Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov Essay

Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov Essay

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Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov


Dostoevsky first presents Smerdyakov, in The Brothers Karamazov, in Book 3 of Part 1. The author divulges details of the conception of the fourth son of Fyodor Pavovich Karamazov. Late on a September evening, a drunk Fyodor, by modern standards, "rapes" a homeless woman. Stinking Lizaveta, the victim of Fyodor's violence, was a legend in the town. Regardless of her unattractive and dirty appearance, her poverty, and homelessness, the townspeople regarded her with sympathy and compassion. Fyodor, on the other hand, treated Lizaveta as an insubordinate who was undeserving of even an ounce of respect. He and his friends mock her. He, then, rapes her. And, as if these actions are not cruel and offensive enough, he vehemently denies any of it happening. Later, when Lizaveta gives birth to Fyodor's illegitimate son, it is Grigory and Marfa who take the boy in, baptize him, and decide to raise the child. The townspeople mistakenly credit Fyodor for taking the dead woman's child into his house. All of these disturbing actions on the part of Fyodor are cause for his punishment.

While Fyodor neglected his fatherly duties to his other three sons, to this fourth, he rejects them completely. He finds the controversy around the mystery of the boy's conception amusing. He employs his own son as one of his servants, as his "lackey." Although incredible attention to detail is paid to the story of Lizaveta, Dostoevsky waits to speak of the boy himself. It is as if the author is all ready separating this last son. Dostoevsky claims to not want to go into detail about Smerdyakov so as not to distract the reader from the story. However, it is an intention set-up on the part of the author.

When we finally learn more of this mysterious character, it is not until four chapters later. Dostoevsky is oddly able to summarize the character of Smerdyakov in only five pages, whereas, with the characters of his brothers, he needs many more pages. In this way, the author is showing the mistreatment of this innocent boy by all who know him. Grigory is ashamed of him. He spreads the story of Smerdyakov's birth and ruins his reputation indefinitely. All three of the brothers treat Smerdyakov not as an equal, but as a servant. Despite his displays of intelligence, Smerdyakov is labeled and mocked by everyone. He is called a lackey, an ass, a sco...


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...he destruction of his third brother a little differently. Alexei cares to an extreme extent about others. He is deeply affected by the suffering of Ilyusha and the other schoolboys. Smerdyakov knows that by simply affecting the two brothers whom Alexei loves, he is also affecting Alexei. Alexei, to no avail, attempts to save what remains of his brothers' dehumanized states.

While Smerdyakov's actions are cunning and deceitful, he knows at every moment exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it. He is fully aware of his own predicament. He is born into misfortune, attempts to avenge his name, and wreaks havoc upon this small Russian town. While he carefully manipulates people and skillfully executes his plans, he is aware also of the immorality of murder. Like Zisoma's "mysterious visitor," Smerdyakov commits his crimes out of passion. He does not wait for the jury to consider his case. Like the "mysterious visitor," he has convicted himself of murder and sentences himself death. Smerdyakov's vicious crime and brutal punishment complete a full life of violence starting at his conception. His passionately violent nature erupts implosively beneath a mask of implacable calm.

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