The Brothers Karamazov (4): Faith and Doubt

Having finished The Brothers Karamazov, I would say one of the most interesting themes of the book was the struggle between faith and doubt in light of the suffering in the world. In a word, its the age-old problem of evil. Ivan’s speech in Book V, chapters 3-5, is about as poignant and heart-rending an expression of this problem as I’ve ever read. It is so forcefully and understandingly articulated that one wonders if this is Dostoevsky’s own view, shining through Ivan’s words. Ivan’s focus on the suffering of children throughout his speech adds to this suspicion, in light of…

Brothers Karamazov (3): Great Quote

The following quote is part of a speech by Dmitri Karamazov to his brother Alyosha while in prison. Dmitri is a morally reckless man who is falsely accused of his father’s murder and redeemed through what he suffers. This is a great quote because it gives a sense of the book’s style, and it also highlights (what I see as) two of its main themes, namely, the necessity of God for joy, and the possibility of finding God (and thus joy) in suffering. I especially love the last bit, how Ivan recovers the thirst for life, the realization that objective…

The Brothers Karamazov (2): Themes and Quotes

As I continue to listen to Dostoevsky’s novel, one of main themes I am picking up on is the necessity of suffering for redemption. Redemption requires suffering because only through suffering can we arrive at self-knowledge, and redemption is only possible where there is a prior self-knowledge. Its amazing how you can see a truth like this illustrated through fiction in a unique and powerful way – I wouldn’t really have thought of this point as particularly surprising or profound before I started reading, but watching it dramatized in the book gives it new depth and new meaning. I think…

Life Everywhere is Life

In 1849 Dostoevsky was arrested for being a part of a secret utopian society. After 8 months imprisonment and a mock execution, he was sentenced to 4 years of exile and hard labor in Siberia, where he suffered terribly. At this time he wrote to his brother in a letter: “Brother, I’m not depressed and haven’t lost spirit. Life everywhere is life, life is in ourselves and not in the external. There will be people near me, and to be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and…

The Brothers Karamazov (1)

I started listening to Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov yesterday. I’m just finishing off Book II. One thing that has really struck me already is the book’s psychological depth. I’ve heard Dostoevsky compared with the other great 19th century Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, in that Tolstoy’s characters are realistic, whereas Dostoevsky’s characters symbolize ideas. I can see how the main characters do represent different approaches to life (my takes so far: Fyodor, selfish hedonism; Alyosha, virtue and faith; Ivan, rationalism and doubt; and Dmitri, emotion and passion). What strikes me, though, is how nuanced and complex and utterly believable these characters…