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idunnoh in book_reading

The brothers

Well, I finished The Brothers Karamazov.  So I'm going to try to pull together a few thoughts, without giving away the plot to Wendelah1 and the legions of others who may be working on finishing the book.

It appears that the brothers represent Russia and its fate.  (Toward the end, one of the characters virtually announces this.)  Mitya (Dmitri) represents the heart of Russia--passionate, impulsive, aspiring to the height of honor while sinking to the depths of degradation.  Ivan represents the new liberal Russia--educated, progressive, atheistic--a type of Russian whom Dostoevsky mistrusted and despised.  Alyosha represents the piety and optimism of the Russian heartland--wellspring of the Christianity that Dostoevsky hoped would save Russia.  And Smerdyakov... well I dunno, I'll come back to him later.  

Alyosha is Dostoyevsky's hero; the opening note "From the Author" says so.  But Alyosha is never given much to do; most of the plot focuses on Mitya.  Still, Alyosha is in on a number of the most moving scenes.

Wendelah1 is unhappy about all this because the only character she identifies with is Ivan.  And Ivan is allowed to have a lot of the most interesting speeches in the book.  But I think Ivan's life is meant to show the consequences of turning one's back on Christianity.

More later . . .

Comments

Whew.

I finally finished it. The beginning was dreary, but by the end I gained some momentum. Now I'll scan through your entries to see what I can learn.

Re: Whew.

Congratulations! TBK is definitely a project, so it's an accomplishment to finish it. I'll be interested to know what you thought about the characters and the Meaning Of It All.

(Anonymous)

Re: Whew.

I was going to start by explaining that I wasn't an English major, etc., but you will figure it out right away.

What I thought of the characters:

The main characters were well realized, especially considering that some of them had very constricted functions, i.e., to be evil. To be intelligent. To be good. To be ferociously self-destructive.

The secondary characters kind of overwhelmed me. I think it would have been easier for me if they had English names. I think they talked too much. There were too many of them.

The Meaning Of It All: I liked some of Ivan's descriptions of the eternal conflict of having an omnipotent, omniscient, good God in a world full of evil. I really liked the bit about mankind's Euclidean view vs. God's non-Euclidean reality. (I don't have the book in front of me. I lent it to someone who was wild to read it--go figure.) His accounts about tortured children worked for me. The Grand Inquisitor, however, was a lot of reading for very little enlightenment.

The Overall Meaning Of It All: I'm not sure. Maybe, in the words Will Smith, back when he was a Fresh Prince: Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble.

Bonus question: What can we make of Dostoevsky giving his own first name to that reprehensible old man? I'd ask about him giving his disease to the contemptible but capable Smerdyadkov, but I think the main thing was how well it suited the purposes of the plot.

Re: Whew.

I still haven't finished it. I am a failure as a mod. Maybe this weekend. I'm taking it to work to read at lunch.

Re: Whew.

Wow, a humiliation icon! I need one!

The reason I plowed ahead and finished the book was that it was preventing me from doing any reading. I had a pile of books waiting to be read, and I had to get BK out of the way so I could get to them. The good news is that it begins to move faster near the end.





Re: Whew.

"I was going to start by explaining that I wasn't an English major, etc., but you will figure it out right away."

---Don't worry. These days, being an English major can sometimes get in the way of understanding texts.

"What I thought of the characters:

"The main characters were well realized, especially considering that some of them had very constricted functions, i.e., to be evil. To be intelligent. To be good. To be ferociously self-destructive."

---I've been thinking that truth-telling is important to Dostoevsky. Honest people (Alyosha, Dmitri) are salvageable, no matter how sleazy. Deceivers (Fyodor, Smerdyakov, Ivan) are doomed, no matter how smart. No one knows where Ivan stands--he probably doesn't know himself--and his writings totally contradict one another. He keeps his guilt a secret, whereas Dmitri wallows in his. And Dmitri, at the end, seems to be in better shape than Ivan.

"The secondary characters kind of overwhelmed me. I think it would have been easier for me if they had English names. I think they talked too much. There were too many of them."

---This never bothered me when I was younger and smarter, but I had trouble keeping track of them this time. My book had a character list in it, which helped.

"The Meaning Of It All: I liked some of Ivan's descriptions of the eternal conflict of having an omnipotent, omniscient, good God in a world full of evil. I really liked the bit about mankind's Euclidean view vs. God's non-Euclidean reality. (I don't have the book in front of me. I lent it to someone who was wild to read it--go figure.) His accounts about tortured children worked for me. The Grand Inquisitor, however, was a lot of reading for very little enlightenment."

---As I think I mentioned earlier, Dostoevsky was very clear in letters that Ivan was wrong in the Grand Inquisitor chapter, and that the Zossima book, Book Six, was intended to prove Ivan wrong. One of FD's charms is that he gives himself wholeheartedly to characters he disagrees with. Nearly everyone seems to have found the Grand Inquisitor more compelling than the Zossima of Book Six--though the Grand Inquisitor IS burning people at the stake, and I for one have a problem with that.

"The Overall Meaning Of It All: I'm not sure. Maybe, in the words Will Smith, back when he was a Fresh Prince: Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble."

---LOL. Russian girls, for sure.

"Bonus question: What can we make of Dostoevsky giving his own first name to that reprehensible old man? I'd ask about him giving his disease to the contemptible but capable Smerdyadkov, but I think the main thing was how well it suited the purposes of the plot."

--- I wondered about that too. I suppose if Dostoevsky shares Zossima's belief that each person shares all the world's guilt (and all the forgiveness too), Fyodor D can see the Fyodor K in himself . . .
Under the Moon

November 2011

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