The Brothers Karamazov Part IV and Epilogue: Hope and Redemption

The main thrust and climax of the novel is in Part IV with the courtroom drama of Dmitri on trial for killing his father Fyodor Karamazov. Worthy of any writer of legal thriller to emulate, both the prosecutor Ippolit Kirrillovich’s and the defence attorney from Moscow Fetyukovich’s closing speeches are epic in their scope.

The trial is a spectacle not only locally but the case has ‘resounded throughout Russia.” It would have been a viral streaming in today’s online media. Interesting to note that the opinion of Dmitri’s guilt is divided along gender lines: “many ladies quarrelled hotly with their husbands” as they like to see an acquittal while men want Dmitri locked up and sent to Siberia. Now, such polarized views within a family is another phenom we’re familiar with nowadays.

Prosecutor Kirrillovich knows how to pull the strings of the jury made up of twelve men. They all have preconceived ideas of what the name Karamazov stands for: sensual, unprincipled, depraved. They’ve come to take revenge on a reckless murderer who has committed parricide. The Brothers Karamazov could well have inspired Sidney Lumet’s classic film 12 Angry Men.

Kirrillovich’s beginning remark is notable. While the case has caught raving interests across the country, the alleged cudgelling of a father by his son with a pestle is no longer a surprise, and that’s his commentary on society at large:

“We’re so used to all that! And here is the real horror, that such dark affairs have almost ceased to horrify us! It is this, and not the isolated crime of one individual or another, that should horrify us: that we are so used to it… our lukewarm attitude towards such affairs, such signs of the times, which prophesy for us an enviable future?”

Signs of the times? In 1880? Just wonder what Dostoevsky would think if he were around today.

Defence attorney Fetyukovich draws the twelve men of the jury from their emotions back to rationale, for the evidences presented by the prosecutors are circumstantial as no one has actually seen Dimitri commit the murder. ‘Since he was in the garden that night, he must have killed him’ just wouldn’t stand as an argument, the same with since he had money with him that night, he must have stolen from his father for the sum after killing him. Above all, that Dmitri is ‘stormy and unbridled’ and has offended many in town doesn’t lead to the conclusion that he is the murderer.

That is precisely the war waging inside Dmitri, while he may be reckless and unscrupulous, and admittedly a scoundrel, he’s also a passionate human being, honest with his feelings and thoughts, and earnestly seeks spiritual redemption for his sins. But the murder of his father he vehemently denies.

Who killed Foydor Karamazov? Before he hangs himself, the lackey Smerdyakov has confessed everything to Ivan, including the premeditated faking of a debilitating fall as an alibi, the detailed sequence of events, the actual weapon used, and how he hid the money stolen from the old man. So, it’s unfortunate he didn’t live to confess in court. Did he kill himself to frame Dmitri? I’m inclined to think so, a scheming fool such as he. Smerdyakov reminds me of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield.

While leading the jurors to use their rationale in the first part of his speech, the orator Fetyukovich appeals to their pathos later to conclude. Alluding to Christ and other Biblical references, he calls for the salvation and regeneration of a soul. Dostoevsky has presented a foil between the prosecutor and the defence attorney: one calls for judgement, the other, mercy.

In the forward of the novel, the author has stated that his hero is the youngest son Alyosha, the one who comes out of the monastery and goes into the world. But in the courtroom chapters, Alyosha plays a minimal role. In the wrapping up of the whole book, the last chapter of the Epilogue, Dostoevsky lets Alyosha have the final words. In the school boy Ilyushechka’s funeral, Alyosha rouses up Ilyushechka’s school mates––the next generation of Russian youth––to a pledge of love and goodness:

“… let us all be as generous and brave as Ilyushechka… dear friends, do not be afraid of life! How good life is when you do something good and rightful!”

“Yes, yes,” the boys repeated ecstatically.

“Karamazov, we love you!” a voice, which seemed to be Kartashov’s exclaimed irrepressibly.

“We love you, we love you,” everyone joined in. Many had tears shining in their eyes.

…..

“Karamazov!” cried Kolya, “can it really be true as religion says, that we shall all rise from the dead, and come to life, and see one another again, and everyone, and Ilyushechka?”

“Certainly we shall rise, certainly we shall see and gladly, joyfully tell one another all that has been,” Alyosha replied, half laughing, half in ecstasy.

“Ah, how good that will be!” burst from Kolya.

…..

“And eternally so, all our lives hand in hand! Hurrah for Karamazov!” Kolya cried once more ecstatically, and once more all the boys joined in his exclamation.

Ah… the redemption of the name Karamazov.

***

Hope you have enjoyed this Read Along. Here are the links to the previous sections on Ripple Effects:

Part I: What a Family!
Part II: What Sparks Joy
Part III: The Murder Mystery Begins

***

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

10 thoughts on “The Brothers Karamazov Part IV and Epilogue: Hope and Redemption”

  1. My son the Russian literature scholar pointed out to me that what you say about the name Karamazov–that “they all have preconceived ideas of what the name Karamazov stands for: sensual, unprincipled, depraved” is literally true, as in Russian it means “black smear,” often referring to sin.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for letting me know! That certainly makes a lot of sense and after reading the first three parts, Dostoevsky has impressed that idea on me… Karamazov is a brand in itself with the characterization of Foydor, Dmitri, and Ivan. That’s why Alyosha is the hero for his upright, Christ-like character redeeming the family name. Looking forward to your thoughts on this last part.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Arti, your review has cleared up the question of the murderer that I had upon reading the novel ten years ago; I wasn’t willing to take Smerdyakov at his word the first time I read this.

    But, I think the novel points to a lot more than the Russian courts, or even the plot of Fyodor’s murder. Dostoevsky wants to point us to the bigger picture of faith, of humanity’s frailty, of the fact that we are all sinners saved by grace if we are willing to call on Him.

    I especially find the quote you wrote early on in your review to be so relevant: “ We’re so used to all that! And here is the real horror, that such dark affairs have almost ceased to horrify us! It is this, and not the isolated crime of one individual or another, that should horrify us: that we are so used to it… our lukewarm attitude towards such affairs, such signs of the times, which prophesy for us an enviable future?”

    How can we cease to be horrified, and in fact become even more “numb” with each generation?! Surely each decade has had people who feel that we can’t sink any lower, and yet we do. May I be aware of my faults, and ever work to eradicate them, rather than contribute to our societal demise…

    I have not posted on Part 4, so caught up in Spanish Lit Month and Paris in July, both of which coincide with your read along. But, I do so appreciate you inviting me/us to participate, and for enlightening me with your beautiful posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bellezza,

      Both the prosecutor’s and the defence attorney’s concluding speeches are epic and notable. The former focuses on the depravity of society, and in particular, on Dmitri as a prime example of the moral degradation while the defence attorney Fetyukovich called for mercy and salvation. Dmitri himself knows he needs redemption… I think Dostoevsky through this book has presented the internal battles of the human soul. Agree with your thoughts that “Dostoevsky wants to point us to the bigger picture of faith, of humanity’s frailty, of the fact that we are all sinners saved by grace if we are willing to call on Him.” Fetyukovich’s speech implies that, and Alyosha’s final words confirms it as there’s eternal hope in God.

      Thanks for joining this read-along, great help to get me started and finished this book which I’ve long wanted to read but haven’t got enough motivation to do it on my own. I know how busy you are being involved in several heavy-weight reading critiques. All the best for a great summer and rest of the year, Bellezza!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It was an astonishing end! I thought that I was missing pages at first. But it was a perfect end. Very Russian, my friend said, when I described it to her. I really liked the unfinished feel, very ahead of its time and very real.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise,

      I was surprised at the ending too! Seems totally disconnected to the court trial, but then again, corresponding back to the beginning and letting Dostoevsky’s hero Alyosha have the last words. Looks like D. himself had overcome some personal trials and struggles and decided at the end where to lay his hope after all. Thanks for following along and rereading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You summed it all up tremendously- especially Alyosha’s “redemption” of the family at the end. I thought that the ending made for an interesting symmetry with the beginning. We start with the story of the father with his sons, treating them despicably, and end with the son who has NOT followed his father’s path, treating his- almost surrogate sons?- with love and compassion instead. I do wonder what ever happened with Lise, though…
    ANYWAY- I am still planning to blog on the book. I keep running into trouble because there’s SO much there! I really should have written about it part by part… I’ll get my thoughts in order in the next week or so. (Well, I’ll try to get them in order anyway!)

    Like

    1. Totally agree with your ripples. Just when I was thinking, hey, the defence attorney Fetyukovich is more a hero than Alyosha, well, in court only. The Epilogue reminds us Alyosha is the spiritual pillar of the family, his gentleness and unconditional love towards his ‘unworthy’ brothers and father makes him a Christ-like figure. And he definitely is a good role model for the younger generation as the last chapter shows.
      Take your time… I know you’re into various interests, including podcast! Anyway, I look forward to reading your TBK post(s). Enjoy the rest of the summer, Anne! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s