Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Brothers Karamazov

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Kaitlin Davis

AP English

The Brothers Karamazov

In a foreword to The Brothers Karamazov, Manuel Komroff said of author Fyodor Dostoyevsky "Throughout his works he is concerned and occupied with four R's./Revelation of man's secret heart, Revolution, Russia, and Religion." In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky examines, in depth, three of the four R's using Ivan Karamazov to examine revelation, Alyosha Karamazov to examine religion, and Kolya Krassotkin to examine Russia.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky portrays his ideas about how mankind should treat one another through the revelation of one of the book's main characters, Ivan Karamazov. In the beginning of the book, he is seen as disillusioned about society, particularly the people in it. He feels that no one cares about one another, so he doesn't care either. Ivan's revelation is essentially about the care and support that humans owe others.

Ivan Karamazov has his revelation quite late in the book. An old drunk beggar on the road falls into Ivan's arms, and Ivan pushes him to the ground where he then lays unconscious. He assumes that the old beggar "will freeze to death (56)" and does not care. Soon after this incident, Ivan comes to the realization that, despite the many differences between himself and the dirty beggar, they are as connected to each other as Ivan and his direct relatives. He goes back to the man, takes him in, and helps him. Although Ivan's gesture was small, it illustrates the need we all have to make a human connection in our everyday lives. Dostoyevsky was clearly a firm believer in this philosophy.

Several plaguing questions about religion are raised and better explained within the story through Alyosha Karamazov and his interactions with other characters. Alyosha is depicted as very wholesome and good, almost Christ-like in his behavior. He and his brother Ivan represent opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to religious beliefs, with Alyosha as the staunch believer in God and Ivan as the seemingly incurable atheist. Ivan believes that man created God as opposed to God creating man.

The chapter called "The Grand Inquisitor" examines both theories. The grand inquisitor is a leader in the Catholic Church, and in Ivan's poem he tells Christ that the world has no need of him "I…joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work (40)." Alyosha maintains that the supposed lack of God's presence is a result of the weak minds of men and their desires for earthly pleasures. Ivan, interestingly enough, believes in Satan but not God. This is seen in the chapter called "The DevilIvan's Nightmare" where Ivan has a conversation with Satan. In the end, Alyosha is the hero of the book, so to speak. This seems to be a hint that God really does exist, at least to Dostoyevsky.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky also makes it clear in this book that he feels that Russia is headed in a bad direction, and it needs someone to save it. That someone needs to be part of the masses, because a common man knows what his people need and want Russia to become. The "someone" Dostoyevsky chose for this novel is Kolya Krassotkina brilliant, cocky 14-year-old who, despite his hard exterior, has a warm heart and a love for his country and people.

Kolya is originally introduced to the reader right after Dmitri Karamazov is taken away to prison to await his trial. The section about Kolya seems out of place, and almost like a breather from the tension surrounding Dmitri's situation. However, it quickly becomes clear that there is necessity to Kolya's role in the Karamazov saga.

One of the things about Kolya Krassotkin that is very noticeable is his knack for leadership "The boys rushed to Kolya (471)." Not only do his peers follow him, but the see him as being at least as intelligent as any adult they know. "And the whole class firmly believed that Kolya was so good…that he could "beat" even [the teacher] Dardanelov (47)." Intelligence and leadership qualities are essential for one who is to save Russia.

This book shows the way in which Fyodor Dostoyevsky ties all of his literature together. Although each work of fiction is unique, he manages to incorporate and examine, through his characters, a common theme of the four R's. By doing this, he is able to distinguish his writings from those of his contemporaries, both Russian and otherwise.

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