The oldest brother Dmitri seems inclined towards a belief in fate and God’s will; after all, some events do seem to be directed by some force. The middle brother Ivan is inclined toward an atheist viewpoint and a disbelief of God or any other higher power.
The youngest brother Alyosha holds the same beliefs as Dostoevsky himself: that although there is no God as far as man can see, we must still believe in him and work on ourselves to become better human beings. The characters’ beliefs about life help show how they turn out in the end: who becomes a murderer and who does not. The five important female characters also reveal two sides of Dostoevsky: his deep love for women and his hatred towards them because of their “devilish” nature.
The five female characters are Grushenka, Katerina Ivanovna, Katya, Lise/Sofia, and Madame Khokhlakov. The first female is Grushenka; she is characterized as a strong-willed woman who falls in love with Dmitri almost immediately. The second female character is Katerina Ivanovna; her role is very small but essential towards the novel’s conclusion. The third female character is Katya; she represents Dostoevsky’s ideal wife: sweet, gentle, submissive (all qualities which he felt were blatantly lacking in women).