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The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky
Amazon.com:
This acclaimed new English version of Dostoevsky's magnificent last novel does justice to all its levels of artistry and intention: as murder mystery, black comedy, pioneering work of psychological realism, and enduring statement about freedom, sin, and suffering. " . . . come(s) as close to Dostoevsky's Russian as possible."--Joseph Frank, Princeton University.
 



Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (1 of 31), Read 70 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 12:55 PM In August, Classics Corner will discuss The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Any translation is fine, but the 1990 translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is particularly recommended. This award winning translation is said to be the closest to Dostoevsky's Russian. I know this is a hefty book, but it is packed full of ideas and drama. I guarantee there will be lots to discuss. Please join us. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (2 of 31), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 02:47 PM Ann: Here's my first post in the new digs. I'll certainly be joing ya'll this August.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (3 of 31), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 04:47 PM I read the first book last week, and got side tracked. The novel keeps calling me, and I'm anxious to get back to it. See y'all August 1 for this one. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (4 of 31), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, July 21, 2001 07:08 PM I'm going to have some fast reading to do when I get home. I didn't bring BK here with me. Ruth
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (5 of 31), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 05:35 PM I really love this book. Dostoevsky's writing and character development is sooo similar to Tolstoy's! I hope most, if not all, reading this were able to get the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation..they're just wonderful.. (Ruth, how much longer will you be at the cabin?) Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (6 of 31), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 07:21 PM I find myself getting so caught up in their emotions. I'm at the spot where Dmitri has pulled Ayosha (?) aside to share his manic love story. The scene is vivid and immediate, isn't it? I just wish the print were a little larger. I can only read so much at a time before my eyes start to blur. Yikes - I sound like my mother! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (7 of 31), Read 50 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 10:54 PM Beej and Kay, I'm glad you're making such good progress. I need to get busy. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (8 of 31), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 11:01 PM I think Kay is way ahead of me. But this is going to make for a great discussion. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (9 of 31), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 23, 2001 11:28 PM D. has so many truths - my favorite so far, "Above all, don't believe your own lies." The father is a real piece of work, isn't he? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (10 of 31), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 11:22 AM This from Zosima, Kay. I like it very much, too. The way to eternal life: Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. (Sorry. That's the Garnett translation.) Yes, Père Karamazov is a piece of work, and this pretty much describes his problem. Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (11 of 31), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 11:49 AM I've been curious as to why the new translation is considered to be so outstanding. Here's the same passage: "Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself of anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love, and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself. A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense." Now I understand. The latter translation is fuller and flows better. Interesting. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (12 of 31), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 12:26 PM I agree. It is better. You've sold me. I guess I'm going to own two copies of The Brothers Karamazov. Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (13 of 31), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 01:55 PM Oh, Kay, Isn't the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation just gorgeous? I have their hard copy translation of Anna Karenina and can hardly wait for it to come out in paper back so more people will buy and see the beauty in that one, too. Steve, I think you'll enjoy this translation of TBK. I don't know if you read, when I was posting on Anna Karenina, that Pevear and Volokhonsky are husband and wife. Boy, that must be one heck of a strong marriage to survive working on these translations together! Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (14 of 31), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 02:28 PM The newer translation is also supposed to be closer to the original Russian. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (15 of 31), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 10:08 AM Kay, Where are you in this? Its been slow going for me..the names are killing me! It seems just as I figure out who's who, Dostoevsky calls them all something else, and I need to stop and go to the character list to figure out who is speaking. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (16 of 31), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 11:17 AM Russian names are a case in themselves, Beej. It'd pay you to see if you can find something about how they work. I've forgotten exactly how it is, but a single character can be referred to by several different names: their real name, a diminuitive, a name meaning 'son or daughter of'., etc. I'll need to review this myself when I start this book. I remember being endlessly confused by Russian names until I found the explanation. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (17 of 31), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 11:33 AM Beej- I'm only at "One More Ruined Reputation." It is slow going, but what a way to go! I don't think I'm going to have it finished by the first, though I'm giving it the old college try. RE: Russian names - Look on the pages just before the title page for "List of Characters." It discusses the main characters, "with variants and pronunciation." That's proven quite useful when I get confused. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (18 of 31), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 02:26 PM Kay, I am sure I won't be done by August 1. This usually happens with the very long books. We can start discussing the beginning on August 1 even if most of us aren't finished. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (19 of 31), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 03:02 PM Phew! Thanks, Ann. That will work for me. I hate coming in late to a discussion, so I usually just let it go. I think I can keep up with the boards this way. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (20 of 31), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001 11:10 PM Without going into detail, what an intriguing character Smerdyakov is. He's just so dark and forboding, and what a story behind his birth! Speaking of lines that hit you between the eyes, this sort of stopped me in my tracks..just a little truism tossed in during a conversation between Dmitri and Alyosha: ...the devil is struggling with God and the battlefield is the human heart. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (21 of 31), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, July 26, 2001 07:39 AM Quick question: Who helped Smerdyakov's mother over the garden wall? Was it Grigory? I don't think she could have done it herself in her condition. And speaking of slimy people - Grigory is someone I certainly wouldn't care to know. He reminds me of Uriah. Beej- There were so many beautiful passages on the nature of love that stopped my in my tracks. I hadn't realized BK would be such a primer on human nature. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (22 of 31), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Thursday, July 26, 2001 08:10 AM Grigory reminds me of Lurch of the Addams Family. Robt
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (23 of 31), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, July 26, 2001 12:11 PM LOL. I know you're kidding here. Yes, I'd say his appearance is like Lurch's and his personality is like Uriah's. Grigory is one kind of person I do not enjoy. He thinks he is a good person because he believes in God. Yet, his daily actions are less than admirable. Yes, he took in Dmitri and Smerydakov, but he didn't show much love for them. He has too many conditions for people. He's one character that believes his own lies. Of course, I suppose we all do in one way or another. This book has me pondering on what lies I've created for myself. I like Dostoevky's point that even awful people can show basic human needs that render them temporarily pitiable. That sort of behavior has always troubled me. I don't know what to do with mean spirited people that still display emotional aches and pains that deserve comforting. Yet I cannot stand being around them or having anything to do with them. I love this novel! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (24 of 31), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, July 27, 2001 03:33 PM I'm having a difficult time staying tolerant of all the hysterics these characters enjoy. Ivan thinks they belong only to females. "No one, by the way, ever died of hysterics. Let her have hysterics. God loved woman when he sent her hysterics. I won't go there at all (Katrina's house)." "The Brothers Get Acquainted" However, I'd say Ivan, Fyodor, and Dmitri enjoy their fair share of histrionics. My modern outlook isn't wearing well with the older manner of interaction. GET a GRIP! Ha! I also want to add that my progress is slow, not because of the language so much as because I find myself needing to pause and think so often. D. has so many truisms woven into this novel. Hysterics aside, the human heart has changed little. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (25 of 31), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, July 28, 2001 01:46 PM Kay: I sympathize with your reading of this work. I started this work three separate times before I finally managed to finish it. And once I finished it, I chastised my past selves for giving up on the journey. I like what Dostoyevsky states in the preface: ...Of course, one is not bound by anything--the book may be abandoned at the second page of the first tale, never to be opened again. But then, you know, there are those considerate readers who absolutely must read to the end, so as not to be mistaken in their impartial judgment; such, for example, are all Russian critics. I love an author who comes right out at the beginning and acknowledges this is one tough read and not meant for everyone. I was perusing the letters of Dostoyevsky about this novel in the Norton Critical Edition and thought some sentences rather interesting. From a letter to a famous teacher... I have conceived and will soon start writing a large novel where, among other things, children, particularly youngsters aged approximately seven to fifteen, will play a great role. Many children will be introduced. I am studying them and have studied them all my life, and love them dearly, and have children myself. But the observations of a may like yourself would be very valuable to me (I understand that). So write me about children --everything you know... To his publisher... If it succeeds I shall have done a good deed; I shall compel them to recognize that a pure, ideal Christian is not something abstract but is graphically real, possible, obviously present, and that Christianity is the sole refuge for the Russian land from all its woe. To a lady struggling with understanding a part of the novel which had appeared in the paper: Had he killed his father, he would not have stood over the servant's body with words of pity. The plot is not the only important thing for the reader, but also some knowledge of the human soul (psychology), which every author is entitled to expect from the reader. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (26 of 31), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, July 28, 2001 07:00 PM I'm midway through my first read. The theme of loving humanity at the expense of the individual is a fascinating one. The entire "Rebellion" speech and scene that ends with Alyosha kissing Ivan in love and forgiveness was a powerful one. I can't wait to discuss it. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (27 of 31), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, July 29, 2001 11:17 AM On one of my many breaks from reading BK, I did some surfing. There are many parallels between D.'s life and Zosima's and Alyosha's. For a D. biography timeline: http://www.kiosek.com/dostoevsky/chronology.html Alexander the II was the csar at the time D. wrote BK. A brief summation of the Imperial Period (1689-1917)is found at: http://www2.sptimes.com/Treasures/TC.2.3c.html D. visited elders in the Church. Zosima is representative of that group. (Scroll down to "Church in Imperial Russia." http://www.decani.yunet.com/history6.html#Russia The Emancipation Manifesto of 1869 proved interesting reading: http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dml0www/emancipn.html Ok. I'm ready to hit the next chapter now. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (28 of 31), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, July 29, 2001 01:09 PM Kay, I'm not as far along as you are on my reread. I first read the BK around 30 years ago, so believe me it's pretty much like reading it for the first time this go around. A few notes back, you mentioned the hysteria of many of the characters. This seems to be typical of the people in many of Dostoevesky's books. On Classics Corner we have previously read THE IDIOT and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. In both these books, the characters interact in an almost constant emotionally charged atmosphere. People rant on and on, although in the other two books some characters at least have the excuse of physical illness. There is an atmosphere of almost continual stress. I don't know how to explain that, although the fact that D. himself suffered from severe epileptic attacks and was himself subject to extreme highs and lows might have something to do with the style he adapted. It is also true that people tend to reveal much more of their deepest feelings and psychological peculiarities when they are upset. D. was very interested in psychology and perhaps this helps explain why these characters so often seem emotionally overwrought. In the nineteenth century, women,in particular, suffered much more from hysteria, so D's contemporaries may not have found some of these scenes as strange as we do. Illness was one of the few socially acceptable forms of rebellion. Of course, as you have pointed out, the men in D's novels are hardly immune from hysteria. At any rate, it does get rather wearing on the nerves at times, doesn't it? Katerina Ivanovna is driving me nuts at the moment, with her masochistic desire to suffer and bequeath a gift of life long guilt to Dmitri. A guy would have to be crazy to want to marry her (except for the money, of course). Incidentally, the Christlike Aloysha reminds me very much of the perfectly good Prince Mishkin in THE IDIOT. D interests me so much not because he was in fact so deeply religious but because he yearned so for the peace of religious faith. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (29 of 31), Read 8 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 02:22 PM Is anyone else seeing any humor in this book? I sit on my back porch reading this and think of it as a rendition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (30 of 31), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 02:27 PM And what was that with all Katerina Ivanovna's kissy-kissy business toward 'Hard-Hearted-Hannah' Grushenka? Does Katerina believe her proclamation of love can so easily sway and manipulate? Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (31 of 31), Read 3 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 04:38 PM Yes, Beej, I've seen several instances of humor. I'd look for them, but that would involve effort, and it's all I can handle at the moment to try to finish. Ha! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (37 of 39), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 09:04 PM Yes, Beej: I think Katerina did think she was fooling Grushenka. What a shock when she discovers who really had the upper hand all along. The humor within this work is incredible; sometimes you have to step back to see just how incredibly humorous it is. Some of the sayings of Pavlov are hilarious. During the re-read, especially after delving into the middle ages with Cantor, I've been noticing the whole monk issue. The monk is a perfect device for Dostoyevsky to work his theme of rationalization versus revelation. The problem is simple: How can you confirm that there is a God? How can you rationally justify there is a need for faith and that there is a deity responding to your prayers? Dostoyevsky struggles with these questions in all his major novels, but here he gives it the royal treatment. The protagonist of the novel is Alyosha, who is not as green as Misha was in The Idiot. He struggles with his questions of faith throughout this work. I think, in the end (and I'm not finished the re-read yet), Alyosha comes to terms with God via non-logical means. It's a vision, it's an epiphany, but it's something that he can never quite articulate. He just knows what he knows; rationality or dialectics have nothing to do with it. Which brings me to a second point about Dostoyevsky: Notice how often he mentions literary devices and techniques in the course of his novels. Allegory, puns, poetry, allusions, anecdotes--Dostoyevsky takes great pains to illustrate the tools of his craft; characters take the time to be specific in their discussions. "Hey, this is not an allegory!" or check out the "lacerations of the heart" in the chapters of the "ardent heart" in verse, anecdote, etc. (I am reading the Garnett trnaslation since I haven't been able to get a new translation yet). I have always been intrigued by Dostoyevsky because despite the great psychological depth of his novels (these characters are real people I have seen and met during my life) he still strives to articulate a perspective which, in essence, cannot be rationally presented. So he presents it with allegory, with anecdote, with puns, with every tool and technique he has in his arsenal. But, in the end, you're left with a puzzle. With Alyosha, you wonder just what he comes to realize during the events he experiences in this novel. It's something I'm looking for again as I come upon his conversations with Ivan about the "Grand Inquisitor." Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (38 of 39), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 11:05 PM Dan- Beautifully phrased, as usual. I've been amazed at how accurate D.'s knowledge of the human heart is. He even uses dream analysis. Do you suppose Freud took a few pages from him? This novel is a stunning treasure. I'm so glad I stayed with it. (A mere 219 pages to go.) K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (39 of 39), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, July 30, 2001 11:07 PM Wow, Kay! You're going to be done in time to discuss it! More than I can say... Beej

Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (40 of 63), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 01:28 PM Kay - I saw your comment about Freud, and I thought you'd find this interesting. I came across an essay by Freud, entitled "Dostoevsky and Parricide," where Freud said the following: "Dostoevsky's place is not far behind Shakespeare. The Brothers Karamazov is the most magnificent novel ever written: the episode of the Grand Inquisitor, one of the peaks in the literature of the world, can harly be valued too highly." Freud also has something to say about the "stick with two ends," but I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't finished yet. This is the first time I've read Dostoevsky, and I loved this book! I'm looking forward to discussing it. -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (41 of 63), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 03:06 PM Set my husband to find and buy this new translation and get it back to me as of Saturday when he comes in from Texas SO I'll cross some toes and fingers that he succeeds and I'm going to jump into the Russians finally -- I have to get brave sometime and you all seem to be the right crowd for these reads -- but note I've held out on the Russians to date -- even so. I am really a chicken I guess{G}. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (42 of 63), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 03:18 PM Nah - you're not chicken. I keep threatening to read Proust, but have yet to open the book. So, when you've finished this one, you'll still be one up on me. I don't plan to do a re-read any time soon. Ha! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (43 of 63), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 03:15 PM Thanks, Marcy. Interesting, indeed. What D. presented as an intuitive knowledge of the human heart, Freud presented as a scientific attempt at understanding. Though both had good insight, Dostoevsky's is the one with soul and a sense of humanity. His lesson on forgiveness and acceptance just because of our common humanity is a powerful one. It's certainly caused me to think and become more aware of my attitude towards others and myself. This novel has impacted my soul. Glad you'll be joining us for the discussion. Are you finished?! Now, back to Ivan's nightmare.... K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (44 of 63), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 03:35 PM Beej- You mentioned some comedy in BK. I quite agree. The business about the doctors not having a clue about anyone's illness has tickled me throughout. In "Lady of Little Faith," Katerina Khokhlakov says of Dr. Herzenstube, "I summoned the local doctor, Herzenstube, and he shrugged and said: amazing, baffling." He paraphrases himself several times, yet everyone in town must have the great doctor when a loved one falls ill. Then, there are all the slams against lawyers. I guess nothing changes - lawyer jokes have always been popular. Ha! Several puns appear, as when Kolya is bantering with the doctor. There have been other plays on words, but I can't recall where. The occasional snicker lightens the emotional load of BK. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (45 of 63), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 04:54 PM Yeah but -- Proust is Proustian -- those Russians get REALLY complicated don't they? But the names thing spoken of earlier did make me think of Proust -- there's some of this multiple names for the same characters that goes on in Proust also. Hope Jim finds a copy of this for me. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (46 of 63), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 09:02 PM Kay, About the hysterics you posted on earlier..these people just don't have hysterics..I mean, hysterics, to me as an Italian, is when my kids walk on my clean floor with muddy shoes! These folks have MEGA-HYSTERICS!!!!!!! They take to their beds with hysterics...women shriek in hysterics...people crumble in a dead faint in hysterics. They call for the doctor if a woman is in hysterics. These days, if a woman has hysterics, some wiseguy just tells her to take a midol. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (47 of 63), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001 09:44 PM LOL! However, the men tend to get brain fever. (Hysterics by any other name......) Do you get the feeling they're all walking a thin line between sanity and the Broadway stage? Ha! Sorry, folks, but I'm quite punchy. 82 pages, and counting. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (48 of 63), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 02:43 AM Hysterics then equals dysfunctional now? As in the "in" thing to cover a multitude of things gone wrong? Just what popped into my head -- sorry about that! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (49 of 63), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 09:51 AM I've been thinking about all the dramatics and emoting in BK. Rakitin is the agnostic communist. I think it's interesting that he is such a predictable, even, self-interested person. He uses people and experiences glee when he sees an opportunity to corrupt Alyosha. He is good at criticism of others, society, and the government. D. paints him as having no soul - very few ups and downs and lacking the second abyss of Heaven. The only true emotion we see from him is at the trial when we learn his true relationship to Grushenka. I actually missed the hysterics in Rakitin. The other characters are made more human because of their struggle with both abysses. Their hysterics are indicative of the good and evil that we all struggle with at times. D. makes the point that it's the struggle that makes us human. That's why he continually puts forth the idea that we are all guilty for a person's sins and why we have a responsibility to each other. We are obligated to appreciate that struggle in others. The Rakitins of the world are good at criticism, but lack a sense of true humanity. They may profess a love for mankind, but they miss the true beauty of the individual. They sacrifice the individual for the whole. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (50 of 63), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 10:09 AM I can't tell which I'm enjoying more: TBK or posts like that last one by Kay. I found it curious that D indites Smerdyakov several times for 'storing up impressions'... TBK is one of the most gunpowder-flash-exciting amalgamations of literary impressions I've ever come across. Maybe that's how D got the poison out. I can only approach this novel one character at a time-- holding them all together in my head can only last a few moments and leads to many more moments of vodka consumption. I think I'll start with Smerdyakov... Hmmm (sip) Hmmm (gulp) Back to it when the vertigo stops...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (51 of 63), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 10:22 AM George- Yes, Smerdyakov is a piece of work, isn't he? So malevolent and cunning. He's another example on how not to live. Perhaps D. is pointing out that by storing impressions, S. is distancing himself from life's true essence. D. points out that it's the momentary joy we can experience that creates passion in our lives. S. doesn't get involved with anyone or anything. He holds himself apart, as an observer and a critic, and misses the highs and lows. Even his suicide evokes no sympathy in me. D. says that was an act of despair, not passion, but I disagree. I think it was an act of pure malice and hate. He stored up impressions of life and the people around him, but he never truly engaged himself. Smerdyakov was the most despicable character in the book for me. I think he was for D. as well. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (52 of 63), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 11:48 AM When speaking and/or complaining of hysterics--remember people, this is Dostoevsky, the C&P guy. And it's a Russian novel. Of course there are hysterics. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (53 of 63), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 11:59 AM I'm not complaining, Ruth. The passion is what creates the emotional intensity and gives insight into the 19th century Russian mindset. These people are a tad more intense than what I'm used to dealing with. That's all. Their emotional, philosophical, and ethical dilemmas are timeless. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (54 of 63), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 02:19 PM Kay-- I agree-- Smerdyakov's suicide is an Iagoesque chess move unworthy of sympathy. I can't tell who was worse off: S for having no father (officially... it's certain to me that Karamazov is the father and that S is included in the novel's title), or Ivan for having a father. Smerdyakov is the true parricide, but nobody, not even Aloysha, gets off un-implicated. Smerdyakov actually LIVES Ivan's 'everything is permitted'....
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (55 of 63), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 03:26 PM Ivan's tacit complicity in the murder would be an awful thing to live with. He knew, but he didn't know. In that sense, as he admits, he's as guilty as Smerdyakov. The scene where he's standing on the stairwell listening for signs of murder taking place below is chilling. I need something clarified. When Ivan agreed to go to Chermanskaya, (?) was he truly on his father's errand? He left so suddenly for Moscow, which was further, as if a ghost were after him. If he wasn't sure what was about to happen, he certainly wasn't doing anything about preventing it. It seemed to me he was running from his conscience. How many times do we try to assuage our consciences by saying, "Well, I wasn't there. I had nothing to do with it. Therefore, because I didn't take direct action, I'm not responsible?" I think it's happened to all of us at one time or another, in one way or another. This is why D. insists we all are responsible for the sins of others. I can accept that, but only in the sense that we each have the potential for evil. How did you interpret the message of the novel? As D. points out, we have the potential for both good and evil, and the challenge is to strive for good and the joy life offers, but understand the evil. We should accept it as part of the whole, and as a contrast to the good. But that doesn't mean we should accept it as something to strive for. Is that a fair summation of the lesson in BK? I loved the way D. used positive and negative behaviors to delineate his characters. What courage that took as an author. To create a loveable, empathetic person, warts and all, is quite a feat. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (56 of 63), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 05:38 PM I agree that Smerdyakov's suicide is a chess move, but I don't agree that he is totally despicable. The thing about Dostoyevsky is that characters such as Iago do not populate his novels. Iago is a character of pure evil whose sole essence is to do evil. Shakespeare drops Iago in to undermine Othello's world; it is the wonder of the play that we don't really notice the absence of a critical motivation for Iago's behavior. With Dostoyevsky, you never encounter evil incarnate, evil just for the sake of being evil. The horrid circumstances of Smerdyakov's birth and his upbringing-- especially the moment after Grigory's taunting words when Smerdyakov seems to shut down--provide insight into his behavior. The narrator is careful to provide solid evidence for why he is the way he is, of noting the forces that buffeted Smerdyakov. He's cold, he lacks community spirit, he murders another as well as himself, sure--but he's as human as any of the other characters. I find myself as a reader feeling compassion for Smerdyakov and I'm certain this feeling for someone such as Smerdyakov could only come from a careful manipulation by the author. Sure he's bad, sure I wouldn't want to meet him, but I find he's another sad example of when people go bad, another character in this novel brimming with characters I wouldn't normally associate with but can hardly refrain from visiting night after night when I'm reading. I think Kay is close to a fundamental aspect of Dostoyevsky: Community. Alyosha is told to leave the monastery and enter society; he is, in effect, told to take the harder road of living the Christian life in society. Like Ivan points out--easy for an eremite to love humanity when he's alone in the desert; quite another for one to love humanity when there's some molesting and torturing children next door. Think of the people out there in Alyosha's world: Ivan, Smerdyakov, Fyodor Pavlovich, Rakitin. Makes community spirit a hell of a lot harder to practice. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (57 of 63), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 06:14 PM Dan- I see your point about Smerdyakov, and that certainly fits with D.'s overall theme that we're all guilty of others' sins, and must remember that when judging. However, I did not hear the tempering of S.'s character the way you did. Do you think D. had an affection for S.? I thought S. was more of an example of choosing to live a base life, with no redeeming traits. I don't remember any passages that showed S. in a struggle with himself. D. gives a reason for S.'s attitude, and that reason makes a lot of sense. Yet I did not hear the same kind of forgiveness D. gave all his other characters. Uh oh. How much projection is going on here? Ha! Do you think D. accepted evil as a part of life, but deplored its existence? I was confused on his stance toward evil. At times, he seemed to be saying that evil is necessary, if for no other reason than to point out the contrast between it and God. Did I get that right? If we're to accept the sins of all as part of being human, does that mean we are not to condemn evil acts? Or is it more a case of hate the sin, but love the sinner? The latter, I suppose. D. makes many references to Russian Orthodoxy. How is that Church's tenets different from the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (58 of 63), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 06:26 PM Dan mentioned the subtle manipulation experienced by the reader of D. I quite agree. In fact, I think that constant back and forth of my intellect and emotions is what made this novel such a powerful one for me. I feel passionate about the characters and the philosophical points made by them. Heck, I might be better at hysterics than I think. I certainly fell right in with the lot of them. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (59 of 63), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 07:52 PM Dan and Kay – I think you’ve both made some really good points regarding Smerdyakov, and I’m still trying to figure out what to ultimately make of his character. I’d be curious to know what you make of the following: During Ivan’s final meeting with Smerdyakov, we learn that Smerdyakov is reading The Sayings of the Holy Father Isaac the Syrian, whereas a month earlier he had been reading a French phrase book. Also, S. says to Ivan, “There’s no ghost, sir, besides the two of us, sir, and some third one … That third one is God, sir, Providence itself, sir, it’s right here with us now, sir, only don’t look for it, you won’t find it” (p.623 in the Pevear translation.) Does this imply that Smerdyakov has fallen into despair? That he has changed? I don’t think S. had repented of his crime, because in his suicide note he does not try to make things right as far as Dmitri’s trial is concerned. Any thoughts or comments? Thanks, Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (60 of 63), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 08:05 PM Great notes, everyone. I read about half and then saw you were getting into plot spoilers, so I think I'll wait to read the rest for awhile. I'm almost half way through the book. I will hold off on Smerdyakov, only to say now that you are all right that he does not have any redeeming characteristics. I think that it is a weakness in characterization, although it's kind of fun to have one character you love to hate. Also, Kay, that idea that we are all guilty for a person's sins is something that I cannot accept. I'm afraid the sections on the Grand Inquistitor resonate with me more than Father Zosima's sermons. Whew, I just finished that long section on his life and philosophy. That was tough to get through. As for the humor, Pevear emphasizes it a lot in his introduction. I usually don't respond very well to black humor, but I have encountered some amusing sections in this book. I got a kick out of Lise telling Aloysha that it didn't bother her that her mother was spying on her. "And you may rest assured, Alexei Fyodorovich, that when I myself am a mother and have a daughter like me, I shall certainly eavesdrop on her." Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (61 of 63), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 08:29 PM Ann- I don't think D. is saying we're responsible, per se, for the actual evil acts. I think he's saying that since we all have a baser side, that's what ties us to those that do evil. I don't think we're responsible for what others do, either, Ann. But I do think that D. is asking us to acknowledge that side in us, and in that sense, not condemn others. He's trying to draw a circle around all our common potential for good and evil - what makes us human. As Dan pointed out, it's all about community. I hold us responsible for the choices we make. D. just wants us to consider approaching evil doers with love. He wants us to allow room for mistakes. However, there are some deeds that I cannot condone, and make it a point to live my life just the opposite. I tend to separate myself from mean spirited people, partly because I do not understand them. I cannot love them as individuals, but I can love the ones that truly repent. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (62 of 63), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 08:57 PM Marcy- I didn't hear despair in that passage between S. and Ivan. All I heard was cynicism and a malevolent need to make Ivan believe S. had killed Fyodor on Ivan's orders. As to reading the Homilies of Our Father among the Saints, Isaac the Syrian, S. reads it "mechanically." For him, the religious arguments are nothing more than intellectual exercises. They are a scientific debate, only. Like French grammar, they are to be learned only as an intellectual exercise. Yet when Father Zosima read them and discussed them with Alyosha, there was a passion to his argument. It's the lack of passion in Smerdyakov that I'm not relating to. Dan- Like you, I think what keeps me from being pulled to S. is the deliberate meanness and cold, calculated plotting against his three brothers - Mitya, Ivan, and Alyosha. But unlike you, I don't hear a desire to gain faith in God, or to become one with the community of mankind. D. may have intended me to hear that, but I do not. I didn't hear passion or a struggle in S.'s soul. Of course, that very lack of a struggle may be the despair of S.'s soul that you heard and I did not. Was there any passage in particular that struck you about S. that helped you see him in a fuller light than I did? Though I read every word, I did tend to drift as I read. I would agree it's not like D. to write a totally unlovable character, but S. and Rakitin sure come close. I do think D. found it difficult to love the atheists, critics, and the "just the facts" scientists. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (63 of 63), Read 5 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 10:30 PM Thanks, Kay, for your response. It made me think of the chapter Disputation, where Smerdyakov says, "If I am taken captive by the tormentors of Christian people, and they demand that I curse God's name and renounce my holy baptism, then I'm quite authorized to do it by my own reason, because there wouldn't be any sin in it" (p.128). He then proceeds to explain his point using basic semantic logic, on a purely intellectual level. This is in contrast to Grigory, who gets quite emotional about the subject. It's as though Dostoevsky is indicting, through Smerdyakov, the kind of reasoning applied to theological issues that he believed to be typical of the Jesuits, whom he despised. (Fydodor responds to this by saying, "Ah, you stinking Jesuit, who taught you all that? But it's lies, casuist, lies, lies, lies" (p.130). Of course, the irony here is that Smerdyakov would say that his influence has been Ivan.) But Smerdyakov is using reason to counter the tenets of Christian faith, not from the perspective of an atheist, but as a believer! I, too, am curious to see what Dan finds redeeming in the character of S. Kay, in regard to the difference in tenants between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, all I know is that the Catholic and Orthodox churches were originally united, but they parted in the eleventh century when they differed over the supreme authority of the pope, which Orthodox Christians reject. -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (64 of 81), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 07:35 AM I think that's what confused me about several of the characters. They profess non-belief, yet argue from a standpoint that believes. Your post helped me sort that one out. So the Orthodox Catholics do not believe in the supreme authority of the Pope? I wonder what caused that rift - probably politics, rather than a true religious schism. I'll have to look that one up. At least I have the right century to start in. Can you think of an online source? Perhaps that's why D. seems to take such pride in the differences of the Russian Church from the Roman Catholic one. The Russians have their very own ultimate authority, probably a cardinal? It seems to be a nationalistic, as well as religious issue with him. Interesting. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (65 of 81), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: David Moody davidmoody@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 07:55 AM Kay: Try this for the Schism of 1054: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=108311&tocid=67627 David
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (66 of 81), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 08:06 AM Thanks, David. I just love having my own reference librarian to consult. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (67 of 81), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 09:23 AM I find sympathy for Smerdyakov when I consider the context surrounding him within the novel. Someone previously mentioned him as a "Karamazov brother;" is he? He's a servant in the Karamazov house, a bastard child of an idiot midget that many treated more like a dog than a human being. "You grew from the mildew of the bathhouse," his adopted father yells at him. His real father calls him "Balaam's ass." What community. After Smerdyakov's birth, Grigory decides this is the child Martha and he will raise to replace the one he lost before: Grigory took the baby, brought it home, and making his wife sit down, put it on her lap. "A child of God--an orphan akin to us all," he said, "and to us above others. Our little lost one has sent us this, who has come from the devil's son and a holy innocent. Nurse him and weep no more." Grigory exposits the dichotomy of humanity--everyone is, in a sense, an amalgamation of holy innocence and satanic spawn. Then the child is nicknamed "Smerdyakov," a word Ralph E. Matlaw notes is related to the French word "merde." Smerdyakov isn't just nicknamed "Stinky" as Garnett gives it; he's named something equivalent to "Shithead" by a father who will never claim him, instead making him his cook and servant. Smerdyakov's youth is under Grigory's tenditious Christianity, and the result is his mockery of the mass: In his childhood he was very fond of hanging cats, and burying them with great ceremony. He used to dress up in a sheet as though it were a surplice, and sing, and wave some object over the dead cat as though it were a censer. This is in direct contrast to the impact of the mass on a young Zosima: The camels at that time caught my imagination, and Satan, who talked like that with God, and God who gave His servant up to destruction, and His servant crying out: "Blessed be Thy name although Thou dost punish me," and then the soft and sweet singing in the church: "Let my prayer rise up before Thee," and again incense from the priest's censer and the kneeling and the prayer. Here is the same religious influence filtered through another young mind. Notice the circumstances are similar to Smerdyakov's, but one sees the potential for God (Zosima) and another sees the potential for evil mockery (Smerdyakov). Smerdyakov is unable to rise above his sensualism--quite possibly passed to him directly from Fyodor Pavlovich. But as everyone else, he once was a child and he once held potential in any direction. My point is the context, the community, has an awful lot to do with Smerdyakov's embrace of cold rationalism to undermine religion and family relations. He is not simply a bad egg; he is shaped by his community and circumstances. No, Shithead doesn't have any redeeming qualities by the timeframe of the novel. He almost exists as a test by Dostoyevsky to see if the reader understands what Alyosha is trying to learn about humanity and community. We're all responsible for all sin; there's no lambs and snakes--there's only organisms with the faith of lambs commingled with the unfeeling cruelty of reptiles (or insects, as Ivan posits). By dismissing Smerdyakov and characters of his ilk as simply incarnations of evil, I would miss the value in Dostoyevsky's novel: Smerdyakov could be me, could be you, could be all of us. We all have a little Zosima and we all have a little Smerdyakov racing through our veins. Recognize that Smerdyakov is, despite all our objections, our brother and a member of our family. Find some sympathy, accept him, and forgive. Of course, it's this "forgiving business" that makes, for me, The Brothers Karamazov a difficult work to comprehend... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (68 of 81), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 11:27 AM Dan- I don't see S. as evil. However, his evil side predominates. I do understand that his background community did not allow for him to grow spiritually. In that sense, I can appreciate his misery and resulting behavior. I know that D. is trying to teach us to forgive and to love one and all. If you are saying S. had absolutely no other choice in the way he acted, as a result of his upbringing, though, I have to disagree. I think this pushes a button with me. I get irritated when criminals use their background as an excuse for their criminal behavior. It's a reason, not an excuse. Too many people overcome bad situations and become productive, positive people. It may be that they are lucky enough to have a mentor somewhere that S. never found. Perhaps my reluctance to accept S. and his ilk is due to my prejudice. I accept his humanity. I do not accept his actions. Perhaps we can agree on that? I understand that S. is embittered and cynical due to his upbringing. In that sense, I can empathize with him. It's just that I still hold him responsible for the choices he makes. You're right that D. wants us to consider S. as human as the rest of us. Yet I do not think D. likes him very much. Now that I think about it, D. does spend a lot of time discussing children and the many abuses they suffer. He is indignant that these terrible things happen to such innocents. Kolya is a pleasant contrast to S. But Kolya has people to love him. That's the difference. I'll have to check, but I don't remember D. summing up S. the same way he did his other main characters. Even Katarina gets a reprieve from D. I don't remember any "forgiving" passage for S. after he commits suicide and leaves Mitya to pay for the crime. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (69 of 81), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 11:40 AM Dan- Me again. I don't think we're really that far apart in our perception of S. I think the difference is I'm finding it harder to forgive him than you are. That's something I struggle with when it comes to heinous crimes. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (70 of 81), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 01:53 PM Kay, If, by sharing a common guilt, D means that we must recognize in ourselves the potential for evil, show understanding and forgiveness for evil doers, and help them improve --I can buy that. I was raised a Catholic and although I have not practiced Catholicism for decades, I can recognize just how anti-Catholic Doestoevsky is in this and his other books. In fact, when I re-read the chapter on the Grand Inquisitor, I was particularly struck by how much the Grand Inquisitor represents the hierarchy of the Catholic church. Somehow, the Grand Inquisitor seemed less universal to me this time around than he did 30 years ago. He is, after all, a cardinal implementing one of the greatest crimes of the Catholic Church, the Spanish Inquisition. Still, I remain fascinated by the idea expressed in this story that man cannot handle true freedom, that it is so much kinder to make decisions for him. And the revelation of the Inquisitor's secret, i.e. that he does not believe in God, made the same powerful impact on me that it made on my first read. BTW, I think that the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church is called the Patriarch. It has always been a very national church, hence the attraction for Dostoevsky, who was such a strong supporter of his native culture. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (71 of 81), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 02:16 PM Ann- The Grand Inquisitor chapter was powerful, wasn't it? He claims a disbelief in God, yet he recognizes Christ and is overwhelmed enough to free him. He and his priests had assumed the role of Christ as a protection for his people because they were not capable of handling free choice. Something about that bothers me. The scene where Christ comes forward to kiss the inquisitor was moving. So was the scene where Alyosha kissed Ivan after their debate on God. That's what faith in God and mankind are all about. No matter what, we keep coming back to the Truth of our existence. Is that what D. is trying to say? The idea that we are not capable of handling complete freedom is an intriguing one. I'm still puzzling over the implications that has for mankind. Thoughts? The entire novel is a study of faith - in God, Christ, and our fellow man. Though we are so often faced with scientific facts, cruelty, misery, poverty, and abusive situations, the important thing is to take that jump into faith. Then we need to try and live that faith. Faith is what brings us joy, which is how we celebrate life. It's what keeps us going when we're face with insurmountable obstacles. Pretty tall order sometimes, no? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (72 of 81), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 02:35 PM William Faulkner is renowned for giving the most disappointing Nobel Prize acceptance speech by any great author... the cloying positivity of it rings totally false in light of the novels that GOT him to that podium: those novels are brutally, shockingly dark and very, very honest about humanity. Dostoevsky's artistic strengths lie, obviously, on the intensely pessimistic and shreddingly honest side. I think the little character touches of artistic greatness in BK far outweigh the self-lacerating Christianity and Parisian cafe philosophizing... in short, I take Ivan's own view of the stupidity of his own megalomaniacal devil. I think BK did a lot for D's own personal faith, and more power to him. But the religious potion offered here strikes me as individual-- restorative to D himself but of minimal use to literature. The poisons offered here however... they are universally powerful and aesthetically magnificent. The drunken peasant Ivan flings unconscious into the snow on his furious way to confront Smerdyakov... the peasant he forgets freezing in a drift, his song silenced, while Ivan tries to unwrap the riddles of his own mind... the peasant WE, the readers, forget also until Ivan rescues him later... that is a touch of genius, and there are scores of them in this book. I find it hard to take heart at the insights, but I'm grateful that it's hard to take: so much in life is designed to be easy...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (73 of 81), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 02:53 PM George- I'm not sure I understand your stance on BK. Are you saying that the theme of BK is not what intrigues you or what matters to the history of literature? That what has you hooked on D. is his style, characterizations, and adept story telling? Did you find any part of D.'s character struggles interesting, or was it simply an all too trite lesson in faith that we've all heard before? I agree that D. had a religious purpose when he was composing this novel. However, I did not resent the lessons he wanted to teach through his characters and story. The novel would not have been as significant a read for me without that lesson in faith. It would have lost some of its punch. I would not have been able to identify as easily with the various characters, nor would I have done as much soul searching as I have. Well, as D. would say, "to each his own, and God love 'em." K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (74 of 81), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 03:26 PM Like Ann, I was also completely struck by the revelation of the Inquisitor's secret: “we are not with you, but with him, that is our secret!” (p.257). What a wonderful, thought provoking chapter! But according to the lead-in from the previous chapter, I expected Ivan’s poem to be about the difficulties of universal forgiveness; not about the problem of freedom and the Catholic Church. Does anyone see how chapter 5 (The Grand Inquisitor) ties into the issues raised in chapter 4 (Rebellion), where Ivan poignantly says, “they have put too high a price on harmony; we can’t afford to pay so much for admission. And therefore I hasten to return my ticket” (p.245). BTW, I read somewhere (and I was taking notes but failed to write down the source) that D. holds the following schema: Catholicism, unity without freedom; Protestantism, freedom without unity; Russian Orthodoxy, freedom in unity and unity in freedom. No explanation was given regarding the reasoning behind this, but I thought I’d just mention it in case anyone finds it helpful. -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (75 of 81), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 04:19 PM Kay-- Sorry, my point was a bit muddled. I don't sell short the theme of BK... I'm just not sure what it is. I think it's dangerous to sum it up under the rubric of 'Faith'. It could as well be under Truth or Vitality or Family etc., But aesthetically I think BK fails mainly in the Aloysha/Zossima sections. It reaches its highest artistic peaks with Mitya, Ivan and Papa Karamozov, and with murder, mayhem, and crushing self-doubt. Sometimes authors don't go where they want to go... take Tolstoy, for example. I don't personally know any Tolstoyan Christians, but I bet if you'd asked Tolstoy how he'd wanted to be remembered, he'd have said: as a religious pioneer who brought comfort and a new kind of faith. 'A Confession' brings comfort and faith-- 'Anna Karenina' brings majestic emotional darknesses. The first may even BE more valid from a moral standpoint, but the second is an incomparably greater work of art. So with BK. It helps me deal with inner and outer demons, and presents beautiful passages and currents of plot and thought. It doesn't introduce me to any convincing new angels though...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (76 of 81), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 04:45 PM George-= Ok. That makes sense. Perhaps I was rushing to sum it up as a dissertation on Faith. You make an interesting point about the better chapters being those with "Mitya, Ivan and Papa Karamozov, and with murder, mayhem, and crushing self-doubt." Those passages do continue to ring in my mind, and I find them the most challenging to understand. Marcy- I'm still a little vague on the whole freedom issue raised in BK. Would someone please take mercy on this confused mind and explain? Thanks. I don't understand what "freedom without unity" or "unity without freedom" means when it comes to BK. No wonder the author didn't give any explanation! Geesh. I'm sure someone here can make sense of it, though. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (77 of 81), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 04:50 PM George, Very well said. I suspect one's reaction to the religious aspects of The Brothers K depends a lot on your personal attitude towards religion. I see D. as perpetually doubting, but wanting to believe. I am never convinced that he is sure about his arguments in favor of faith. But, as I read these notes, I am beginning to realize that I could be projecting too much of myself into his writing. Marcy, I agree that the chapter on suffering and the chapter on the Grand Inquisitor do not exactly tie in together--unless you view them both as arguments that a benevolent deity does not exist. Ann, who better get reading so she can read appreciate the details of this discussion!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (78 of 81), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 07:49 PM One of the strengths of Dostoyevsky is the manner he continually analyzes situations and characters from a variety of contexts. For me, The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoyevsky's best novel in which he manages to tie the dark with the light. I chose to focus on the Christian aspect initially because it is often dismissed as trivial. Milton may have made Heaven boring in Paradise Lost, but Dostoyevsky avoids that. The Zosima passages do not weaken the plot; they are the positive sides of the very same issues dealt with previously. Notice that Ivan's query about forgiving those who abuse children is addressed in a different light in Zosima's history. I read somewhere that Pevear considers Dostoyevsky a "polyphonic" novelist; everything resonates on multiple levels. For each incident or situation in this novel, there is given both a negative as well as a positive snapshot of it. Dostoyevsky takes a few basic situations and continually utilizes them over and over in various contexts. But what do they all tend towards? An insight into the way we ought to live, a revelation on the connectedness of things. It isn't New Age fluff in Dostoyevsky--it is convincing and inspiring. Dostoyevsky is able to illustrate the sorrows and evils of humanity but, unlike other authors who simply wish to revel in humanity's negative side, he presents the positive--fully cognizant that most people are prone to darkness and would never, ever see that beguiling "slant of light" that mesmerizes Alyosha and Zosima throughout the novel. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (79 of 81), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 02, 2001 07:57 PM No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! For a little historical insight on the Inquisition, here's Norman F. Cantor: Contrary to the widespread belief in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Inquisitors were, with few exceptions, not psychotic sadists who were insatiably seeking vengeance upon heretics through death penalties. The inquisitors were normally well-trained canon lawyers and frequently Dominican friars or members of another religious order. Recent research has shown that they were sufficiently astute to be skeptical of the witchcraft craze of the 15th and 16th centuries and to find the vast majority of the accusations against old women and similar marginal people who were alleged to be witches to be without substance. Therefore, the courts of the papal mandated Inquisition should never be considered in the same category as the Nazi holocaust or Stalinist purges. Of course, Dostoyevsky probably chose an "inquisitor" for Ivan's poem because here was an actual organization that sought to spread the peace of Christianity through torture and violence--something I'm sure Dostoyevsky could not resist delving into. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (80 of 81), Read 7 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 04:47 AM Dan-- I never said the Aloysha strain in BK wasn't morally inspiring or convincing, only that it was artistically inferior. Just like the bizarre reformation tacked onto C&P as an ending, this strain is there precisely BECAUSE it should be, ethically, but turning to BK for Christian faith strikes me as strange as looking towards Doctor Faustus or Jude the Obscure... their literary merits lie elsewhere. It is not an easy trick to make someone as self-absorbed and intermittently cold as Ivan is lovable to the reader, or to have us retain our affections for Mitya after he kicks his father in the face... or make us miss the 'old buffoon' himself once he's swept from the board, or make us feel sympathy fro the excruciatingly cruel Smerdyakov. This trick isn't achieved by our investment in their various beliefs in God... it's achieved by D's haunting and even subtle potrayal of their humanity, which I personally find more interesting and less pat than the doctrinal aspects, that's all. Didn't want the trick to get lost. Sometimes I think it's unfair of me, as a reader, to expect to walk away from every great novel with an enhanced sense of hope... I do, the majority of the time, but I wonder if it's justified here? When the novel ends with 'Hurrah for the Karamazovs!' I concur, and cheer the bravery of the book, but more damage has been done than not, and to 'repair' it all in my head as worth it if it brings one more wavering pilgrim to God seems to me to minimize the delineated pain unjustly somehow...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (81 of 81), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 08:15 AM George- For you, the religious message was not meaningful or integral to your enjoyment. For me, it was, and I walked away from BK with both the lesson and the beauty and art of the writing. That's what endeared the novel to my heart. We're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (82 of 82), Read 1 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 10:40 AM George: Your second paragraph is my statement exactly. Dostoyevsky is able to articulate the humanity of people of the most savage dispositions. However, the religious perspective Dostoyevsky works in this novel is absolutely amazing. It isn't just cheap window dressing; it's an integral aspect of the novel. A reader cannot read this novel ignoring the elements of faith and Christian living as peripheral and artistically inferior; to me, that's reification. The idea of the resonance of this novel is provided in a seemingly innocent statement by Zosima: My brother asked the birds to forgive him; that sounds senseless, but it is right; for all is like an ocean, all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth. This novel functions in a similar vein: Parts seem senseless, defy rationality and enter the realm of the mystical (such as the notion of begging the forgiveness of birds), yet the novel is constructed to provide support by the manner in which everything--every character, every narrative device, everything--relates to everything else. A passage in the middle of the work reverberates across the entire expanse of this novel. There are windows within windows, doppelgangers, and mirror actions--all constructed to articulate the very notions of faith that have rocked religion for centuries. Yet, instead of just chipping away the foundations of faith, Dostoyevsky deconstructs those foundations and, using the power of the novel, provides solutions. It's one hell of an artistic achievement. It is the chapter "A Critical Moment," in the center of this massive novel, that the narrator (a monk) seems intent that the reader comprehend Alyosha's critical moment of faith: Yet I must frankly own that it would be very difficult for me to give a clear account of that strange, vague moment in the life of the hero of my tale whom I love so much and who was still so young...I would only beg the reader not to be in too great a hurry to laugh at my young hero's pure heart...No doubt a youth who received impressions cautiously, whose love was lukewarm, and whose mind was too prudent for his age and so of little value, such a young man might, I admit, have avoided what happened to my hero. But in some cases it is really more creditable to be carried away by an emotion, however unreasonable, which springs from a great love, than to be unmoved... Dostoyevsky the author knew that Alyosha's critical moment would be largely ridiculed as "artistically inferior" and I find it amusing that he takes time out to point it out directly to the reader--"You won't get it, you'll laugh at it, but this is very important." But we do not have to take the narrator's word for it; his direct statements are given substance in the very fabric of the novel. The whole of this novel is a series of encounters of faith: Some with, some without. It is the very substance of the work and, for me personally, it is accomplished. One finishes this novel of murder and betrayal with, as George points out, cheering for the very family at the savage center of it all. And that is no easy task. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (83 of 97), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 04:14 PM Hi, I was able to get the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of the Brothers. I was absolutely amazed at the clarity of the writing, probably due to a better translation. This books seems to be something very special and so far appears superior to D's other books I have read. I am also surprised that the discussion started early and I am left behind, having just finished Grendel. I hope I can still find a discussion on him since this book has very interesting aspects and I wonder if other readers have noticed them as well. My concern right now is, will I live long enough to finish the Brothers (BG) or will I be in the middle when we get to the next assignment. Also, I had a few problems finding and signing up with the new internet address. I guess I was not the only one- I hope. Ernie

Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (84 of 97), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 04:18 PM Kay-- We'll agree to disagree. I do believe those sections can be enjoyable, and I'm glad to be talking to somebody who does... it gives me a fresh perspective. Dan-- As I read your post I realized it's just a different set of exppectations: I think I turn to Dostoevsky primarily for originality and intensity, and I've met many, many Aloyshas and Zossimas in literature, but only one Ivan, one Mitya, one Smerdyakov... hence I would value them more. It's subjective. You've shown me a blindspot in my approach. Thanks. At the risk of ridiculousness, though, I disagree with your agreement: I don't cheer at the end for the family in relation to their faiths... I cheer for their vitality. There's a big difference. I'm very interested that you find religious solutions in the book that Ivan and Mitya could not, and I'd love to hear them sometime...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (85 of 97), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 05:13 PM George: Name some of these Alyoshas so prevalent in literature. I am very interested. I have seen Smerdyakov in Joseph Conrad's Victory and numerous Faulkner novels. Of course, those are the works of people influenced by Big D. Preceding Dostoyevsky? That's a difference. I think the only place they appeared before The Brothers Karamazov was in Dostoyevsky's other novels. One last time around, I'll try to illustrate "religious solutions in the book that Ivan and Mitya could not." First of all, Mitya is all action; he's the victim of his own passions and forces of society. It's Ivan that deconstructs faith empirically. In "Rebellion," Ivan sums up his argument thusly: I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be, when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.' When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls mu up here is that I can't accept that harmony...It's not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! It's not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. The idea is returned to within a religious context in "Notes of the Life in God of the Elder Zosima:" And what mysteries are solved and revealed; God raises Job again, gives him wealth again. Many years pass by, and he has other children and loves them. But how could he love those new ones when those first children are no more, when he has lost them? Remembering them, how could he be fully happy with those new ones, however dear the new ones might be? But he could, he could. It's the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy. Job loses his children yet comes to term with God anyway; Ivan cannot envision such forgiveness. The two passages seem disparate but, if you look carefully, it is the same concept from a different perspective, within a different light. And I understand many have problems accepting Dostoyevsky's mysticism as a solution, that the solution to Ivan's argument is "the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy." In effect, there are no rational answers to Ivan's stance. In a way, it is related to the motif of asking questions which pervades the novel. Often, characters find a proper frame of reference from which to ask questions. If asked directly if the torture of one child is worth harmony, of course the answer--even for Alyosha--is no. But the question itself is the trap--it is the context of the question which renders alternatives moot. It is the manner the question is asked that should be examined in some cases within this novel. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (86 of 97), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 05:24 PM I'd like to take this discussion to more familiar terrain with a question I have: What's the deal with Katerina? Her strange behavior with Grushenka has already been mentioned, but I'm more interested in her reaction to Mitya's "sin:" I looked [Katerina] up and down. You've seen her? She's a beauty. But she was beautiful in another way then. At that moment she was beautiful because she was noble, and I was a scoundrel; she in all the grandeur of her generosity and sacrifice for her father, and I--a bug! And, bug and scoundrel as I was, she was completely at my mercy, body and soul. She was hemmed in. I tell you frankly, that thought, that venomous thought, so possessed my heart that it almost swooned with suspense. Now here was a man planning on having a little sex with a snotty young thing to put her in her place--outright despicable behaviour. But, he can't go through with it. How does she react? 'I love you madly,' she says, 'even if you don't love me, never mind. Be my husband. Don't be afraid. I won't hamper you in any way. I will be your chattel. I will be the carpet under your feet. I want to love you forever. I want to save you form yourself.' My question is simple: How psychologically sound is this within the plot? Dostoyevsky is known as a great psychologist novelist on a par with Henry James (and this scene reminds me of sections of On the Wings of a Dove). And it is Katerina's reaction to Mitya's actions that amaze me. I'm very curious as to how a woman would feel. Can you see sense in this? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (87 of 97), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 07:23 PM Dan, I thought your message about the “religious solutions” posed by D. was great! Dostoevsky’s refutation of the negative ideas expressed by Ivan and the Grand Inquisitor is not a direct one, meaning not a face-to-face argument, but present throughout the remainder of the novel (particularly in Book VI, “The Russian Monk”). In addition Zosima’s comments on the story of Job, which Dan talked about, Zosima also says the following shortly after: “Whoever does not believe in God will not believe in the people of God. But he who believes in the people of God will also see their holiness, even if he did not believe in it at all before.[…] And what is the word of Christ without an example?” Zosima is saying that only through active love will one come to believe in God; by loving, man gains new respect for everyone in God’s world and for God. What is denied to our understanding is revealed to love and joy and self-forgetfulness. Ivan spends his time intellectualizing over abstract problems, and has no time left to practice active love. Mere theory, just because it is theory, ends in atheism, because it analyses and does not see the whole. Not only does Zosima say that mystery must remain a mystery, but that without that element of mystery there would be no faith. He says, “Much on earth is concealed from us, but in place of it we have been granted a secret, mysterious sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world […] if this sense [of being in touch with other mysterious worlds] is weakened or destroyed in you […] then you become indifferent to life, and even come to hate it.” I have read that a few days before “The Russian Monk” was due to appear (the work was serialized) D. wrote that he was trembling over whether it would adequately answer the negative ideas expressed by Ivan and The Grand Inquisitor. Was he right to have trembled? D. does not counter Ivan’s arguments with logic or reason, but through the heart. Between "The Russian Monk" and the way Alyosha puts into practice Zosima’s idea of active love throughout the novel, and I think D. poses a successful “answer.” But I do admit that "The Grand Inquisitor" and "The Devil. Ivan F's Nightmare" were my favorite chapters! -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (88 of 97), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 07:25 PM I think some women see men like Mitya as a challenge for their sexuality. They also believe that all he needs is a little love, comfort, and understanding from a good woman, and he'll straighten right up. A man like that gives her a sense of power and control, as well as a mission. It's a kind of game. Sometimes women will pull that, "I will be your chattel" routine as a means of manipulation. For others, it's a symptom of their powerless self esteems. I think that K's declaration of terms for their potential marriage was a sudden surge of passion, in response to Mitya's sexual vibes. It's that old, "he's a bad boy, and I find that thrilling" dance. Katerina confused me, too. I couldn't decide if she really did love Mitya, or was just angry that he had chosen Grushenka over her. She didn't really want him, yet she was damned if anyone else could have him over her. I think she deluded herself into thinking she loved him. It was material for great drama. Her better side won out when it came down to testifying in Mitya's favor. It wasn't until Grushenka entered the scene that Katerina turned on him. Also, remember that Katerina had tried to manipulate Grushenka once before, and lost the battle. Katerina's producing the letter was as much a slap to Grushenka as it was to Mitya. Truth told, I think Katerina was very confused regarding her feelings for Mitya. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (89 of 97), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, August 03, 2001 11:38 PM Allemande right, and do-si-do your partner. As you were. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (90 of 97), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 04:07 AM Well, I'm not gonna top how Marcy put it... like her, I admire the sentiments expressed by the religious leaders in BK and, like her, my favorite chapters are elsewhere. Those 2 passages-- Ivan's and Zossima's-- also perfectly display why. Ivan asks a question which IS NOT answered by Zossima. Ivan's passage recognizes that a mother can embrace a fiend who's killed her children...forgive the fiend, love the fiend. 'When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can't accept that harmony...' In Zossima's passage on Job, fiendish fate steals Job's children... how can he embrace that fate, in essence crying aloud 'Thou art just, O Lord!' ?!? The answer cannot be: "the great mystery of human life that old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy." Mystery is not an answer. The answer is this: 'But he could, he could.' Which leads me to my initial point: the answer to the HUGE issues of doubt raised in BK always boils down to essentially '... well, just BECAUSE, dammit!' I came across a very illuminating introduction to BK by Malcolm V. Jones. It says: 'In letters to his editor D insists that Ivan's blasphemous arguments are to be refuted later (in BK). Clearly, he was anxious that the censor and the publisher might refuse publication on grounds of heresy. But as time went on, D found the task of refuting Ivan through Zossima increasingly taxing.' That 'taxing', obligated tone is I think what I found objectionable. That hyper-investment in an argument to save the book from censors makes D's voice less free, less radical, and to me less artistically successful.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (91 of 97), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 09:27 AM Where's my list of other literary Alyoshas, George? I'm waiting. Marcy: Excellently articulated. I agree with you 100%. The Brothers Karamazov is not artistically weak because Dostoyevsky was bound by censors--Dostoyevsky's letters make it perfectly clear that the Christian framework of The Brothers Karamazov novel was always paramount in his mind. Besides, he's repeating similar arguments he has made in his other novels. Dostoyevsky is essentially a Christian author of monumental proportions. Sure he was psychologically astute and in touch with the "underground," but he also possessed a mystical Christian vision that was every bit as difficult to articulate, especially in an artform that relies heavily on rationalism and logic for its effect. It has always been this shuttling between the grittiest reality with the most sublime mystical visions that attracted me to Dostoyevsky in the first place. And speaking of gritty reality... Note that Grushenka also grovels at Mitya's feet after the frenetic party at Mokroe: Why listen to me? Kiss me, kiss me hard, that's right. If you love, well then love! I'll be your slave now, your slave for the rest of my life. It's sweet to be a slave. Kiss me! Beat me, ill-treat me, do what you will with me...And I do deserve to suffer. Oh momma, but Mitya has a way with the ladies, n'est-ce pas? Kay: Is this also just the attraction of a bad boy? Does beating people and recklessly spending one's money have such an impact on women? Grushenka's reaction to Mitya is plausible whereas Katerina's reaction is not, at least not yet. Several times in the novel a character or even the narrator mention that Katerina was in love with her gratitude that Mitya was able to rise above his bestial instincts at the very moment when he had free reign over her person. I'm trying to recall, here: Katerina is said to love the gratitude she owed Mitya whereas Grushenka loved...there was something Grushenka supposedly loved--was it the idea of forgiving Mitya his trespasses? I'll have to look it up. These bizarre love triangles are such a part of Dostoyevsky that I realized something: Is a decent, loving married couple ever present within a Dostoyevsky novel? I cannot think of any decently married people in The Brothers Karamazov, unless you posit Grigory and Martha are decently married. Could it be that Dostoyevsky could not believe that human love for another could not exist as it does between Christ and man? Both the love of Katerina as well as Grushenka possess a low element of servitude that, in my opinion, cheapens it. Of course, there's Lise and Alyosha, but I think Dostoyevsky was going to expand on that relationship in the main Karamazov novel he never got around to writing because the Grim Reaper intervened. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (92 of 97), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 10:16 AM "Is this also just the attraction of a bad boy? Does beating people and recklessly spending one's money have such an impact on women?" Dan- I think it does for some women. I do not understand it myself, but I do think some women's self esteem is so low that they'll take any kind of attention from any man. I don't know if that's K's and G's problem or not. It's one explanation is all. Does D. ever portray a woman as having intelligence, dignity, and self esteem? I'm wondering if he had a clear insight into the female mind. It may be that the Russian culture put women in subservient roles, and D. is merely writing a Russian man's belief that women need/want that kind of servitude. As I said before, K. really puzzled me as well. Grushenka seemed to be working from a "that's my man" viewpoint, which was easier to understand. As to her own "mop the floor with me" statement, I think that was a play to manipulate Mitya into marriage. She was saying that she'd do anything he wanted, if only he'd love her. It's sad, but some women actually think that way. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (93 of 97), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 03:51 PM An intelligent, decent woman portrayed by Dostoyevsky--that's a tough one, Kay. Seems I recall such a one in The Idiot, but I would have to go back and check. I like what you said about Russian culture being a possible factor. Perhaps it's a male thing where we just love to see a woman willing to be our personal piece of carpet for our muddy boots. I admit I never saw this curve-ball coming; I always thought Dostoyevsky had a psychological bead on humanity. But the characteristics of the female do seem rather male-oriented. Dare I admit an impediment in one of my faves? Did Dostoyevsky, with his infinite knowledge of psychology and writing skills not understand the female? Somebody, someone, show me that this just isn't so... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (94 of 97), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 03:53 PM And the more I think about this, the more I think there's only one CR person ideally suited to answer the question of feminine psychology and literary representation--Steve. Where is he anyway? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (95 of 97), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 04, 2001 07:41 PM Dan - What a delightful spell of laughter that thought engendered. Steve - I would treasure any of your hard gained insights into the female psyche. We girls always get a kick out of any male's attempt at insight. Ha! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (96 of 97), Read 7 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 05:53 AM Dan-- I never meant this to be a duel. You say 'where's my list?' in a tone suspiciously similar to my brother's when he stands across the net from me, racket in hand, saying 'c'mon George, bring it!'. I admitted (in advance) that my approach to BK is colored by my ideological starting point and thanked YOU for articulating with care and skill a side I've read about but not seen in action. Yet you negate my position out of hand. That's fine, of course... I'm no D expert. I assume Malcolm Jones is, though you say he's wrong... also fine, but I find it psychologically plausible that a man (D) mock executed and given years of penal time for 'political crimes' might be wary of the censor and (at times) of his own radical ideas. Such a man might 'tremble' at the thought that he would be unable to best his own creation, i.e, refute the very convincing Ivan. You also negate the critic Rene Girard who said: '(D's) work is a means of knowledge, an instrument of exploration; it is thus always beyond the creator himself; it is in advance of his intelligence and of his faith.' And the critic Mikhail Bakhtin who said what I've been trying to say but incomparably better: 'Precisely the image of a human being and his voice, a voice not the author's own, was the ultimate artistic criterion for D: not fidelity to his own convictions and not fidelity to convictions themselves taken abstractly, but precisely a fidelity to the authoritative image of a human being.' That's all I've been getting to all along, really. There are those of us out here who believe that D's 'ultimate artistic criterion' (as articulated by Bakhtin) applies better to, say, Ivan than to, say, Alyosha because Ivan's voice is fiercer and the painting of him is more daring and less invested in ideological proofs. That's all... you can negate this view, but it will remain all the same.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (97 of 97), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 11:32 AM It's not a duel, George: I gathered there weren't many literary Alyoshas out there and you have just confirmed that fact. I am fascinated with the character Alyosha, a distinct improvement over Dostoyevsky's similar character of Myshkin in The Idiot. I'm sad that that's the case, though; literature could use a few more Alyoshas and a lot less Smerdyakovs. What's really shocking is that I start talking about women yearning to be mistreated by men--a theme running through The Brothers Karamazov--and it gets eerily quiet out here in Classics Corner. Is there mulling going on or what? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (98 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 02:22 PM I'm just starting this book and hoping you all will tolerate a bit of late discussion on my part. My instinct is to answer your question immediately from my own point of view, Dan, but I think it should be done with a knowledge of the book, so will bide my time (this took a lot of discipline, believe me). Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (99 of 110), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 02:46 PM Barb, You're back! Great. Drum rolls, please-- I FINISHED!!! I just want to say that I think this book is brilliant and I am sure that the translation added infinitely to my enjoyment. This is the first time I have ever detected the humor in Dostoevsky that I am sure was always there in the original. George, for once :), we are on the same track here. Dan, you have really posed an interesting question about D's female characters, and I'll have to think some more about it before I respond in detail. Primarily, I respond to D's characters as human beings; I have never thought about them as peculiarly male or female. Perhaps I should. With few exceptions, almost all of his characters are flawed human beings, and some have serious psychological problems. Freud would have had a hay day with Katerina, a woman consumed by her own pride and a masochistic need to punish herself (also, anyone else who stood in her way). Marriage to her would be one long living hell. Sonia, the saintly prostitute with a heart of gold. in THE IDIOT, would be her opposite, but somehow she rings less true than Katerina. Are the female characters more flawed than the male? I'm not sure. Hysteria runs rampant among them, but as Kay has pointed out, the "brain fever" that afflicts so many of the male characters differs very little. Ernie, my experience was that the first half of this book was a bit slow. I galloped through the second half. I look forward to reading your psychological insights into these characters. Hang in there. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (100 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 09:12 PM I have finally caught up on the previous notes, which are terrific. I will reiterate that a reader's reaction to the religious passages in this book depends a great deal on his own relationship to religion. For me, the religious questions that Ivan poses so clearly are never resolved--nor can they be. Dostoevsky solves the problem in the novel by having Ivan virtually disappear after his all too brief courtroom appearance. Was that brain fever perhaps just a bit too convenient? Some of you apparently find the resolution of the religious questions in Aloysha's life. I must admit that Dostoevsky's portrait of this Christ like, all forgiving character is remarkably effective. Usually I find such characters cloyingly sweet or hopelessly naive. But Aloysha is also fortunate that he never really experiences a religious crisis. Sure, he is a bit upset by Zosima's decay but he never really doubts. Lucky him. Regarding D's women, the only sympathetic ones I can find in this novel are the poor ones. These include Marfa Ignatievna, Smerdyakov's adoptive mother and Grigory's wife, and Ilyushechka's crazy mother and handicapped sister. They are all minor characters and like most of the poor folk in D's novel, very sympathetic. The main females are a mess. Grushenka is cruel and manipulative for at least three fourths of the novel. Katerina Ivanovna is a control freak with a masochistic need to suffer and a wounded pride that shudders in horror at the thought that any man could prefer that slut Grushenka to her. The other Katerina, Katerina Osipovna, and her daughter Lise are foolish non-stop talkers, who seem to be there primarily for comic relief. What about the male characters--always excepting the children and the saints? To what extent did you as a reader, for example, feel empathy for that ridiculous playboy Dmitri or his intellectual brother Ivan?
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (101 of 110), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 05, 2001 10:40 PM Ann: Great, great stuff to mull over. I had no problem with Ivan and Mitya--I've seen those kinds of guys everywhere. The chapter where Mitya is questioned about his whereabouts reads like a current episode of cops or some special on Court TV. There really are people like that. About the sudden disappearance of Ivan: I do not believe Dostoyevsky ushered him off the stage so that the reader would forget Ivan's statements. With "Rebellion" and "The Grand Inquisitor," putting him backstage wouldn't have worked anyway. This novel was to be a precursor for another novel. Dostoyevsky felt that the other wouldn't have the impact he envisioned without his fully articulating the history and actions that the main characters have been through. For instance, note Ivan's closing remarks to Alyosha at the end of the chapter "The Grand Inquisitor:" "And now you go to the right and I to the left. And it's enough, do you hear, enough. I mean even if I don't go away tomorrow and we meet again, don't say a word more on these subjects. I beg that particularly. And about brother Dmitri too, I ask you specially never speak to me again," he added, with sudden irritation; "it's all exhausted, it has all been said over and over again, hasn't it? And I'll make you one promise in return for it. When at thirty, I want to 'dash the cup to the ground,' wherever I may be I'll come to have one more talk with you, even though it were from America, you may be sure of that. I'll come on purpose. It will be interesting to have a look at you, to see what you'll be by that time. It's rather a solemn promise, you see." The action of The Brothers Karamazov takes place 13 years before the planned action of the main novel Dostoyevsky had in mind. The main line would be Mitya's return after prison. Imagine Ivan prepared for suicide arriving to talk with Alyosha. What might have changed? Would Alyosha have encountered some tangible facts that would cause him to seriously doubt (as Ann notes) his faith? The possibilities for that future conversation would have been Dostoyevskian. It gives me chills to think that this marvelous book was only a preface, mere exposition, to a grander work. Can you imagine what Dostoyevsky could have achieved with these characters after they move on for 13 years? I swear I just shiver to think of the possibilities. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (102 of 110), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 01:14 AM Ann- Ivan's questions cannot be resolved in any other way but to take a leap of faith. For Alyosha, that leap is a means of handling doubts. It's a survival tool of sorts, and allows him to find joy in parts of his life. I wonder how aware he actually is of his use of faith as a tool of perspective. It's real for him, but it is a tool for survival. You're right that a reader's response depends on his religious outlook and his willingness to trust in something greater than the whole. Alyosha is willing to take that leap and derives comfort and joy from it. Ivan and Mitya insist on their rationalism and quest for proof. Yet they still seek a resolution, which they strongly suspect is faith. They cannot allow themselves to let go. I think they believe in God, but don't have much faith in Him. That's quite a dilemma for the human soul. For me, they were the more interesting characters. However, Alyosha and Kolya were my favorites. Why was Kolya introduced in the story? Was it to offer hope and encouragement to the reader somehow? Dan- Yes, I would have loved to read the sequel to BK. Rather boggles the mind, doesn't it? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (103 of 110), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 09:34 AM Attn: Barbara Moors (Barb Moors) Hey Barb -- thought I'd show this cool new thing by putting this to your attention -- I just want to let you know that I had Jim shopping for books last week while he was in CA and Texas ( Texas is getting a lot of my book business this year{G}) -- he brought me Brothers Karamazov as well as Blood Meridian -- and I've begun both of them. I'll be reading along with you, Barb and will chime in on any late discussion -- I am thinking I will be very slow with this -- could be wrong -- this is my first serious attempt at these big Russians but in scanning the early posts here I got intrigued enough to get brave! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (104 of 110), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 09:43 AM I'm about a third way through Brothers Karamazov..I put it down to read some Yates...but I'll be joining in as soon as I finish it. I was a bit afraid this thread would be a thing of the past by the time I finished it, and I'm so glad to know that won't be the case! Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (105 of 110), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 10:04 AM Attn: Dottie Randall (indy) That is neat, Dottie (the Attn option). Now, you've motivated me to figure out how to use it myself! Let me know if it worked. The only trick is to remember to still reply to the last note in the thread rather than to the "attention" note. Also, I'm glad you'll be around to discuss this with, Beej and Dottie. It shouldn't take me as long as usual since I won't be working again for a few weeks. It's a long book, but, so far, it flows easier for me than the Dosteovskys I've read previously. I'm wondering if it is this book or the translation or a combination of the two. Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (106 of 110), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 10:13 AM Barb -- at the moment the attn note is the last one so -- yes, it worked! It IS cool isn't it -- but some of us will still miss those YOOHOO topic lines -- {G}. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (107 of 110), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 10:29 AM Attn: Dottie Randall (indy) Dottie, I replied to the attn. note on Beej's last note. So, it doesn't automatically put you at the end of the thread. Why is there an (indy) after your name when I put it in my address book? And, I think you should feel free to put a Yahoo! heading in notes, if only for old time's sake. Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (108 of 110), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 10:44 AM Barb -- that indy is my user name(I think that's the term) on the board and relates to that ID in my tagline. I'm sure that old YOOHOO will show up sometime -- why not?!? The only drawback we have found with these attn notes thus far is that they don't clear when marked all read is marked and must AGE off -- ah well. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (109 of 110), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 11:55 AM Kay-- Your distinction between 'most interesting' and 'favorite' characters is spot on... I'd imagine it was much the same for D himself. Ann-- Thanks. Dan-- That was an amazing statement: 'I'm sad that that's the case, though; literature could use a few more Alyoshas and a lot less Smerdyakovs.' Smerdyakov is a landmark character in literature, influential on Faulkner and Conrad, Pynchon and Roth, etc., He is drawn with astonishing skill and sheds a powerful light on Ivan and Fyodor in particular, but across the psychology of the novel in general. He IS morally reprehensible. He is also indispensible to BK. I can't help but feel your statement is an example of the haze that descends upon literature when one tries to approach it from a primarily moral standpoint. That same logic would of course prune away Odysseus, Milton's Satan, Macbeth, Ahab, etc., You may wish for less of these characters-- I cannot join you. Neither can I be as trusting of the gentle Christianity of a man who wrote (in a letter to the writer Herzen): 'I have acquired the truth, and in the words 'God' and 'religion' I see darkness, obscurity, chains, and the knout.' Frankly, I think D would blanch at the idea that anyone would accept Alyosha's words as 100% representative of D the artist. I think the issue is more complicated and more interesting. A primarily moral approach to BK misses some ironies... my favorite of which comes near the end. Halfway through the chapter 'for a moment the lie became truth' Mitya says to Alyosha: 'I love you for always telling the complete truth and never hiding anything!' He then immediately lays out his escape plan to America. Then he asks Alyosha: '...Do you approve?' This is the next sentence (Alyosha's response) in the Pevear translation: "'I do,' said Alyosha, not wishing to contradict him." Mitya tends to see Alyosha in the dark-light of the holes in his OWN personality and character. He idealizes him. Alyosha shouldn't be idealized anymore than Ivan should be demonized... not if one is interested in reading accurately. Alyosha does hide things, he does lust, and he does lie. He also has a good heart. But he isn't the jewel that refracts all the best thoughts in D's mind. He is a jewel... but in their own ways, so are all the Karamazovs. To wish for less of them and more Alyoshas is to wish Dostoevsky's art into a vapor, a theological tract with no beating heart. In D's novel 'Demons', Bishop Tikhon delivers a very heartwarming message of God's capacity for forgiveness. That capacity is ragingly torn at by Nicholas Stavrogin... a character much like Ivan in BK. I suppose one could judge Tikhon's moral message the greatest thing in Demons... but D thought differently: found in his working notes for the novel was one note to himself that said: 'Stavrogin is everything'. He obviously didn't think that Stavrogin was the most moral character in Demons, he thought Stavrogin was the most important and most artistic character in the novel. A strange view for a Christian author, but then there are many strange views to be found in his books that are hard to reconcile...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (110 of 110), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 04:36 PM My point, George, was not that I don't enjoy the Smerdyakovs of literature--I pointed some of those out to you. You claimed literature was just brimming with Aloyosha characters when, in fact, it isn't. It's much more difficult to create an intriguing character of faith than it is to create one of moral depravity. Like you, I get my fair share of jollies from evil in literature; I just love it when an author as gifted as Dostoyevsky takes on the task of tackling the themes of faith and humanity with such artistry and depth. It's a rare and precious piece of work. Let's take Dostoyevsky's own words from his letters: "The villians teased me for my uneducated and reactionary faith in God. These blockheads did not even dream of such a powerful negation of God as was put into the Inquisitor and in the preceding chapter, to which the whole novel serves as an answer." Dostoyevsky had toyed with these concepts of faith before, especially in The Idiot, but he always stopped short of fully integrating them into the action of the novel. With The Brothers Karamazov, he achieves a vision of the real forces battling for control of the human heart. Whether or not we as readers are willing to accept his answer depends ultimately, as Ann so well stated, on we as readers alone. For me, it's a cheap shot to say it's "artistically inferior" because it doesn't satisfy my personal vision. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (111 of 118), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 08:18 PM Since this is the first book by D. that I have read, I’m hesitant to jump into the discussion regarding D.’s portrayal of women (whether any female characters are portrayed as having intelligence, dignity, and self esteem). One thing that struck me though was the chapter “A Little Demon,” which presented Liza in a very different light from any other female character, and suddenly very differently from how Liza had been portrayed up to that point. “Alyosha was struck most of all by her seriousness: not a shadow of laughter or playfulness was left on her face, though before gaiety and playfulness had not abandoned her even in her most ‘serious’ moments.” She then says, “Listen, your brother is on trial now for killing his father, and they all love it that he killed his father. […] Everyone says it’s terrible, but secretly they all love it terribly. I’m the first to love it.” This notion is similar to Mitya’s earlier lamentation over men confusing the beauty of Sodom with that of the Madonna. Alyosha, surprisingly, agrees with much of what she has said, and even has had the same dream that she has had about devils. Here we see Liza seriously grappling with the same issues as the male characters in the book. At the end of that chapter, when she purposely slams the door on her finger with all her might, this is not a symptom of “hysterics” but of her trying to come to terms with the idea of suffering in order to learn. Granted, slamming the door on her finger may be viewed as a superficial means of going about this, but it’s clear that she is undergoing an internal struggle like most of the male characters, and it would have been most interesting to see where D. would have taken her character, had he lived to write the sequel. -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (112 of 118), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 06, 2001 09:49 PM Marcy: Please do jump in. You managed to make more sense of that finger-scene than I ever did. I was reading some preface somewhere where it was stated that children and women tend to be silent victims in Dostoyevsky; they suffer cruelty passively and rarely express themselves as the male characters tend to do. I find that the women and children of The Brothers Karamazov do speak out and take action--though often it baffles me. But does anyone see Grushenka as a helpless victim unable to defend herself? And though he is under the sorry philosophical influence of Rakitin for a while, Kolya manages to hold his own as well within the novel--of course, that's with the help of Alyosha. Hmmmm. And Marcy: I wanted to ask you something. A while back you mentioned Freud's take on Grand Inquisitor and then stated you would leave the "stick with both ends" for later. Now that most seem to be finishing, what was Freud's comments, if I can't guess already? Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (113 of 118), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 12:24 AM Kay, I too think that Kolya was introduced in the story in order to offer hope and encouragement to the reader. If you think about the last chapter in the epilogue, “Ilyushechka’s Funeral – The Speech at the Stone,” Alyosha and the children seem like Jesus and his apostles. Alyosha is cementing this brotherhood of children on the basis of what Ivan had refused to accept – the unjustified suffering of a child. Alyosha says, “Let us always remember how we buried the poor boy, whom we once threw stones at – remember, there by the little bridge?” The boys had all contributed to Ilyushechka’s suffering – they accept that they are all guilty, and it fortifies their brotherhood. It’s in the youth that D. is placing the hope that each person will finally, as Father Zosima puts it, “make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. […] The moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.” I think we’re supposed to view Kolya and the boys who follow him as being on their way there. (though I’m still not sure what to make of that “each is responsible for all” concept…) Dan, Here’s the quote from Freud’s essay regarding the “stick with two ends”: “In the speech for the defense at the trial, there is the famous mockery of psychology – it is a ‘knife that cuts both ways’ [Garnett’s translation]: a splendid piece of disguise, for we have only to reverse it in order to discover the deepest meaning of D.’s view of things. It is not psychology that deserves the mockery, but the procedure of judicial enquiry. It is a matter of indifference who actually committed the crime; psychology is only concerned to know who desired it emotionally and who welcomed it when it was done. And for that reason all of the brothers, except the contrasted figure of Alyosha, are equally guilty – the impulsive sensualist, the skeptical cynic and the epileptic criminal.” -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (114 of 118), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 01:15 AM Dan-- I'm sorry I missed your point. I didn't realize your saying you wished there were less Smerdyakovs in literature meant that you enjoyed the character... my apologies. You missed my point along the line: I agree that characters of faith are difficult to make convincing (although there are many), actually any character is difficult to make convincing, hence the outnumbering of Dostoevskys by Krantzes. What is easy is to write a character that is the mouthpiece for all the beliefs the writer THINKS the reader should hold. Self-propaganda is very easy and very common. Characters like Alyosha that essentially represent the writer preaching at the reader are everywhere... to say that they are rare is very much in error.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (115 of 118), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 09:16 AM Marcy- I think that "each is responsible for all" is a way of saying that since we've all sinned at one time or another, none have the right to condemn. Wasn't there a passage where D. discusses the right of society to judge in favor of capital punishment? In that sense, we are responsible for others who have also sinned and share in their brotherhood. We do not have the right to condemn another to death. I do not think D. is saying that we are responsible for specific heinous acts committed by others. It's a "hate the sin, love the sinner" concept. I'm not sure what his suggestion would have been for serial offenders. As for a mother embracing the murderer and torturer of her child - well, in an ideal world, the crimes wouldn't happen in the first place. That is not likely to happen any time soon. A parent might forgive a fellow human being, but the sin of murder/torture? Nope. That's for God to do, which is why faith is important. Faith is what Alyosha and Zosima are offering as solutions to the world we've created for ourselves. Some opt for faith and some don't. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (116 of 118), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 10:19 AM Kay-- Contrary to how I'm probably sounding here, I agree that faith is the offered and sole solution to the dark questions we're raising here... I just didn't want the honesty with which D poses and faces these questions lost. At one point, Ivan tells a horrifying anecdote to Alyosha, one where a landowner hunts down a naked child with hounds and horses, torturing and killing him for some negligible offense. Ivan asks Alyosha what should be done with the landowner, and Alyosha replies 'shoot him' with a 'pale, twisted smile' on his face. Forgiveness IS the real answer, one which Alyosha fully believes and practices. But even he is capable of endorsing blood vengeance in extreme cases... and in light of Ivan's illness, ALL the cases he broods upon are extreme and feel to him as if they are personal. This isn't to excuse Ivan's disbelief, it is simply to recognize that belief is like the flame of a candle and in anybody, anytime, the light can flicker or be extinguished, the charred wick waiting for new heat to bring it back.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (117 of 118), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 10:54 AM Marcy: That is a fascinating insight Freud observed in this novel: "It is not psychology that deserves the mockery, but the procedure of judicial enquiry," to repeat your sentence. As I noted earlier, on this re-read I've noticed Dostoyevsky playing with inquiry, by focusing at times how questions are asked and how the context from which the questions arise color their possible answers. To illustrate the importance of the context of questions, we have the Grand Inquisitor's interrogation with Christ, Mitya's interrogation by the state, as well as the trail. Who is guilty of Pavlov's murder? Dostoyevsky novel illustrates this is not a simple "Who done it?" but a question involving the darkest psychology and the deepest faith. How would various characters truly answer the question? "Smerdyakov," the reader may say. "Mitya," the town says. "Ivan," Ivan says. "Everyone," Alyosha says. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (118 of 118), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 11:00 AM Kay you pose the question, Does D. ever portray a woman as having intelligence, dignity, and self esteem? I'm wondering if he had a clear insight into the female mind. My name comes up in connection with this? I was puzzled initially, but I think I know the reason why. This sort of observation had been posted over and over and over and over in Constant Reader through the eight years I have been hanging around. It's like a standard observation, most often posed with regard to Updike but also with regard to many other male writers. And it always falls to either Short or me to ask questions in response. In Short's absence, I shall step forward. I am a gentle soul and ask the following questions without any male aggression whatsoever or even a smidgeon of unkindness. I shall spare you the little smiley emoticons. Please just take my word for it. What do you intend by this? Is a measure of the worth of a novel by a male novelist whether he includes a female character with intelligence, dignity, and self-esteem? If he does not, does this mean he has no insight into the female mind? Even after 1970 women with strength of character (in the terms you use) have demonstrated their susceptibility to their hormones. Quite often men are involved in this some way. A portrayal of the conflict between women's better nature and their baser instincts is a source of great insight into the female mind, I think, just as it is a source of insight into the male mind. Anna Karenina comes to mind, a woman who discarded all of her intelligence, dignity, and self-esteem. At the very least it is certainly more entertaining than reading about Martha Stewart, isn't it? Having said all that, I don't think you intended the question as it sounded. What you are really looking for, I think, are strong women characters. Dostoyevski is certainly capable of that. I find Grushenka an immensely appealing and a very strong character, for example. The society in which she finds herself is certainly no utopia for women. Yet she is earthy and intrepid and does battle with all the weapons available to her. She is most definitely NOT dominated by the men. She manipulates them--at least until she "fooled around and feel in love," in the immortal words of Elvin Bishop. And in the end she is capable of feeling guilt. There is development in her character. Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (119 of 149), Read 72 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 02:20 PM Steve- I asked the question in response to Dan's questions regarding subservient women in BK. I was just asking if D. ever portrayed a woman as strong and independent, or if he was caught up in an unquestioned mindset of how women think. I do not think most women would settle for that kind of treatment, but some do. I agree that Grushenka is firmly in control of how she expects to be treated by the men in her life. However, even she has to stoop to manipulating Mitya's love by offering to be his doormat. I find that kind of subservient expectations humiliating and sad, whether it appears in BK or at my next door neighbor's house. I can't remember - what was the response of the men when presented with these offers? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (120 of 149), Read 71 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 02:33 PM I want to clarify something. D. is a wonderful, insightful psychologist. I was wondering how accurate his insights into the female psyche were. I don't think it's an issue of men not understanding women, or women not understanding men. I think it's more an issue of which authors have a broader insight than others. I've read books where women have written believable male characters and books where men have shown insight into a female's mind. My question dealt with how perceptive D. really was regarding the female mindset. I'm still not sure. He nailed a certain kind of female, though. That's for certain. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (121 of 149), Read 68 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 04:39 PM Okay, Kay. I read the exchange as Dan responding to you rather than the other way around. Dan says: I admit I never saw this curve-ball coming; I always thought Dostoyevsky had a psychological bead on humanity. But the characteristics of the female do seem rather male-oriented. Dare I admit an impediment in one of my faves? Did Dostoyevsky, with his infinite knowledge of psychology and writing skills not understand the female? Somebody, someone, show me that this just isn't so... Dan, maybe in response to your plea, I am your man. I have read this novel three times through the years and love it. I must say that the theological aspects of the thing have come to bore hell outa me, although at one time they were exciting to contemplate. But now you raise questions that still interest me. When you say male-oriented, I take it you mean subservient to males? Or do you mean something else, like simply that their lives all revolve around males? More importantly, what do you mean "not understand the female?" What female are you talking about? Or are you talking about the gender as a whole--the "female mindset," as Kay would have it? Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (122 of 149), Read 67 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 09:56 PM Kay, I don't find Grushenka very appealing, but I have to agree with Steve that she is definitely a strong character, who has made the most of an appalling situation and does a darn good job of manipulating almost everyone around her. (Aloysha is, of course, the exception). People who are weak learn to manipulate. When she lost her "virtue" to the Polish officer, she completely sacrificed her very respectable middle-class position in society. Yet she managed to amass a comfortable amount of money and maintain her sexual independence in spite of the fact that she was (horrors) a fallen woman. I don't think she will ever be subservient to Dmitri. After all, even after she finally decides she loves him, she refuses to make love with him. No, it's not Grushenka I have a problem with as a character. It's Dmitri. Dan said that he has known people like Dmitri. I honestly can't say that I have. In fact, I think Dostoevsky has made Dmitri completely ridiculous most of the time. He is a man totally controlled by his impulses, whose life is an emotional roller coaster. The reader has to question his basic intelligence. It is true that he adds some humor to the book, as, for instance when he is thrilled that Grushenka has left him a message that she loved him for "an hour," or when he is so much more concerned with being considered a "thief" than a "scoundrel." But it is often difficult for me to take him seriously. Ivan, I understand. I have been Ivan. Aloysha is the person I would like to be, mostly because he can combine true goodness with total acceptance. Even Smerdyakov speaks to the anger and sense of injustice I have sometimes felt. But I can't quite make up my mind about that totally excessive male, Dmitri Karmazov. What do the rest of you think? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (123 of 149), Read 68 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 08, 2001 01:55 AM Steve's take on Grushenka has already reaffirmed my faith in Dostoyevsky's perceptions and delineations of character, be it female or male. But Dostoyevsky's novel is indeed a man's world--the female is subservient and dominated by males. On Dostoyevsky's pinball machine, women are simply bumpers that light up when struck by the male (in this conceit, appropriately represented by the silver ball). They ding (call it hysterics) and cry, "Oh please, hit me again, hit me again." Correct me if I'm wrong: But the narrator only presents the actions of one female totally alone without a male present and that is of Lisa smashing her finger in the door. Alyosha has left the building and yet for one paragraph the novel remains focused not on the departing male but instead on the remaining female. And she does a shockingly stupid act. The narrator then moves on to a male. Given Steve's post earlier, I can understand that this in no way diminishes Dostoyevsky's art--not articulating the truly feminine isn't much of a flaw when that really wasn't his agenda in the first place. But I never really noticed before the role women play within his novel. It's probably cultural; but with Dostoyevsky artistry, I could be wrong. While some have mentioned the hysterics common in the novel, few have mentioned the real role women seem to bear in this work. Ann: I agree that Mitya defies logic, but I have met his sort many times. Some people do get caught up in the strangest notions ("I am a scoundrel but I am not a thief!") and never quite blend in society. I'm afraid to admit it, but where I live this kind of behavior is common. There's all kinds of impulsive men spouting off nonsense and doing strange things spontaneously. When they are at their drink in the bar, it's best to leave them alone if at all possible. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (124 of 149), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 08, 2001 01:55 PM I thought that Dmitri was a well-drawn, complex character. I agree that Mitya may “defy logic,” but that is because he is caught midway between his impulses for honor and his impulses toward the low and the animal. Dmitri’s contradictory personality is illustrated by his manipulation of events in order to force Katerina to come to his room so that he can seduce her, but then his refusal to carry out his scheme as the better part of his nature gains control of him. In the chapter “Confession, In Verse,” Dmitri says to Alyosha, “There’s so terribly much suffering for man on earth, so terribly much grief for him! Don’t think I’m just a brute of an officer who drinks cognac and goes whoring. No, brother, I hardly think of anything else, of anything but that fallen man […] I think about that man, because I myself am such a man. […] I’m a Karamazov […] when I fall into the abyss, I go straight into it, head down and heels up, and I’m even pleased that I’m falling in just such a humiliating position, and for me I find it beautiful. […] Let me be cursed, let me be base and vile, but let me also kiss the hem of that garment in which my God is clothed; let me be following the devil at the same time, but still I am also your son, Lord, and I love you.” Zosima, who D. goes through great effort to let us know has an instinctive understanding of people’s nature, kneels down before Dmitri. Zosima knows that Dmitri’s basic nature is honorable, and in Dmitri, Zosima sees great suffering and ultimately a great redemption. When Dmitri is accused of his father’s murder, he begins to face the consequences of all his past acts, and he undergoes a transformation. He realizes that his life is not free of guilt and duplicity, and consequently he is willing to accept the punishment of the murder he did not commit. He believes that this punishment/suffering will reform his life. He says, “I understand that for men such as I a blow is needed, a blow of fate […] Never, never would I have risen by myself! […] I accept the torment of accusation and of my disgrace before all, I want to suffer and be purified by suffering! […] I accept punishment not because I killed him, but because I wanted to kill him, and might well have killed him…” Mitya’s dream about “the wee one” if further proof of his redemption, where he “feels a tenderness such as he has never known before surging up in his heart, he wants to weep, he wants to do something for them all, so that the wee one will no longer cry, so that the blackened, dried-up mother of the wee one will not cry either, so that there will be no more tears in anyone from that moment on, and it must be done at once, at once, without delay and despite everything, with all his Karamazov unrestraint.” In the chapter “A Hymn and a Secret,” Dmitri tells Alyosha, “Why did I have a dream about a ‘wee one’ at such a moment? […] It was a prophecy to me at that moment! It’s for the ‘wee one’ that I will go. Because everyone is guilty for everyone else. For all the ‘wee ones,’ because there are little children and big children. All people are ‘wee ones.’ And I’ll go for all of them, because there must be someone who will go for all of them. I didn’t kill father, but I must go. I accept!” Dmitri honestly does not know what to do about Ivan’s suggestion that he escape. Earlier, he probably would have impulsively decided to flee, but he’s different now. He truly wants to embrace guilt and responsibility “for all,” but his dilemma is that he can’t do that if he escapes. His love for Grushenka and his desire to take on this responsibility for all are at odds with each other, and he is struggling with it – not acting impulsively. Just stopped to think how long this is getting – sorry! -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (125 of 149), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 09, 2001 03:11 PM Yipes, what happened here? I could have sworn that there was a message from Kay here just a few minutes ago, asking us to name our favorite character in BK. When I hit reply, I got an error message and that seems to have deleted her note. Kay, I'm not imagining this am I? Marcy, you have made an excellent defense of Dmitri. To be honest, I did care about him a great deal, but only after the crime had been committed. I really found him tiresome in the first part of the book. Like the female characters, he seemed to be all hysteria and no substance. He started to win me over when he was willing to relinquish (not that he really had a choice) G to her first love. Like Dan I agree that the female characters are peripheral to the plot. Personally, I find the male characters universal enough that I don't feel cheated by the lack of a realistic female. Strong, true-to-life female characters are very difficult to find in 19th books written by male authors. Anna Karenina is a wonderful exception. If I want to identify with capable, independent women I turn to George Eliot or Jane Austen. My favorite character is undoubtedly Ivan. I love Aloysha, but even though there are repeated hints that he too has his temptations, they are not part of this book. He is just a bit too perfect, although a great improvement over the other two saintly characters I recall from Dostoevsky: Prince Mishkin in THE IDIOT and the Sonia, the prostitute with the heart of gold in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Dan, I would have loved to see what D. would have done with Aloysha in the planned sequel. Aloysha would be a much more complex and intriguing character if he too had suffered the torment of doubt or great personal loss. So, how about the rest of you?
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (126 of 149), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 09, 2001 05:25 PM LOL, Ann. No, you're not going nuts. I just decided to delete the post. I hadn't said anything new. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (127 of 149), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 09, 2001 07:58 PM For what it is worth, I've read the preface to The Eternal Husband and Other Stories by Richard Pevear, one-half of the fabulous translating duo many are presently reading. In the course of introducing the short selections, Pevear draws upon Dostoyevsky's novels, especially The Brothers Karamoazov, to illustrate certain trends in his fiction. Here is a list of and Pevear's commentary on common motifs in Dostoyevsky's fiction: (1) The figure of the dreamer. Bakhtin states: "Indeed in all of European literature there is no writer for whom dreams play such a large and crucial role as Dostoyevsky." Pevear notes the inherent power in Alyosha's dream of the banquet, Mitya's dream of the peasant baby, and Ivan's dream of the devil. (2) The phenomenon of the double. Pevear notes the extraordinary prose that often accompanies contact between doubles. Alyosha prostate on the ground encounters his double Rikita; Ivan's digressing on the irritations of tiny objects when he encounters his double Smerdyakov. (3) The scandalous scene. Pevear gives my favorite from The Possessed and the one in Crime and Punishment but does not mention the scandalous scene at the monastery ending with Ivan kicking a raving Maximov from the carriage. (4) The emergence of the underground. Rene Girard states: "The love triangles and dreamers of Dostoyevsky's early work reflect a certain state of affairs; with the underground, the reality behind that state of affairs is revealed for the first time. Error gives form to the truth that corrects it." (5) The fear or shame of looking ridiculous. He concentrates on The Possessed, but this theme is clearly seen in Mitya's fear of laughter. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (128 of 149), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 09, 2001 08:32 PM Kay, Well, it did cross my mind that you could have deleted your note, but I really thought it was some glitch in the new software. I'm glad there is a human explanation. Dan, I was thinking of nominating the Pevear translation of The Eternal Husband and Other Stories for next year's reading list. What do you think? I thought the size might be more manageable for a lot of people than BK. Thanks for posting the information about the themes. It's interesting that he pin pointed those very vivid dreams as a theme in D's work. They certainly are an important part of BK. I wonder what percentage of people really remember their dreams? I so seldom do. Also, I hadn't really thought about Smerdaykov being Ivan's double, but I suppose he is in the sense that S. puts into practice Ivan's theory that all is permitted once you deny God's existence. I have a harder time seeing Rikitin as Aloysha's double. Is it because they are mirror opposites? Their only similarity seems to be that they both lived in the monastery. Help me out here. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (129 of 149), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 09, 2001 08:36 PM Also, before I forget again, I wanted to comment on Marcy's observations about Lise's very odd behavior in her last scene with Aloysha. Lise said she had this almost uncontrollable urge to set something on fire. Aloysha indicated her understood exactly what she meant. Was D. trying to underline the irrationality and destructiveness that is present in us all? Or did this scene have another purpose? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (130 of 149), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 07:19 AM Regarding the discussion on the phenomenon of the double in D.’s work – The way I’ve been thinking about the Alyosha/Rakitin connection is that Rakitin is a foil for Alyosha. For instance, in the chapter “The Onion,” you could say that two kinds of ‘currency’ frame the beginning and the end of the chapter. Alyosha arrives at Grushenka’s in the midst of a spiritual revolt, all set to consume sausage and vodka. He regains his faith (his treasure) during his encounter with Grushenka and decides to return to the monastery. Alyosha’s ‘treasure’ (faith) contrasts sharply with the vile Rakitin’s ‘treasure’ at the end of the chapter – his earning of the twenty-five roubles. Unlike Ivan/Smerdyakov, who I can see exhibiting the theme of the double, I really don’t see that with Alyosha/Rakitin – like Ann said, they just strike me as contrasting characters. So I guess I second her request for help... I also thought I’d post some parts of an essay I read, “The Theme of the Double in D.” by Dmitri Chizhevsky: “[Ivan’s] way to ethical insight is not – like Alyosha’s – the way of faith nor – like Dmitri’s – the way of suffering, but the way of madness and breakdown, the way of a division of personality. This division of personality is shown in the scenes with Smerdyakov and with the devil. Smerdyakov is also in a certain sense a ‘double’ for Ivan. Not only have they in common basic character traits – ‘enlightened’ rationalism, conceit, contempt for other people, loneliness, and complacency – but they also share an interest in common ‘themes.’ Smerdyakov tries to prove the right of man to mortal sin, Ivan argues that ‘everything is permitted.’ […] After the murder a consciousness awakes in Ivan’s soul that he is – not empirically, but in some other sense – guilty with Smerdyakov, guilty because of their similarity and because ‘the lackey Smerdyakov sat in his soul.’ […] Ivan’s moral crisis is displayed in his ‘nightmare,’ in the appearance of his double – the devil – who is, as Ivan says: ‘the incarnation of myself, but only of one side of me – of my thoughts and feelings, but only the nastiest and stupidest of them… […] He is myself. All that’s base in me, all that’s mean and contemptible.’” I wish the essayist had discussed Alyosha/Rakitin… -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (131 of 149), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 08:51 AM Notice also that Alyosha and Rakitin both take on the education of Kolya. When Kolya spouts off Voltaire and other common arguments, he tells Alyosha that Rakitin has been his guide. Also, both are intensely interested in life at the monastery but for opposite reasons. Both also leave the monastery during the course of the novel to enter society. Alyosha practices a religion based on mysticism and faith whereas Rakitin practices one (albeit atheism) based on rationality. Alyosha wishes to work within society to make it a better place (as illustrated in his gospel delivered at the stone) whereas Rakitin just wants money and fame and will use the events of the town not to teach lessons of faith but to make money from magazines. Not that that's such a bad thing, now. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (132 of 149), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 09:33 AM Ann, Regarding Lise saying she has an almost uncontrollable urge to set something on fire, yes I think that D. was trying to underline the destructiveness and potential for evil that is present in us all. When Lise repeats her desire to set fire to the house, wanting to make sure Alyosha believes her, he responds, “Why shouldn’t I [believe you]? There are even children, about twelve years old, who want very much to set fire to something, and they do set fire to things.” I also think it was partly meant to reiterate what Zosima said in Book Six, Chapter 3, “From Talks and Homilies of the Elder Zosima.” When Lise first tells Alyosha about her desire to set fire to house, his response is, “It’s your rich life.” She then says, “Why, is it better to be poor?” to which Alyosha responds, “Yes, it is.” Lise retorts, “Your deceased monk filled you with all that.” The Russian peasants are Zosima’s hope because they, like the monks, have the “cut away […] superfluous and unnecessary needs.” Of course the peasants do this from necessity whereas the monks choose to do so, but Zosima does not seem to find this distinction important. What Zosima finds important is that the peasant, like the monk, is “liberated from the tyranny of things.” He considers the rich man to be “isolated” – too involved with material frivolities to be able to contemplate life. I guess this is along the lines of the phrase “the devil makes work for idle hands.” But having said this, what really struck me about this was the idea that evil seeds can take root in anyone’s heart, even in the heart of a child like Lise, much more than the rich/poor distinction talked about by Zosima. –Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (133 of 149), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 10:34 AM Dan, Thank you so much! I can now clearly see why Alyosha and Rakitin are considered doubles! (Excuse the exclamation points, I’m just excited – it’s like a light bulb went on.) Now that you got me thinking… Both Alyosha and Rakitin visit Dmitri while he is awaiting trial, again with vastly different objectives in mind. Rakitin comes because he wants to write an article about Dmitri, tying in the concepts of socialism and the arguments of Claud Bernard. (I love how Dostoevsky has Dmitri recast Bernard’s arguments into the framework befitting the presence of the demonic in the novel – “there are little sorts of tails, these nerves have little tails….” – very clever.) In Rakitin’s scheme, guilt and responsibility are reduced to mere chemical reactions. Dmitri says, “Because of the little tails, and not at all because I have a soul or am some sort of image and likeness, that’s all foolishness. Mikhail [Rakitin] explained it to me […] ‘But,’ I asked, ‘how will man be after that? Without God and the future life? It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?’ ‘Didn’t you know’ he said. And he laughed. ‘Everything is permitted to the intelligent man,’ he said.” Dmitri, however, has formed the opposite idea that “everyone is guilty for everyone else,” based on his dream of the “wee one.” Dmitri says to Alyosha, “Rakitin wouldn’t understand this, but you, you will understand everything. That’s why I’ve been thirsting for you.” As an aside, is it just a coincidence that D. has Rakitin going off to Petersburg to make a career in the department of criticism, while the devil in Ivan’s nightmare says that he himself writes for the criticism section? The devil says, “I am appointed ‘to negate’ […] without negation there will be no criticism, and what sort of journal has no ‘criticism section’? […] They made me write for the criticism section.” -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (134 of 149), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 10:56 AM I hate that America already! And though they may be wonderful at machinery, every one of them, damn them, they are not my people, they are not of my soul. I love Russia, Alyosha, I love the Russian God, though I am a scoundrel myself. I'll croak there!" he exclaimed, his eyes suddenly flashing. His voice was trembling with tears. "So this is what I've decided, Alyosha, listen," he began again, mastering his emotions. "As soon as I arrive there with Grusha, we will set to work at once on the land, in solitude, somewhere very remote, with wild bears. There must be some remote parts even there. I am told there are still Redskins there, somewhere, on the edge of the horizon. So to the country of the Last of the Mohicans, and there we'll tackle the grammar at once. Grusha and I. Work and grammar--that's how we'll spend three years...And as soon as we've learned it--goodbye to America! We'll run here to Russia as American citizens...We'll hide somewhere...I will be changed by that time, and she will, too, in America. The doctors shall make me some sort of wart on my face--what's the use of their being so mechanical--or else I'll out one eye...We'll work on the land here, too, somewhere in the wilds, and I'll make up as an American all my life. But we shall die on our own soil. That's my plan, and it won't be altered. Do you approve? So what do you think: Does Alyosha and Katerina manage to smuggle Mitya and Grusha to America? Does Mitya and Grusha return, changed, after three years? What becomes of Ivan? What becomes of Lise? Of Kolya and the disciples? It's amazing how open-ended this novel really is. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (135 of 149), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 12:23 PM LOL Dan-- You had my vote on this passage in post 109, where I quoted it for its irony. Halfway through the chapter 'for a moment the lie became truth' Mitya says to Alyosha: 'I love you for always telling the complete truth and never hiding anything!' He then immediately lays out his escape plan to America. Then he asks Alyosha: '...Do you approve?' This is the next sentence (Alyosha's response) in the Pevear translation: "'I do,' said Alyosha, not wishing to contradict him." Alyosha clearly lies about approving of the plan since the plan goes against the grain of his entire character. Guards will be punished for Mitya's escape, an escape that will require acts of bribery and further lying, acts that Alyosha volunteers for in the interest of a brother that can't survive penal servitude. Mitya's plan to return in mutilated disguise (plus a wart, minus an eye) is his last great flight of fantasy in BK... if anyone here thinks that plan (cobbled together from desperation and memories of a James Fenimore Cooper novel) could work, I have some prime Venusian acreage to sell them. My favorite part of this passage is its dissection of the thought processes Mitya has used all along in BK to hatch his entire succession of plans that didn't work. And since I saw this sentence posted somewhere: 'The action of The Brothers Karamazov takes place 13 years before the planned action of the main novel Dostoyevsky had in mind. The main line would be Mitya's return after prison.' ...I think the open-endedness of Mitya's fate is pretty closed. You're right though: Ivan's future is anyone's guess. I hope he has the strength eventually to become a Dostoevsky.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (136 of 149), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 06:32 PM True, George. But that "return from prison" is my assumption. Dostoyevsky, as ever, is coy about the action of the main novel: The main novel is the second--it is the action of my hero in our day, at the very present time. The first novel takes place thirteen years ago, and it is hardly even a novel, but only one moment in my hero's early youth. I cannot do without this first novel, because much in the second novel would be unintelligible without it. But in this way my original difficulty is rendered still more complicated: if I, that is, the biographer himself, find that even one novel might perhaps be superfluous, for such a modest and undefined hero, how ever can I appear with two, and how from my point of view can I justify such presumption? So The Brothers Karamazov is "hardly even a novel." I still wonder what Dostoyevsky had planned. We got The Phantom Menace and we didn't really want it. We never got The Return of the Brothers Karamazov: Menace II Society. God it is an unjust world at times. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (137 of 149), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 08:55 PM Thanks Dan and Marty for elaborating on the double theme. Marty, I especially liked your tying in the fact that Raitkin wanted to be a critic with the devil's revelation that he worked as a critic. That is definitely an example of D's humor, and I missed the connection with Raitkin until you pointed it out. George, I laughed out loud when I came to the part about Dmitri and Grushenka devoting themselves to three years of work and grammar in America. That's because I teach English grammar to foreigners, including Russian speakers. He certainly does make America seem like a living hell. :) Maybe it's not justified, but I chose to believe that Dmitri and Grushenka would escape to America. I think Dostoevsky intended to leave his readers on a positive note. The projected sequel would probably have focused on Ivan and Aloysha.I can definitely see Dmitri and spouse returning to their beloved Russia at some point, but it is Ivan and Aloysha's stories which are essentially unfinished, not Dmitri's. There are references to Aloysha being a sensualist like his brothers and I think D. could well have developed this theme in a second novel. Of course, we'll never know-- I have been curious about others' take on a couple of things in this book. Smerdyakov accuses Ivan of being equally guilty of his father's murder. Do you agree? Also, Ivan keeps coming back to the idea that if God does not exist, everything is permitted. This is another way of saying it is impossible for society to have morality without religion. Do we all agree that that theory is false? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (138 of 149), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, August 10, 2001 09:24 PM >>impossible for society to have morality without religion. Do we all agree that that theory is false? I certainly do. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (139 of 149), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 11, 2001 09:46 AM Ann: Ivan's case is extremely complex. In his mind, he believes he is guilty. In a sense, isn't that enough? What was the real reason Ivan left his father as he did? Did he understand and act upon Smerdyakov's veiled message? He knew his father was in danger; he left anyway. He must come to terms with his actions. In this book, is the murder only the act of one man? Is Smerdyakov, as the man who hefted the paperweight and smashed Pavlov's skull with it, the only one to commit murder and hence the only one we can say is guilty? Would Smerdyakov had done so if Mitya's boasting hadn't foolishly paved the way for an easy murder? Would Smerdyakov had done so if Ivan had not left the house? The web surrounding Pavlov's murder is intricate and even the notion of "guilty" is too slippery to pin on any one character. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (140 of 149), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Saturday, August 11, 2001 10:46 AM I am abandoning the question about the viability of the female characters. The problems some of you have probably arise from the cultural setting here. But that's moot, and anyway, the discussion has taken a far more interesting turn here. Marcy, your notes are great. Don't worry about the length. Dan, earlier you allude to the education of Kolya by both Alyosha and Rakitin. I have been rereading chunks of the novel in no particular order. Right now I am in the midst of rereading Part Four, which starts with the boys. Previously, I had not paid enough attention to this part. I can't help but think that Dostoyevsky had Kolya in mind for a major role in something to follow. While the Karamazov brothers are each nearly pure examples of traits and ideologies, Kolya is becoming a complex mixture of everything. Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (141 of 149), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Saturday, August 11, 2001 10:53 AM By the way, has everyone run across Joyce Carol Oates' essay on the book? If it has been cited here previously, I missed it and apologize. She touches on many of the points that are being brought up here. This is the site, from which I stole my little Holbein image below: http://storm.usfca.edu/~southerr/karamazov.html Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (142 of 149), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, August 11, 2001 01:44 PM Steve, Thanks for posting the link to the site. For a minute I thought that image at the bottom of your screen was you stretched out for a nap. At the Oates site I can see an enlarged version-much better for my aging eyes. Pevear notes that the Kolya character spouts off half baked socialist ideology and gives Dostoevsky the opportunity to satirize it. After his near execution and exile to Siberia, D. became quite conservative politically. Thus he has Kolya repeat phrases of the radicals like " I never reject the people, you know. I like to be with the people...We lag behind the people--that is an axiom..." I imagine his contemporaries could appreciate the humor of this aspect of Kolya much more than we can, since we are reading it in somewhat of a cultural void. Ann, off the read the Oates article P.S. Dan, I agree with Ivan that he is guilty of his father's death. In Catholic terms, the difference between Smerdyakov and Ivan is that S. committed a sin of "commission" because he physically murdered his father. Ivan committed a sin of "omission" because S. made it obvious that if he left, Papa would be killed. In Catholicism, there is always plenty of guilt to go around.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (143 of 149), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 11, 2001 06:43 PM Ann: Thanks for the Catholic terminology. I could have asked my wife, but she's tired of hearing about Dostoyevsky already. I'm sure there's a legal term for this kind of guilt as well. As a side-issue: Any lawyer or legal scholars out there can tell me if this case happened today and all evidence presented, could Ivan actually be charged because he knew that if he left his father's life was endangered? Just curious. Steve: I started reading that Oates essay on the web when it suddenly dawned on me I have her damn book The Edge of Impossibility: Tragic Forms in Literature on my shelf. I'm going to read it and get back in a few days. Thanks for reminding me of it. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (144 of 149), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001 10:48 AM I poured over the Oates essay last night and again, for good measure, this morning. On the whole, it is an interesting, thought-provoking work. First of all, Oates observes the struggle between the dark vision of Ivan against the Christian vision of Zosima as unresolved within the structure of the novel, but mark her words: The problems of The Brothers Karamazov are not due to any weakness on the author's part, but to his extraordinary inventiveness. In concluding her argument, Oates rewrites the above sentence clearly, using it to describe all of Dostoyevsky's work: What has made Dostoevki so highly esteemed a writer is, perhaps, not his understanding of human nature or his ability to work intelligently with ideas, but rather his fluid demonstration of the art of writing--the splendid unpredictability of the writer as writer, who can leave nothing unsaid. Surprisingly, Oates supports this contention within The Brothers Karamazov. I found the whole concept that the Grand Inquisitor and Father Zosima are similar individuals viewed from different temperments enlightening. Oates also posits that Madame Khlokakov is a parody of Zosima, spouting Zosima-isms in ludicrous contexts that, in effect, call Zosima's philosophy into question. This whole insight has caused me to seriously refocus my attention. My ongoing argument that The Brothers Karamazov rises above its darker aspects to illustrate the affirmation of life, love, and faith is weakened when I draw upon Zosima's words to back up the argument. Zosima and the Grand Inquisitor--and I like this a lot--are the same voices, only one coldly defines his vision from logic and the other from the mystical stance. As a reader, I was mistaken in accepting Zosima's vision as pure gospel; he is there as another person for Alyosha to listen to as Alyosha progresses within the novel. I do have several problems with the piece, though. First, Oates' opening thesis: Two visions--one existential and tragic, the other Christian and 'comic'--are unequally balanced in this novel and do not in my opinion resolve themselves. I'm glad, at least, Oates had the presence of mind to note this is an opinion. I find the two visions do balance. Alyosha's success over Rakitin's teachings with Kolya is a start. Another Ivan is being created but Alyosha is able to take the teachings of Zosima and begin to instruct him. Second, Oates' hero of the novel is Ivan, as it is for all who favor the dark side smashing the light side within this novel. Ivan is not the hero of the novel--Alyosha is. If you're going to try to wrestle with an author's creation you shouldn't usurp the importance of the character he is mainly concerned with. Ivan's tragedy is there not just for the reader; Ivan's tragedy is there for Alyosha. To ignore Alyosha--as Oates does within this essay--is to ignore a central component of the novel. I wish Oates had taken more time to analyze the importance of Dostoyevsky's chosen protagonist. For me ("in my opinion," of course), the novel illustrates that Alyosha is able to come through this maze and hear the arguments from both sides of the vision--the tragic and the Christian--and still utilize them to illustrate and model an affirmation of life and faith. "Awww, he's a wuss and a jerk and not much fun," some readers cry. And when ignored within the novel, of course it seems that Ivan's vision wins in the end and everything--as it did for Oates--is twisted in his favor. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (145 of 149), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001 11:12 AM Well, again I think this is a situation where a great deal of comfort can be taken by seeing Christian faith as a saving grace in a novel that is cautious about it's presentations . Um...one thing I have noticed in some of these notes is that parts that have been quoted as "Christian ideas" are actually in some cases, NOT Christian!!!! They are spiritual yes, but the passage where the prayers are made to birds is not a Christian sentiment. It is a pagan sentiment. I would be cautious at confusing spiritual and naturalistic ideas with a blanket Christian reading because of a personal longing for evidence of faith in some passages. Particularily a straight ahead Christian "winner"slash hero. Today with all the crossovers and new ageisms and spiritual pop cultures...it is easy to apply some spiritual notions to Christianity which history shows have been rebuked by Christian officials and practitioners in past times. Todays liberal attitudes in the Christian faith do not always apply to this time period and this novel. we are seeing a very open christian religion right now, and a lot of assimilation of various world ideas...and it has affected eveyone without us studying it we may not see it even in our own personal faiths... cautiously Candy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (146 of 149), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001 11:25 AM Very interesting analysis, Dan. I also found the Oates analysis thought provoking. She highlights so much of the point, counterpoint parallels in the book that I hadn't noticed. And she really affirms the creativity and complexity of this book, which IMHO is what makes it great. Nothing in BK is as simple as it first appears. I had a harder time with the Freudian elements, specifically the idea that criminals somehow do us a favor by acting out the deepest, darkest impulses that we all share. Perhaps it went over my head. Undoubtedly, she is correct in emphasizing both the importance of the irrational and the subconscious in Dostoevski. For me personally, Ivan is not the "hero" of the novel, but he is the most interesting character. I would have to agree with you that Aloysha is the conventional hero, as well as the center of the novel. Maybe if Aloysha had experienced some of that old-fashioned Dostoevskian suffering, he would have made an even stronger impact. I have a couple of questions. You quoted the following: Two visions--one existential and tragic, the other Christian and comic--are unequally balanced in this novel and do not in my opinion resolve themselves. I found it very odd that she paired "Christian and comic." How about you? Also, at the end of the article she says that all of Dostoevski's characters could belong to the same family. At first I resisted this because Dostoevski is such a great favorite of mine, but the more I thought about it the truer it seemed. What do the rest of you think? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (147 of 149), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001 06:24 PM Ann: "Comic" is the antithesis of "tragedy," especially in a literary context. Generally, "comic vision" within a literary work is that vision which finds a solution to everything and instills a sense of "confidence that no great disaster will occur" and that "the action turns out happily for the chief characters," to borrow some wordings from M.H. Abrams' A Glossary of Literary Terms. In that sentence, Oates wanted to show how she was paring this work--between the existential perspective she shall link with tragic vision' and the Christian she shall link with comic vision. She places quotations around the word 'comic' probably because she is aware that her manner of usage isn't actually in sync with its literary definition. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (148 of 149), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001 10:03 PM Thanks, Dan. I wasn't aware of the literary usage of "comedy." I had assumed it always meant humorous, but apparently not. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (149 of 149), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 13, 2001 12:36 AM I'm sorry Dan, it's not in me to let that pass. I don't know Ann, but I read her posts with great interest. Her defense of Ivan as a character is not a subverted desire to see 'the dark smash the light'. Joyce Carol Oates has, over the course of an amazing career, brought the advancing light of fresh creativity to literature. Her admiration for Ivan does not spring from any desire to minimize the light. I don't smash anything but walnuts (and even there I do so with embarassing ineffectiveness)... yet I admire Ivan as personality and literary achievement also. To say D's main concern in the novel was Alyosha is simply false. Alyosha is drawn to faith, Ivan is questioning, Mitya is intense, Papa is vital, Smerdyakov is mysterious. Let's assemble those adjectives: faithful, questioning, intense, vital, and mysterious. Who does that sound like? Dostoevsky. They are all integral sides of his genius. You are making the novel less than what it is and more of what you are comfortable with. BK is not Star Wars. Ivan doesn't speak with the voice of James Earl Jones. These are ALL opinions, but I personally think you are employing Alyosha as an eraser, smudging away all the disturbing elements of the novel, the very unsettling things that make Dostoevsky incomparably greater than, say, C.S. Lewis. Theology brings light to humanity through faith. Literature brings light (when it does)with creativity and artistry, and I believe in BK as written. The victory or defeat of Ivan's side of things is utterly beside the point: the novel is beautiful, brilliant, tormenting and honest just as it is... and even if Ivan is who readers most often identify with, the book is no less great for that fact, because it was written well. The living, beating heart of the book is greater than your Alyosha or my Mitya (actually my favorite character, truth be told) or Oates' Ivan... and I wish I was hearing a little more here about the art of the thing and a little less pedagogy (and I include myself in that indictment).
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (150 of 156), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 13, 2001 01:34 PM The chapter '...And In The Fresh Air' is a favorite of mine, containing the captain and his great cry 'Report to those who sent you that the whiskbroom does not sell his honor, sir!' The last paragraph in particular makes a very interesting point: it is always interesting to talk to a distressed man. The spontaneous crumpling of the bills is a surprise that ends up seeming inevitable, and the crumpled and trampled money is smoothed out and made 'good as new' by Alyosha. Not the same with the crumpled and trampled characters... they cannot ever be 'perfectly intact' again. We pay a deep and mysterious price for having souls... but the reward is an ever-expanding compassion and knowledge that runs parallel to daily tragedies, but cannot repair them. This novel is 3 novels, it seems to me: the tragedies, the human kindness that can spring from witnessing or undergoing tragedies, and the tenuous webs that can be strung between the two courses by knowledge and effort. That grey 3rd area depends upon the two poles, so it partly OWES its existence to human misery. This book makes me picture most unhappiness as a tumor attached to the organ of pride, excise the tumor, destroy the pride.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (151 of 156), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, August 13, 2001 01:47 PM I have not been keeping up with this thread but I did catch this last post of yours George and I want to say -- I am SO overwhelmed -- honored to be in any discussion of literary matters with minds such as yours (among other CRs). You always give such concise and yet in-depth analysis and leave me with so much to think on! Thank you. I have barely begun this -- am deliberately taking it at a snail's pace at the start -- hoping that might help me get on my feet and able to think as I read. Looking forward to coming back and reading the CC discussion at a later point. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (152 of 156), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 13, 2001 04:21 PM I cannot believe I'm being called to the carpet for wanting to examine the 'hero of the novel' as the author saw fit to call him: In beginning the life story of my hero, Alexey Fyodorovich Karamazov, I find myself in somewhat of a quandary. Namely, although I call Alexey Fyodorovich my hero, I myself know that he is by no means a great man, and hence I foresee such unavoidable questions as these: "What is so remarkable about your Alexey Fyodorovich, that you have chosen him as your hero? What has he accomplished? What is he known for, and by whom? Why should I, the reader, waste time learning the facts of his life?" The last question is the most fateful, for to it I can only answer: "Perhaps you will see for yourself from the novel." If Dostoyevsky wants to focus on Alyosha and, because he is well aware of the power of Ivan, Smerdyakov, and others around him, he takes the time to alert the reader, then I want to examine that aspect. Oates barely mentions Alyosha because, frankly, he doesn't fit well into her scheme. She fudged her essay by white-washing Alyosha completely out of her thesis. For me, it weakens her argument. She does a fantastic job of deconstructing Zosima but she never chips away Alyosha. For her, she believes undermining Zosima's authority illustrates the essential weakness of the Christian aspect of the novel. My point is that she doesn't address the central character of the novel. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (153 of 156), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2001 04:25 PM Dottie-- Thanks for the (I'm afraid undeserved) compliment. Looking forward to your jumping in. Dan-- We're getting nowhere. Your telling me that D 'chose' Alyosha as his hero sounds just the same to me as hearing Ishmael is the hero of 'Moby Dick'. Fine. But subtract Ahab and you have no novel. Ivan CREATED the Grand Inquisitor, for God's sake, and even you grant that Mr. Grand is an equal intellect and spirit to Zosima. Ivan is not trying to kill Kenobi in the Death Star, he is a conflicted character worth deep study... not resentment. Your last post sounded like you envision Dostoevsky and Alyosha on one side of a room, defending themselves from the malignant powers of Ivan and Smerdyakov on the other. Although I love the visual of Dostoevsky throwing punches at Ivan, I still believe Dostoevsky the WRITER is not against the Karamazov force, he IS the Karamazov force, whatever spiritual sorrow that cost him. I promise... I will reassess Alyosha with a more open mind. I hope you can eventually find a way to see Ivan through the eyes of Alyosha, because Alyosha understands and loves him. The Oates essay tackled Zosima's ideas because his ideas are Alyosha's... dealing with the two ideologies is pragmatically impossible because they are one unit. She values Dostoevsky's art over his agenda... and I happily concur.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (154 of 156), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2001 06:08 PM I keep going back to the prologue, where D. declares outright his affection and respect for the main character, Alyosha. D. presents his novel as a means of "studying the facts of his (Aloyosha's) life" so that the the second novel will be comprehensible. D. goes on to ask, "...But suppose they read the novel and do not see, do not agree with the noteworthiness of my Alexei Fyodorovich? I say this because, to my sorrow, I foresee it. To me he is noteworthy, but I decidedly doubt that I shall succeed in proving it to the reader. The thing is that he does, perhaps, make a figure, but a figure of an indefinite, indeterminate sort.....But strangeness and oddity will sooner harm than justify any claim to attention, especially when everyone is striving to unite particulars and find at least some general sense in the general senselessness. Whereas an odd man is most often a particular and isolated case. Is that not so?" He goes on to say, "....for if I, that is, the biographer himself, think that even one novel may, perhaps, be unwarranted for such a humble and indefinite hero, then how will it look if I appear with two; and what can explain such presumption on my part?" "Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution. To be sure, the keen-sighted reader will already have guessed long ago that that is what I've been getting at from the very beginning and will only be annoyed with me for wasting fruitless words and precious time. To this I have a ready answer: I have been wasting fruitless words and precious time, first, out of politeness, and second, out of cunning.....But still there are readers of such delicacy that they will certainly want to read to the very end so as to make no mistake in their impartial judgment." So, folks, where is the "cunning" D. mentions? Is it that Alyosha somehow assimilates all the points of view? He can live with the dichotomies and still find joy and purpose in life. That is Alyosha's greatness. He personifies the mysteries offered up by life. He takes the punches and gets right back up again to fight another round. In BK, he's almost too good to be true, so the challenges D. had in mind for A. in BKII must have been whoppers. Perhaps he was going to parallel the Russian Revolution as Alyosha's story? That resilient aspect of his character has me wondering exactly what his challenges in the second novel would have been. As Oates points out, "...All of Dostoevski's novels deal with the long preparation for the consummation of a violent act, without which the works could not be imagined." That has a disturbing sense of foreshadowing for A's. future troubles. BK is Alyosha's story, with a variety of supporting characters. As Dan pointed out, they are there for Alyosha to act and argue against. They are there to highlight Alyosha's remarkable dexterity with which he lives his life. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (155 of 156), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 04:48 AM Kay-- That's the problem: it is BK we are dealing with, not BKII. The very BK where Alyosha is 'too good to be true' and less interesting to some for that fact. I agree, and always have agreed, with the moral noteworthiness of Alyosha. I was disputing his artistic merit. Unlike D's prophecy in the passage you quote, I am not opposed to Alyosha for being indefinite, odd, or strange; in fact, I think he is not strange enough. (BTW, when that passage refers to 'cunning' it means the cunning of the words of the prologue up to that point, i.e, getting to a point the reader has guessed at already). D may have intended every single thing in BK to be filtered through the screen of its impact upon Alyosha (though I doubt it), but authorial intentions are tricky things. Shakespeare intended to write Henry IV.1 as a history but he found the character of Falstaff running away with the story, and ended up with a strange (and very successful)hybrid play instead. During the writing of Eugene Onegin, Pushkin told a friend 'to my surprise, Eugene tried to kill himself this morning!' Writers are not as much in control as we may think, and we readers are sometimes blessed by that fact. There are huge chunks of action in BK that the character Alyosha is totally unaware of. They are not there for Alyosha, they are there for D and for us. You say that the supporting characters of BK (all the characters except Alyosha) are there for Alyosha to 'act and argue against'. When does Alyosha argue with Smerdyakov? Ivan's Devil? Fyodor? Lyagavy? Grigory? They were put there because D is a great artist, not to have them all go 1v1 with Alyosha. Frankly, the idea of reading this entire masterpiece with its 'polyphony' and its spiralling perspectives through the eyes of ANY one character saddens me... it would be like reading Don Quixote for just the Catholic references. The CR cover page has this to say about BK: 'This acclaimed new English version of Dostoevsky's magnificent last novel does justice to all its levels of artistry and intention: as murder mystery, black comedy, pioneering work of psychological realism, and enduring statement about freedom, sin, and suffering.' Alyosha is a saint in the making, with very little to do with impulses to murder, black comedy, or psychological realism. He is a major part of the book, but not ALL of it. D may have intended that at the beginning, but he ended up with a far different (and I think, greater) novel.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (156 of 156), Read 1 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 09:49 AM Fascinating discussion, folks. I'm only on page 249 of BK, but have just been reading "The Brothers Get Acquainted", "Rebellion" and "Grand Inquisitor" chapters. These seem to amount to one grand soliloquy from Ivan. And, it's occurring to me that Aloysha, Ivan and Dimitri could actually be three facets of one personality. You might think, "yes, a very contradictory personality" but I don't think so. And, all 3 of them have moments of bleeding over into the others viewpoints, personalities, etc. Is this a commonly held assumption about this book that I'm just stumbling into? Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (157 of 165), Read 32 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 10:43 AM George- Perhaps I should have said that D. uses Alyosha as an offering to the reader. Alyosha exemplifies the ability to consolidate the differing philosophies into a livable whole. Alyosha simply gets on with the business of living. The other characters stop their lives because they cannot see beyond their one dimensional viewpoints. Don't get me wrong - I find them fascinating. However, Alyosha sees more than one view and understands how to live with all the dichotomies. Without Alyosha, BK would feel disjointed, one dimensional, and incomplete. The novel would not hold together without Alyosha. He is the glue linking all the others. In that sense, he is the hero. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (158 of 165), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 11:32 AM Barb, yeah there are commonly held ideas about Dos. One is he is the High Priest of Ambivalence. One thing I have struggled with over the years is A so faithful?...or does he contain a potential aspect of ambivalence: is it faith or is it apathy?
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (159 of 165), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 03:31 PM Kay-- That's what I've been worried about: no glue can hold these 'others' together. A couple quotes from your quote: 'The thing is that he does, perhaps, make a figure, but a figure of an indefinite, indeterminate sort.....But strangeness and oddity will sooner harm than justify any claim to attention, especially when everyone is striving to unite particulars and find at least some general sense in the general senselessness. Whereas an odd man is most often a particular and isolated case. Is that not so?"' and: 'Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution.' The everyones striving to unite particulars are treated here with disdain, in fact, they are the enemies of Dostoevsky's whole project. D (wittily) resolves to have no resolution, and no resolution and no arch-unity means no glue. I think we take the wrong path nominating Alyosha (or anyone for that matter) as the bow on top of the BK package. If we readers have learned from books like Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow that a novel does not necessarily need a clean resolution or to light for itself all the fuses of the messages contained within; if writers have been able to escape the tyranny of the novelistic 'climax', if creativity has eclipsed archaic forms, all of this has come about in no small way because of Dostoevsky and his artistic daring. To search for the old paths in this ever-new book might be a mistake...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (160 of 165), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 04:27 PM Writers are not as much in control as we may think, and we readers are sometimes blessed by that fact. --from George Healy's Guide to Literature, third edition (or Post 155) ...especially when their words disagree with George's theories. God, I love that argument each and every time it comes up. I was waiting for it--I knew it was coming. Well, since you know exactly what Dostoyevsky had in mind or should have had in mind, carry on... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (161 of 165), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 05:29 PM Really great books speak to readers in different ways. Reading is a collaborative effort between the reader and the writer, and our interpretation depends a great deal on what we bring to the table. If I thought there was only one way to interpret a novel, I wouldn't bother participating in this discussion. What would be the point? Personally, I relish hearing different view points because they broaden and enrich my understanding of the book as a whole. My point, and I do have one, is that disagreement is fine. However, it is possible to disagree while still showing respect for the other person's point of view. When the notes can be interpreted as personal attacks, it is time to move on. Barb, did you find the Grand Inquisitor a sympathetic figure? Can anyone point me to the Biblical book and verse which describe the devil's efforts to tempt Christ? I would like to read that before I look at this chapter again. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (162 of 165), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 12:51 AM Dan-- Sorry...I really didn't mean to upset you. Ann-- You can try Luke 4.1-14. I hope none of my notes felt like personal assaults to you, if so, please let me know. I have a deep interest in BK, because I love the book. Maybe I went too far. The subject of authorial intent is also absolutely fascinating to me, for two main reasons: I often find my own writing carrying me to a far different goal than I'd anticipated; and I think of much literature as organic, alive with us even now, companioning us, etc., and anything organic is hard to cleanly resolve into symmetrical outlines of meaning. But I run into a huge habitual force in myself and others, a force invested in making everything in literature sensible and ordered. Life is not so... why should every book be? Dostoevsky is one of my heroes of meaningful chaos, so I argued this pretty hard. Argued hard, and meant no offense. I am sorry if any has been taken...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (163 of 165), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 08:43 AM One of my original points in saying that Ivan, Aloysha and Dimitri feel like 3 aspects of the same person was that, if so, deciding which of them is the main character of BK is probably a moot point. Certain sides of my own character are more attractive, interesting or comfortable for me but they come as a set. Ann, I'm really struggling with this "Grand Inquisitor" chapter. Haven't had a chance for extended, concentrated reading in the past few days which makes it even more difficult. I keep rereading lines over and over again. In addition, it seems like a fairly rambling presentation, but there are moments that hit me very clearly and keep me plugging to the next one. Thanks for supplying the biblical reference, George. I'm hoping that will help. But, so far, Ann, no, I don't find the Grand Inquisitor to be a sympathetic character. In fact, there are moments that I've wondered if he was Satan.... Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (164 of 165), Read 9 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 09:15 AM Oh sorry Barb. I think this idea of three people as one force is a great one. I didn't mean to tangent off or misunderstand you. I got to stay out of here because I don't have much time for several discussions right now. Despite really loving reading this again. :-) cheers, Candy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (165 of 165), Read 1 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 12:07 PM I find it interesting that Ivan pales when Alyosha mentions the "everything is permitted" phrase. That emotional reaction is intriguing when viewed in light of his passionate "Grand Inquisitor" poem. I have to wonder if Ivan is paling at the potential that kind of belief has for mankind or if he is simply embarrassed to be thinking along those lines, and knowing what Alyosha will think of him. Perhaps there's a little of both? BTW - I'm confused re: "poem" in this chapter. It's more of a story, so I'm wondering if "poem" has a literary meaning that I'm missing. Ivan also says he did not compose the poem, yet it is his creation. I'm struggling with the question of freedom in this chapter. Is Ivan saying that mankind is too base, too incapable as a whole to handle the promise of heavenly bread when his body and immediate happiness requires earthly bread to survive? And that is why the Grand Inquisitor assumes responsibility for Man's sins, kind of like Christ did? The GI admits he's answering to him and that he believes Satan is the true lover of mankind. If that's the case, to whom is the Grand Inquisitor answering for man's sins? The devil wouldn't care. Or is his suffering due to his non-belief in God, which he assumes to protect mankind? Ivan seems to be saying that true love means accepting the person as is, and not laying on too many impossible expectations. Therefore, when Christ refused to bribe mankind into following Him, Christ was not displaying love. Mankind is not capable of handling the freedom to choose delayed reward when his earthly needs and desires are so powerful and that expecting better is not an act of love. Is that a fair summation? Barb- Ok. I see your point about how all the Karamazov brothers make a whole. Since they represent all aspects of the Russian people, it is interesting to consider Ivan's statement that he can survive until his 30th year only with the strength of the "Karamazov force." He promises to see Alyosha one more time before he does himself in. What does that say about the Russian personality and Ivan's state of mind? I have to wonder if he suspects Alyosha's approach to life has potential, putting his own philosophy in question. What an agony of spirit Ivan suffers! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (166 of 183), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 05:34 PM No, George, I'm not at all upset. I believe in reader response theory, but you're argument doesn't jive: "Alyosha is the protagonist and that's going to be difficult to understand," states Dostoyevsky; "Writers are not in full control and he didn't mean that," to paraphrase George. It's funny and damn difficult to argue with that logic. I'll be stopping in when I get the chance, but I'll just mention that school started today and I won't be able to come in as often. But with Barbara, Kay and George going, looks like they'll be a lot more interesting things to read when I do return... Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (167 of 183), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 06:22 PM Dan- We'll miss you. Pop in as often as you can, ok? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (168 of 183), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 09:02 PM George, thanks for the Biblical reference to the devil's temptation of Christ. I hope to reread the Grand Inquisitor section again this weekend with those words in mind. The last sentence is rather chilling: "having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time." Is the "appointed time" Christ's passion and death? Barb, the Grand Inquisitor chapter was just the kind of thing that appealed to me when I was a college student trying to unravel the meaning of life. Now that I have given up :), the story does not have quite the same power, although it is still one of my favorite parts of the book. I also like the earlier chapter, which expresses Ivan's rage and despair at the suffering in the world. For me, Ivan is not at all a cold intellectual, but a man who is genuinely tormented by the unfairness of this world. I cannot "accept" it, he says over and over. Kay, I also wondered why he called The Grand Inquisitor a "poem". Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (169 of 183), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 16, 2001 09:06 PM Dan, I hope a little excuse like real life won't keep you away too much. Your contributions to the CC discussions this past summer have been invaluable. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (170 of 183), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 05:05 AM Dan-- Then that saddens me a bit... I was hoping you WERE upset, since the sole intention of your previous post seemed to be to mock and belittle what I say. You read my logic and see a circle; I'd like you to see the straight line also. I'm not in front of my own argument, I'm in the back of the line, right behind Harold Bloom, Rene Girard, Camus, Bahktin, Oates, Jones, and Pevear himself. But if you want to discuss this like my theories come, by themselves, from some crazy fringe region with no support and little validity, then we can I suppose. Nowhere did I mention 'reader response' theory... that's not my issue here. 'Writer response to his/her own mind' theory would be more accurate. Dostoevsky started work on an ambitious novel tentatively called 'Atheism' around 1868. By 1869 the plan for 'Atheism' had transformed into a new plan to write a five-book series called 'The Life of a Great Sinner'; at that time, D felt 'Life' would be his crowning masterwork. Meanwhile he was working on a small novel-pamphlet called 'Demons'. In what Pevear calls a 'creative upheaval', D decided to throw out all his work on 'Life' and fuse some characters and ideas from that book into his new masterpiece... 'Demons'. The entire complexion of that book changed drastically into what we have today. A writer as volatile, as great, as creatively free, as schizophrenic as Dostoevsky oftentimes lands far afield from his original conception of a novel- or vice versa. Much like 'Don Quixote', which originally began as a spoof designed simply to make money to finance Cervantes' REAL literary endeavours, Dostoevsky's late novels were forged under high-pressure circumstances by a high-pressure genius. To say that I have no merit in seeing the glimmer of a possibility that BK strayed somewhat from the leash of its creator seems to me a bit close-minded.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (171 of 183), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 08:56 AM George- Are you saying that BK was intended to be about atheism? If so, why did he change the title? Actually, I'm wondering if his purpose was to explore the soul of Russia using the Karamazov brothers. If that's the case, then what can we conclude about D's. perception of the Russian people? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (172 of 183), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 04:36 PM Kay-- No, sorry, I was talking about the creation of 'Demons'(The Possessed)... an entirely different novel. What I was illustrating was that my argument does in fact 'jive'. The argument isn't even original to me. Dan said that D's intentions in writing BK were fully realized and never deviated from; I disagreed. Here's Richard Pevear, the highly recommended translator of BK: '(D's) groping procedure, 'slipshod' one displeased critic called it-- may seem surprising in so great a novelist, the assumption being a good writer knows what he wants to write before he sets about writing it. In fact, the opposite is true, as most perceptive readers of Dostoevsky have said.' The opposite IS true, I believe-- Dostoevsky's intentions for BK and his execution of BK are vastly different in kind and in effect. Now this may be wrong-- all opinions run that risk-- but I was disappointed that as acute a reader as Dan could act like this argument comes from space and has no fractional validity. He knows better. The argument is made pretty convincingly by (among others) the translator of the very edition Dan holds in his hands...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (173 of 183), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 04:55 PM Which is precisely why I have argued so often here that we ought not pay an awful lot of attention to an author's own commentary on what he has written. Not only does he have only a tenuous grasp on what he is creating while he is creating it, he is very unreliable in his opinions of what he has created after he's created it. Your argument does rock, George, and I don't blame you for being proud of that, but I think the fact that it jibes is much more important than the jive. Steve There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be.--Norman Mailer.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (174 of 183), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 05:32 PM What "groping procedure" was the critic referring to in BK? If he was referring to the various questions raised by Mitya, Ivan, Smerdyakov, and Alyosha, I would have to say those varying viewpoints are what made the novel work for me. BK is a novel of ideas, more than plot. Steve and George- I understand your arguments to not put much faith in what the author intends vs. what we read into his novel. It is interesting, however, to step back and consider how the story reaches the author's stated goal, at least in his own mind. D. must have at least thought he had succeeded, or he would have re-written his foreword. Any ideas on how he might he have defended his work, if we assume he meant what he wrote? On what would he base his arguments? Is there anything at all in the text that D. could point to and say, "See? There it is. That's what I meant when I said this is about Alyosha." Or, would he step back and say, "Ah, well. So I lied. It's still one hell of a read." Of course a novel's meaning changes according to the interpretation of the reader and the culture that forms his outlook. But I don't think that necessarily negates the author's stated goal, at least in his own mind. It's possible, though, that all writers are somewhat delusional. (All CR authors and wannabe authors excepted, of course.) K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (175 of 183), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 06:20 PM Steve-- Thanks! (I can only hope you don't get accused of writing a Concordance to my 'Guide For Literature') :-) You're one jibe turkey. Kay-- I hope and think that BK is great enough to sustain both readings: 'That's what I meant Alyosha to be!', 'That's the way I meant Ivan to fight!', etc., I was only trying to show that the Alyosha strain in the book doesn't preclude or overcome the rest. In trying to reassess Alyosha more objectively, I find him slightly more realized a character than I saw at first. He still pretty much folds VERBALLY to Ivan, but in action he shows a strong, unspoken understanding. This Ivan vs. Alyosha mentality is screwy anyway; I can only hope to get along with my friends as well as Alyosha and Ivan do. For myself I'd like to head towards Mitya some more with the posting time remaining, since I find him the single greatest character in BK... aesthetically speaking. Let me get my thoughts together.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (176 of 183), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 06:35 PM As to characters, I fall in with Barb's theory - that it takes all four brothers to make the novel work. Ivan is the most fascinating and complex to me, and I'm looking forward to your reasons for choosing Mitya. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (177 of 183), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 08:34 PM Kay, As soon as I finish Madame Bovary, I'm sitting and reading this until I'm done! I can hear you all the way from Tennessee saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah"..but I swear I'm not budging off my back porch until I reach the end! The only problem is, I probably won't have much to say...everything has already been said so well, here.. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (178 of 183), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 09:44 PM Well, I'm still confused on some chapters, so please jump right in. I like getting a variety of views. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (179 of 183), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 09:51 PM Kay, you expect ME to un-confuse YOU???? Beej, ALWAYS confused
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (180 of 183), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 10:35 PM Hi everybody, Just came back from our second vacation (Wisconsin) and so my reading of D. has been suffering. Just the same this book is easier for me to read many others and I also consider it the best of D's books that I have read. My problems is with names - perhaps my major obstacle in reading. First of all this book is outstanding, deep meaningful and I can't praise it enough. While D. can't get away from crazy people and crazy behavior, this time I found true wisdom in what I had been reading. The Elder is one character who is incredibly portrayed. Yes, he has wisdom and seems close to god. The translation is also a great improvement over the translation in the other Dost. books I have read. Will continue this note soon. Ernie
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (181 of 183), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 10:42 PM Ernie, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one lagging behind! Barb Moors is still reading it too. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (182 of 183), Read 9 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001 12:25 AM George, I'm glad you brought up Mitya again. I was just about to ask why he was your favorite character. His emotional weakness drove me crazy after awhile, and I did not have a lot of faith in his transformation at the end. You must have seen something different in him than I did. Please elaborate. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (183 of 183), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001 10:43 AM I have mentioned a couple times before a little book of debates, between Cardinal Martini and Umberto Eco, on the origination and effect of goodness in man. As I read The Grand Inquisitor chapter, my mind kept going back to this little book of debates, and I wondered if Eco got most of his points of view from Dosteovesky. I don't remember the name of this little book of debates off hand but if anyone is interested, I can look it up. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (184 of 187), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 19, 2001 10:48 PM I changed my mind somewhat about the Grand Inquisitor after I finished the chapter. He did seem a bit more sympathetic to me in the end. This image of the true believer who eventually becomes disillusioned and carves out a more pragmatic approach is certainly understandable. However, I kept asking myself what right he had to make the decision to construct that presentation. And, actually, I can see asking the same question about the organized church, particularly such a large, institutionalized one as the Catholic Church. What did you all think about Aloysha's assumption that Ivan was referring to the Jesuits? Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (185 of 187), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, August 19, 2001 11:20 PM One more question, who do you all think that the Grand Inquisitor is? I thought of it as being written from the point of view of the established church, but then realized that others might think differently. And, maybe it's not the voice of any concrete entity? Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (186 of 187), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 20, 2001 06:46 AM I read it as criticism of the Church and an intense love for those who need to blindly follow. What disturbed me the most was the Grand Inquisitor's theory that only a few are capable of deferring to a heavenly reward. That was the reason he gave for acting as a buffer and directing their lives. He does not see the people as capable of deciding for themselves the questions of "miracle, mystery, and authority." That attitude can lead to a tyrant. His statement that true love puts no conditions or expectations on someone was an intimidating, ambitious one that I find hard to trust. However, I thought the ultimate mood of the chapter was one of forgiveness and understanding. When Christ leaned over and kissed the Grand Inquisitor, I was just as moved as he was. That created just enough doubt in his mind that he let Christ go. The same phenomena occurred when Alyosha leaned over and kissed Ivan. Ivan's "Literary theft!" brought a smile. The Grand Inquisitor professes love for the people, yet he does not have respect for them. That is disturbing. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (187 of 187), Read 5 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 20, 2001 12:44 PM Ann, I’ve been away from the board for a while (technical difficulties), and I just read your message concerning the Biblical passage of the devil's temptation of Christ. Luke 4:13, regarding the devil’s future return at the “appointed time,” reads in my translation (the New Revised Standard Version) as “[…the devil] departed from him until an opportune time.” The reason I mention this is because that particular wording made me make the connection between that sentence and the title of chapter 2 in book seven, “An Opportune Moment.” In that chapter, Rakitin eggs on Alyosha’s spiritual revolt by offering him sausage and vodka. The echo of the phrase “opportune time” in the chapter’s title made me view that chapter as a corollary of Christ’s temptation by the devil. (And probably lead me to the connection I mentioned before - that Rakitin wants to be a critic, and that the devil tells Ivan that he works as a critic.) BTW, I thought that the "appointed/opportune time" would be when Jesus was praying in Gethsemane, grieved and agitated knowing that his arrest was at hand, while his disciples slept even though he asked them to stay awake with him and pray. Or perhaps during the crucifixion itself? -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (188 of 190), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 20, 2001 04:06 PM Barb-- I first read 'The Grand Inquisitor' separately from BK, very long ago. I always regretted that... it seems to me pretty autobiographical of Ivan, and I always have trouble taking it as a 'parable' that can stand alone. There are some ideological aspects worth considering, but the strongest part of the tale is that Ivan is the Grand Inqusitor. It's no accident that Ivan only tells this story to Alyosha, because Alyosha is Ivan's Jesus. TGI's secret and Ivan's secret are one: they believe in the devil (as manifested in the human psyche), but they don't believe in God. If TGI's voice and Ivan's secrets are the same, so is their voice. The tale is half cry for help, half barbaric yawp.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (189 of 190), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 20, 2001 04:31 PM My affection for Mitya is hard to explain. I like when Dostoevsky PUSHES himself to extremes, because I think emotional extremes are what he's best at. Mitya lives in the post-extreme, which is a bit unrealistic (nobody lives at this constant emotional edge ALL the time), but then I don't personally turn to D for 'realism'. Let me modify Smerdyakov's phrase-- It's always inspirational to talk to a passionate man. Regardless of the morality of the passion (a la Anna Karenina), passions this intense are like distilled life, which is what I do ask from writers like Dostoevsky or D.H. Lawrence. In the chapter 'Delirium' I was struck by how, in the maelstrom of words and feelings, Mitya speaks very little. His face, his carriage, his silences all carry enormous meaning. There's this line: "Only one fixed and burning feeling made itself known in him every moment,'like a hot coal in my heart', as he recalled aferwards." Only Mitya (and D) can make a burning feeling every moment still not seem like enough-- Mitya is trying to burn right through TO something and can't quite get there. Sure he is ridiculous, fragmented, brutal, and frightening... but he is also the opposite of those things too. Ivan can sometimes be dismissed as a second-rate Hamlet, Alyosha as a holy fool, Papa as an unholy fool, etc., Mitya however cannot be dismissed- he is the engine of the plot, the source of much of its intensity, and the one who LIVES out the adage 'everything is permitted' only to find that nothing is permitted for long.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (190 of 190), Read 8 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse wk4@qwest.net Date: Monday, August 20, 2001 11:01 PM The tale is half cry for help, half barbaric yawp. Interesting statement, George. I have to say, however, that my perception of it is colored by my union electrician friend who upon reading of some horrific murder or some unimaginable chile abuse, is wont to say, "That is a cry for help!" (A joke. Get it?) Having explained my problem, let me hasten to add that I have always been very fond of Mitya. This was never a chore. I am rolling through the section about the boys and will do the trial one more time again. I shall return. Steve
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (191 of 193), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2001 03:44 PM Barb, I just reread The Grand Inquisitor and now there is no doubt in my mind it is the Church. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (192 of 193), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2001 05:03 PM Mitya's Dream Part III, Book 9, Chapter 8 "She went out. Mitya was calm, and even looked more cheerful, but only for a moment. He felt more and more oppressed by a strange physical weakness. His eyes were closing with fatigue. The examination of the witnesses was, at last, over. They proceeded to a revision of the protocol. Mitya got up, moved from his chair to the corner by the curtain, lay down on a large chest covered with a rug, and instantly fell asleep. He had a strange dream, utterly out of keeping with the place and the time. He was driving somewhere in the steppes, where he had been stationed long ago, and a peasant was driving him in a cart with a pair of horses, through snow and sleet. He was cold, it was early in November, and the snow was falling in big wet flakes, melting as soon as it touched the earth. And the peasant drove him smartly, he had a fair, long beard. He was not an old man, somewhere about fifty, and he had on a grey peasant's smock. Not far off was a village, he could see the black huts, and half the huts were burnt down, there were only the charred beams sticking up. And as they drove in, there were peasant women drawn up along the road, a lot of women, a whole row, all thin and wan, with their faces a sort of brownish colour, especially one at the edge, a tall, bony woman, who looked forty, but might have been only twenty, with a long thin face. And in her arms was a little baby crying. And her breasts seemed so dried up that there was not a drop of milk in them. And the child cried and cried, and held out its little bare arms, with its little fists blue from cold. "Why are they crying? Why are they crying?" Mitya asked, as they dashed gaily by. "It's the babe," answered the driver, "the babe weeping." And Mitya was struck by his saying, in his peasant way, "the babe," and he liked the peasant's calling it a "babe." There seemed more pity in it. "But why is it weeping?" Mitya persisted stupidly, "why are its little arms bare? Why don't they wrap it up?" "The babe's cold, its little clothes are frozen and don't warm it." "But why is it? Why?" foolish Mitya still persisted. "Why, they're poor people, burnt out. They've no bread. They're begging because they've been burnt out." "No, no," Mitya, as it were, still did not understand. "Tell me why it is those poor mothers stand there? Why are people poor? Why is the babe poor? Why is the steppe barren? Why don't they hug each other and kiss? Why don't they sing songs of joy? Why are they so dark from black misery? Why don't they feed the babe?" And he felt that, though his questions were unreasonable and senseless, yet he wanted to ask just that, and he had to ask it just in that way. And he felt that a passion of pity, such as he had never known before, was rising in his heart, that he wanted to cry, that he wanted to do something for them all, so that the babe should weep no more, so that the dark-faced, dried-up mother should not weep, that no one should shed tears again from that moment, and he wanted to do it at once, at once, regardless of all obstacles, with all the recklessness of the Karamazovs. "And I'm coming with you. I won't leave you now for the rest of my life, I'm coming with you", he heard close beside him Grushenka's tender voice, thrilling with emotion. And his heart glowed, and he struggled forward towards the light, and he longed to live, to live, to go on and on, towards the new, beckoning light, and to hasten, hasten, now, at once! "What! Where?" he exclaimed opening his eyes, and sitting up on the chest, as though he had revived from a swoon, smiling brightly. Nikolay Parfenovitch was standing over him, suggesting that he should hear the protocol read aloud and sign it. Mitya guessed that he had been asleep an hour or more, but he did not hear Nikolay Parfenovitch. He was suddenly struck by the fact that there was a pillow under his head, which hadn't been there when he had leant back, exhausted, on the chest. "Who put that pillow under my head? Who was so kind?" he cried, with a sort of ecstatic gratitude, and tears in his voice, as though some great kindness had been shown him. He never found out who this kind man was; perhaps one of the peasant witnesses, or Nikolay Parfenovitch's little secretary, had compassionately thought to put a pillow under his head; but his whole soul was quivering with tears. He went to the table and said that he would sign whatever they liked. "I've had a good dream, gentlemen," he said in a strange voice, with a new light, as of joy, in his face."
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (193 of 193), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2001 05:11 PM Sorry for the inferior translation above... I don't have the patience to type all that in from the Pevear. This was a very telling scene for me. Mitya thirsts for good here, a good that shines through and springs from the lower-class-Apocalypse Now-like setting. But Mitya thirsts even for good with 'with all the recklessness of the Karamazovs.' Mitya's questions seem more honest to me than most of the answers in BK: "No, no," Mitya, as it were, still did not understand. "Tell me why it is those poor mothers stand there? Why are people poor? Why is the babe poor? Why is the steppe barren? Why don't they hug each other and kiss? Why don't they sing songs of joy? Why are they so dark from black misery? Why don't they feed the babe?" And his reckless good is ultimately human- it rises, it wanes, but it is trying to defy that cycle. It is segments like these that haunt me long after the book is closed.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (194 of 194), Read 9 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2001 11:12 PM Thank you for the notes on the Grand Inquisitor, everyone. George, I agree that the Grand Inquisitor is Ivan's voice, especially since he is supposed to have written the poem. However, Ivan is using another voice as the narrator in the poem and that narrator is interesting, in and of himself. It sounded like a multitude of possibilities in the beginning, very much like Satan after being expelled from heaven initially, I thought. But, eventually, the Church seemed most likely, reflecting Ivan's disillusionment with it or with humanity or both. Marcy, thanks for the note about the opportune moment reference. I'm reading that chapter just now and it helps with my view of what is happening. Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (195 of 199), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, August 23, 2001 08:32 PM George, I absolutely agree with your post #188. But I would go on to say, not only does the GI believe in Satan but actually, says he (Structured religion? The Catholic Church?) bows to him (Satan) simply by acknowledging that man can do nothing else (by the mere fact of being human) but accept Satan's temptations. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (196 of 199), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, August 23, 2001 10:51 PM Marcy, I've been away awhile, but I wanted to thank you for the reference to an "opportune" moment. That makes more sense than my clunky old translation and it certainly does tie in with BK well. George, that's an excellent defense of Mitya. I see him now in a more positive light, although I'd like him even better if he traded in some of that excessive emotion for a bit more intellect. The segment about the starving baby is genuinely touching. Dostoevsky has a real sensitivity to the plight of the poor which reminds me of Charles Dickens. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (197 of 199), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, August 23, 2001 11:07 PM Beej- I interpreted GI a little differently. The Church bows to Satan because it feels Satan has a more realistic picture of Man's capabilities. I suppose that could mean because Man is a sinner, but I did not interpret the GI to mean that. The GI condemns Christ for expecting too much. GI insists that true love does not set impossibly high conditions. True love accepts people where they are. To a certain extent, I can buy that. Yet, I think there is a lot to be said for wanting better and expecting better of loved ones. We need something to reach for. That's the point at which Ivan and I part company. Is it love to simply give up on someone and set an anything goes kind of standard? I think that is faulty reasoning on the GI's part. Yet I understand his point of view, and respect his reasons for it. Very few are capable of deferring to heavenly reward when their bellies are so needy of earthly bread. When Christ kisses the GI in understanding and forgiveness, the GI lets him go. He realizes that it's the hope of Christ's ultimate love that allowed Him to forgive the GI. Christ was rewarding the GI for his love of the people. When Alyosha kisses Ivan, Ivan cries, "Literary theft!" A. realizes that the GI is Ivan, and that even Ivan, who does not believe in God, - even Ivan holds hope there might be one. Ivan even promises to see Alyosha before he throws down the cup. That speaks to his room for doubt about there being a God after all. Alyosha balances each of the Karamazov brothers. He represents faith and hope for a better world, or at least a liveable one. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (198 of 199), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, August 23, 2001 11:37 PM Kay, I was speaking of the temptations in the desert and man's inability to choose spiritual 'bread' over basic human needs...not, per se, that man was a sinner. Anyway, as the GI says, it was mote issue because the ones to 'saved' had already been chosen. I don't think the GI set up an 'anything goes" standard at all, in fact my take is simply that he allowed, as the Church, guidelines and forgiveness in order to free man from the anguish of not being able to follow Christ's example of foregoing human needs for the sake of spiritual needs...an anguish that served no purpose, anyway. I think Ivan struggled between believing in a God who would set superhuman demands on man, or the idea of no God at all...and I think it was less devastating for him to believe in no God at all. Maybe I need to read it again. Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (199 of 199), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 24, 2001 08:14 AM No, I like your last paragraph very much. Ok. It wasn't an anything goes attitude, but it was an expectation that man is going to sin and needs the Church to absolve him of those sins. I find that very cynical to give up on man that way. The GI discusses that responsibility. His stance is, "they're gonna do what they're gonna do, so we'll just absolve them." I'm not sure that's a wise position, though it might be a loving one. It's not necessarily a bad thing to hold higher expectations. Sometimes by expecting more, you encourage a loved one to achieve better for herself. That's another point at which I take issue with the GI. One problem with the GI's stance is that it works only if he truly has the well being of the people at heart. If not, the GI would become a tyrant and would manipulate the people to his will. Did the GI ever speak to the Inquisition and if so, how did he justify it? I need to re-read the chapter. I've wondered if that chapter was paralleling the political scene in Russia at that time. Was the GI's speech a veiled attempt to caution the people politically, or was it simply a treatise on atheism? K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (200 of 217), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, August 24, 2001 05:31 PM Kay, Some of the young radicals of the time were atheists, and after his near execution, D. turned definitively to the right. The GI presents himself as a kind of benevolent dictator who assumes the burdens of freedom to protect weak human beings. His story was set in the 1500's when the Spanish Inquisition was burning people to death who would not conform to orthodox Catholicism. In addition to this chapter being an expression of atheism, it is also an attack on the Catholic Church, which organized the Inquisition. It is difficult to see anyone connected with the Inquisition as a benevolent figure. In this chapter, D. also comments on the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order of priests. D. detested the Jesuits, who like to think of themselves as the intellectual elite of the Catholic Church. The Jesuits were heavily involved in the Counter-Reformation and developed a reputation as being underhanded and manipulative. I was educated by Jesuits and I have a more positive view. Of course, times change. :) In addition to being anti-Catholic, there are also signs of anti-Semitism in D's books, which reflect the terrible anti-Semitic history of Russia and its successor states. There is a part where a character talks about a Jewish ritual sacrifice of a Christian baby. Someone asks Aloysha if the story is true. He replies that he doesn't know. I found this disturbing since A. is presented as a saint in this book. These horrible rumors of Jewish ritual murders were spread throughout Russia and resulted in terrible pogroms against the Jewish people. Ah, well, if only our literary heros were not products of their times. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (201 of 217), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 24, 2001 07:41 PM Ann- I would have liked to hear the GI's justification for the burning of heretics. I'd guess it would have to do with his stance that the Church is there to provide miracle, mystery, and authority. What an opportunity that was for someone who had such a benevolent love for the people. The chapter is loaded with sarcasm and cynicism, but the GI doesn't actually speak to the reasons for the Inquisition. That would have been too hard to pull off, I think, and keep his tone of righteous anger on behalf of the people. (Why am I suddenly reminded of Monty Python?!) I'm not sure why I'm on this kick, except that though I found the chapter relatively convincing the first read through, I am struck by its fallacies the second read through. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (202 of 217), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, August 24, 2001 08:07 PM Kay, At this stage in my life I find the idea that freedom may be too big a burden irrelevant I am more concerned with questioning if it is anything more than an illusion. When I was young, this chapter made a much bigger impression on me. Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (203 of 217), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, August 25, 2001 12:41 AM Ann-- I just had to say that I thought your last post was beautiful.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (204 of 217), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 25, 2001 09:09 AM Ann- Freedom may well be an illusion, but if so, I live comfortably with that illusion. For me, it's better than just drifting all the time, with nothing to anchor life to. We each must find our own anchors. Some find faith. Some find atheism. Some find mankind. To each his own. But we must find something. I was just challenging the GI is all. His words are persuasive upon a first reading. Yet I find them disturbing and missing some key points. Some find them absolute. To each his own. Ivan appeals to me as a character, mainly because he holds all those doubts, including the one that hopes there is a God after all. To me, Mitya is good at heart when it comes to the injustices of the world. Yet, he never quite grows up. He's a prime example of one of the GI's needy, self-centered people. He is not one of the chosen ones capable of handling freedom. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (205 of 217), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, August 25, 2001 03:56 PM Kay-- You're right, Mitya's not capable of handling absolute freedom. Who is? He does try though... Ivan tries to kill God. Alyosha tries to love God. Smerdyakov tries to make a God (Ivan). Mitya has nothing whatsoever to do with God, unreliant on thoughts outside of himself. An enormous risk, this freedom...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (206 of 217), Read 33 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, August 25, 2001 07:06 PM Risk? Perhaps. But having the right to freedom is what keeps us moving - maybe not always forward, but we're moving. Having the right to freedom keeps us from stagnating. It keeps us pushing for answers, just as the Karamzovs do. I doubt we're in disagreement on that. Ultimately, I think that shove we get from freedom is what keeps us interested, involved, and responsible in life. When there is only an illusion of freedom, as the GI describes, we stop growing. Mitya doesn't look outside himself for answers, and that's part of his problem. He's locked into a mindset that doesn't allow other points of view and finds himself isolated. Even with Grushka behind him, he's running solo. I don't see Mitya as having much reserve to get him through the tough times. Alyosha doesn't either, since he's willing to help him escape, against his better judgement. Alyosha's freedom and strength are that his world view allows for contradictions. He has the qualities of a survivor. I don't think Ivan has those qualities. He's expecting suicide at age 30. I loved this novel because of all the questioning going on. The plot is more a line on which to hang the various arguments. I find it interesting that CR's have such different views from the same novel. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (207 of 217), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 05:17 AM Kay-- You're right: we are in agreement on many things. The questioning, the angular arguments, the ability to create characters that can be seen so differently by various readers... all those aspects of D's gift are very cool. And we agree about freedom as catalyst- it's very potent. But there's something else about D I consider cool also- the inability of the reader to rest on the adjectives of judgement when it comes to his characters. Mitya is greedy. But how, specifically? Is it when he steals money to buy food and drink for an entire town? Is it when he pawns his most valued possessions in an attempt to pay back the theft? Or is it when he risks everything he has for the love of another? Mitya is self-centered and doesn't look outside himself for answers. But when? Who understands best the women of BK? Who is more self-centered: Mitya or the careerist prosecutor at the end? Mitya or Ivan? Mitya or Papa? As for reserve to get through the tough times, what other times ARE there in BK? And who is at the middle of the tempest? Mitya. Who turns from suicide to love? Mitya. And who, 13 years later, would've returned from God knows where to ignite the never-written sequel to BK? Well, you know...
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (208 of 217), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Marcy Vaughan vaughan@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 07:22 AM Ann, in msg #200 you made the following comment about the Grand Inquisitor: “It is difficult to see anyone connected with the Inquisition as a benevolent figure.” I had that thought too when reading that chapter, and there is an essay by D.H. Lawrence, “Preface to Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor” where he uses that idea as his basis for an argument in defense of the Catholic church. I thought I’d post a few sections from this essay: “If there is any question: Who is the Grand Inquisitor? – then surely we must say it is Ivan himself. And Ivan is the thinking mind of the human being in rebellion, thinking the whole thing out of the bitter end. As such he is, of course, identical with the Russian revolutionary of the thinking type. He is also, of course, D. himself, in his thoughtful, as apart from his passional and inspirational self.” “Man can but be true to his own nature. No inspiration whatsoever will ever get him permanently beyond his limits. […] These three demands, for miracle, mystery and authority, prevent men from being ‘free.’ They are man’s ‘weakness.’ Only a few men, the elect, are capable of abstaining from the absolute demand for bread, for mystery, and authority. […] This, then, is the GI’s summing up of the nature of mankind. […] Christianity, then, is the ideal, but it is impossible. It is impossible because it makes demands greater than the nature of man can bear. And therefore, to get a livable, working scheme, some of the elect, such as the GI himself, have turned round to ‘him,’ that other great Spirit, Satan, and have established Church and State on ‘him.’” “Is it true that mankind demands, and will always demand, miracle, mystery, and authority? Surely it is true.” (Lawrence does back up this statement, but I just don’t have time to type it all.) Lawrence then says, “But is it then to betray Christ and turn over to Satan if the elect should at last realize [this? …] After all, the whole of Christianity is not contained in the rejection of the three temptations. The essence of Christianity is a love of mankind. If a love of mankind entails accepting the bitter limitation of the mass of men, […] then accept the limitation, and have done with it. […] And is that serving the devil? It is certainly not […] It is serving the great wholeness of mankind, and in that respect, it is Christianity. […] Where D. is perverse is in making the old, old, wise governor of men a Grand Inquisitor. The recognition of the weakness of man has been a common trait of all great, wise rulers of people, from the Pharaohs through the great patient Popes of the early Church right down to the present day. They have known the weaknesses of men, and felt a certain tenderness. This is the spirit of all great government. It was not the spirit of the Spanish Inquisition. […] The Spanish Inquisition was diabolic. It could not have produced a GI who put D’s sad question to Jesus. And the man who put those sad questions to Jesus could not possible have been a Spanish Inquisitor. […] The man who feels a certain tenderness for mankind in its weakness or limitation is not therefore diabolic. The man who realizes that Jesus asked too much of the mass of men […] is not therefore satanic. […] So let the specially gifted few make the decision […and] let the many accept the decision, with gratitude, and bow down to the few, in the hierarchy. What is there diabolical or satanic in that?” I don’t think I agree with Lawrence in his acceptance of mankind’s limitations and feeling it is futile/unfair to expect anything more of mankind. (I’m really still chewing over this whole thing.) But I thought it was a good essay and I’d put some of it out there. It’s been very helpful to read the discussion you’ve all been having on this issue. -Marcy
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (209 of 217), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 08:42 AM Marcy- As you know, I do not accept the GI's arguments on accepting man's limitations as a reason to give up on him. When you love someone, it's your responsibility to help them achieve more than he thought he could. Man is capable of rising above his instincts, at least on an individual instance by instance basis. George- Yes, Mitya drives the plot. BUT to whom do Ivan and Mitya turn when they are troubled or in trouble? Alyosha. It's Alyosha's faith that they lack. And it's Alyosha's faith that holds comfort for Ivan's angst and allows Mitya's eventual escape from the labor camps. It's Alyosha's faith that they count on and survive with. It's his faith that creates circumstances for them to be better than they are. His expectations for them make them stronger. LOL - This is a prime example of the reader bringing her world view to a novel and shaping meaning. The discussion has been a fun one. I'm always fascinated at the different interpretations readers have from the exact same text. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (210 of 217), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 12:19 PM Kay-- I think you're overestimating the effect of Alyosha's faith. I have no quarrel with that faith, except to say that I agree with Pevear when he says Alyosha's voice in the book is 'embryonic and unoriginal'. But it is Alyosha's wiilingness to bribe gaurds that will facilitate Mitya's escape, not his faith. And if he's been comforting Ivan, then he must feel ambivalent himself about said comfort, since Ivan sinks into a mental abyss (perhaps never to return). The faith of the novice monk is inarguable... everyone should be so lucky as to have beliefs that comforting and impervious to assault. I'm not against that, and never was. I just don't find it artistically convincing. I'll try to explain better, since this has been a tricky topic here. King Lear dies in the haze of a horrific and deluded madness with the corpse of his daughter at his feet. Now, he could've lived, he could've comforted himself with the thought that Cordelia was in a better place, that he would be joining her soon, that the evil that had caused such wreckage had been exterminated. He could've had an Alyosha-like reaction to the tragedy and reclaimed his crown and moved on. That would've been spiritually more comforting to the reader. And it would've been horribly wrong, artistically. A personality like his would overcharge in that situation- his heart and mind would burst. And it did. I can't tell you whether or not I find Alyosha convincing because he has almost no discernible personality. He is, (Pevear again) 'simply a reactor to events'. The fact that Alyosha cannot save his father's life, Ivan's mind, Mitya's soul, or Smerdyakov's personality all testify to his youth, and the limitations his inexperienced voice is subjected to. He tries to comfort, and quite nobly. But his words as yet are not connected enough to reality to sway any of the people in the book from their dark paths. Maybe later, in the sequel to BK, he would've impressed me. Maybe he would've been realized as a character. I don't know. But I have to deal with the book at hand. And here he is just as jarring to me as it would've been to hear King Lear confront ultimate tragedy and say 'Oh well, God must have had a reason for all this. Gimme back my crown.'
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (211 of 217), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 01:02 PM By the by, I hope there's some give to this proposition: 'LOL - This is a prime example of the reader bringing her world view to a novel and shaping meaning.' If I only left a book confirming what I already thought when I started reading it, I'd not read at all. I am an agnostic, it's true. But, for example, If we were discussing, say, Blake's 'Jerusalem' I'd probably sound like a Christian to you. I find its vision of God convincing both morally and artistically, and my own beliefs don't matter at all when I'm swept up in its holy dialogues. Same with most of the Old Testament or the Koran or The Divine Comedy etc., There are some Christians here, I'm sure, and I'm also sure they can read an atheistic work like Prometheus Bound with pleasure and profit. World views shouldn't be blinders. I am against Alyosha aesthetically, and I am with Jacob for the same reason.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (212 of 217), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 01:45 PM I read Prometheus Bound with pleasure and profit, George. I read BK the same way. I interpret the novel differently than you. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (213 of 217), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 02:48 PM Kay-- Glad you liked P.B. I was just trying to clarify my take on this, since I felt it was a bit misunderstood. Sometimes my posts tend to wander. Your take is pretty clear... I'm glad you've put it out there. Can't get too many angles on such an amazing book.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (214 of 217), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, August 26, 2001 06:23 PM I think I understand your view on Aloysha. If I'm reading you right, you are saying that he was not convincingly drawn and was not a significant player in BK. Is that a fair summation, or do I still have it wrong? For me, Alyosha was a fully realized character and was important in that he was so important to his brothers. They looked to him for understanding, approval, and comfort. They needed his non-judgmental approach, which came in part from his faith. I also looked at the way he became mentor to Kolya and his little friends. That left me with a sense of hope. I think A. was just as significant as Ivan, Mitya, and Smerdyakov. If I've misunderstood your posts, I am sorry. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (215 of 217), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 27, 2001 04:48 AM Kay-- I actually only had 3 small points on this: 1.) Melville wrote 'Pierre' after 'Moby Dick', and I'm sure he intended P to be as good or greater than MB. It just didn't turn out that way. Alyosha IS a major character in BK, and I'm sure D meant him to be as good or greater artistically as his father and his brothers... for me, it just didn't turn out that way. 2.) Despite Alyosha's importance, his approval can't be that important to his brothers, because the trajectory of the brothers in the book is unchanged by A's presence. Hypothetically subtract Alyosha from the novel and think how it would've played out: Ivan would've raged his way into a nervous breakdown. Mitya would've been framed for murder and sentenced to jail. Papa would've been killed. All the same. The only pragmatic difference plot-wise is the theoretical escape we never see. 3.) Moral and ethical greatness does not automatically translate into a great character. Morally, Emma Bovary is very, very wrong. For whom does she provide 'understanding, approval, and comfort'? She is still the greatest character in her novel. Those points are just opinions obviously, and could be badly in error. That's one of the great things about CR... the math can be outstanding: one error plus one error can equal two better understandings when the 'posters' work it out together.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (216 of 217), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, August 27, 2001 09:39 AM George- Thanks for clarifying. 1) Alyosha stands out for me because he's such a welcome relief to the passions of his brothers. I feel for them. I admire their questioning. I think they are more vividly drawn. But (you knew I'd have a "but..") for me, it's Alyosha's consistency, faith, and flexibility that permeate the novel. He seems real to me. So, though he isn't as interesting or vividly drawn as Ivan, Mitya, or Smerdyakov, Alyosha is as strong a presence and influence on me as a reader as his brothers. 2) You say Alyosha's approval can't be that important to his brothers because the trajectory of the brothers in the book is unchanged by A's presence. I grant you that their behavior does not change. But, even if Mitya and Ivan don't change their behavior, that doesn't mean that Alyosha's acceptance and approval of them isn't important to them. I think the reason they seek him out and admire him so much is due to his personality and beliefs. He's a gentle soul. 3) True. Moral and ethical greatness does not automatically translate into a great character. What attracts me to Alyosha, though, is his ability to accept people as they are and to try to change the things he can. Is Alyosha a character I'd like to write an essay on? No. I'd choose Ivan. But, is Alyosha a character I admire and will remember? For me, the answer is , "yes." As to opinions being right or wrong - I agree - that's immaterial. My English teachers taught me that what's important is being able to back up your argument. I think we've both done that. Thank goodness English isn't like math, where there's a cut and dried right or wrong. Though I enjoyed the tidiness of algebra and diagramming sentences, I thrived on the grays that led to mind engrossing discussions in English and History. K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (217 of 217), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, August 27, 2001 04:06 PM Kay-- Exactly.
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (218 of 221), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2001 06:29 AM Hello all -- well, the tail is wagging the dog here but I thought I'd chime in -- after my few earlier posts saying I was reading this and not saying anything really -- and let you know that I AM indeed still at this one -- I'm at about p.290 and am thus far totally enthralled with this book. Though I did read a bit here and there in this thread and drop my little non-posts into the mix -- I have not yet truly read this discussion and am purposely saving it up for when I am at the end of the book. Even so -- I must confess that I sat down and began the thread -- reading about 50 or 60 notes before the eyes gave out. I decided that it might help to read this sprinkled through the book reading -- and after completing the chapter on TGI I felt I needed some reward before embarking on TRM chapter -- that's where I am now -- reading the Elder's life story as told by Aloysha. Now -- WHY was it that I've been afraid to read these Russians? I am thinking about that question and keep returning to Gogol -- I didn't finish Dead Souls when we read it here on CR -- but later -- and was not ready for more Gogol anytime soon certainly. But all these years -- this avoidance of the big Russian authors. Thanks CC for getting me started -- Beej -- I may jump on that AK paperback the minute it's out! Dottie -- planning to take the Russians on the long weekend in Germany though not much will get read I'm sure ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (219 of 221), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2001 10:17 AM Dottie- Glad you're enjoying BK. It's not an easy read, but it's a fascinating one. When you're ready, jump in with your comments. Another take is always welcome. This novel seems to cause intense reactions. Now, I wonder how Beej's progress in BK in coming along............. Ha! K
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (220 of 221), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2001 10:43 AM Kay, I'm still chugging along in BK.. (boy, I will nevah encourage you to read another book again! You might then expect me to actually read it, too!) Dottie, P&V's translation of Anna Karenina is gorgeous and, trust me on this, much easier to read than BK..I'm glad to hear you want to read it.) Beej
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (221 of 221), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2001 12:41 PM Beej -- I'll bet you are further than I am though, aren't you? Kay -- I am really not finding this to be all that difficult a read -- but then I am really not reading it at all fast either. It's sort of a slo-mo read -- but I'm really savoring it as I said. Dottie -- finishing Part II today ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (222 of 222), Read 3 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, August 31, 2001 10:13 PM Hi all, I've been away climbing mountains in Colorado, but I just caught up on all the posts here and I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your discussion of BK. Marty, thank you so much for elaborating on the D. H. Lawrence essay on the G.I. Lawrence pinpointed what has been bothering me about it, and that is associating the protagonist with the Inquisition. For me, it negates any attempt to present him as a benevolent dictator. Kay and George, I have been fascinated by your give and take on Aloysha, probably because my own position is somewhere in the mushy middle. Like George, I am an agnostic. I do not think that, artistically, Aloysha is as successful a character as either Ivan or Smerdyakov. There is not enough grey in him, not enough conflict. In fact, he possesses a religious and moral certitude that is foreign to me. However, I cannot ignore his appeal. I love this character, and I love him precisely because he is so different from most people who are convinced that they are right. Aloysha can love others unconditionally, even when they don't conform to his expectations. It isn't exactly that he "forgives" them, it's more that he "accepts" them exactly as they are. He is even willing to set aside his principles to help someone he loves, as when he decides to help Mitya escape. Aloysha may or may not be a realistic character, but he speaks to me because he is someone I so much want to exist. What wouldn't we all give for a brother, or a friend like Aloysha? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (223 of 223), Read 7 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2001 04:35 PM I had to temporarily discontinue my reading of BK. Reasons: Can't find the time to do both my own reading, reading postings and reading the book. My computer time is limited. But close to the truth is that when I read D. I get too emotionally involved. He and his characters almost take over my life. I hard a hard time with the intensity of the various characters their raw emotions... So I deal with these more personal problems by reading other stuff in between and finally coming back to D. and the BK. I wonder if I am the only one who is plagued by this problem. Now as to the posted comments. They are absolutely incredible and I admire the people who posted them. Actually these opinions, more than anything else make me go back to finishing this book. Ernie
Ernie -- I agree BK characters take over and keep the reader glued there -- and I have had other instances of books which did this to me where, like you, I had to go read another book or two or three at one time so that I could pick up a different mood at the moment I needed to escape the main book and it's stranglehold on my life. And I have no argument with your assessment of the wonderful and informative posts and opinions offered here at all. Wonderful to have such people with whom one can discuss a book like this! This is my first Russian encounter -- I'm not counting Dead Souls -- Gogol because I didn't finish it (I don't believe so anyway) and I didn't do well with what I did read of it. THIS time -- this book -- BK that is, is turning out to be a wonderful experience. I am still reading what seems to me -- or FEELS to me to be slowly, almost walking through a dream but yet I found just now that I was finishing part2 Aug 29th and am now in the last book of part3 -- and I swear I didn't read any BK on the trip except for the chapter in the castle in Zell on Sunday night -- a very short chapter at that! Maybe I need to see if I have other things to do -- I must have been doing nothing but read since Monday evening {G}. Ah -- what a crew! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (202 of 206), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, September 22, 2001 05:10 PM Dottie, Thank god I am not alone in getting carried away emotionally and having to escape to keep my sanity. But after reading one mystery I came to the conclusion that while I react to the emotions I did not really follow or understand the content. My best example would the the Grand Inquisitor. I had just read that chapter quickly and was confused by the whole thing. I may have given up but Ann urged me to continue on. I got the idea of getting some two books Twentieth Century Views, A Collection of Critical Essays and picked out the one's that appeared most meaningful to me. So I came across The Preface to D's The Grand Inquisitor (D. H. Lawrence) and yes, this made sense. After first ignoring the chapter I now saw it as the essence of D's view of the world and mankind in particular. I was less touched by Freud's D on Patricide. But while still picking out and reading essays I started to get a basic understanding of D I did not have before. In truth I had felt strongly turned off by D's morbidity and his morbid characters. I was annoyed by their emotional outbursts, most of them senseless I thought and their strange way of relating to each other. Reading the Brothers is perhaps my 4th book by this author and every time his books left me with negative feelings. His sadness and morbidity seems to rub off and I did not see any true wisdom, just irrational human behavior. Well I now continued reading the Brothers and I finally fully (I hope) understood the Great Inquisitor chapter which deals with D's fundamental view of mankind and it is not a pretty one, but for the saints. So, I hope I can go on and on and finish the book at this late date. Forgot to mention postings which helped me and I admired by Ann, yours Dottie, Kay Dugan, Marcy Vaughn and last but not least those made by Don. Ernie
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (203 of 206), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, September 23, 2001 12:53 PM Ernie, I admire your persistence in continuing with THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV. Dostoevski is not everyone's cup of tea, and I can certainly understand why so many people begin, but never finish, this book. The book you cited, Twentieth Century Views, A Collection of Critical Essays, sounds interesting. Is it all about Dostoevski? Ann
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (204 of 206), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, September 23, 2001 11:20 PM Well, count me among the late readers of The Brothers Karamazov but I finally finished it today! I'm relieved to find that there is still some talk about it here and that the thread hasn't timed out. Dostoevsky has done this to me with everything we've read by him. I struggle through his writing, consider giving up, puzzle over almost everything and finally finish feeling incredibly glad that I've read it. A while ago, I bought a cheap, used copy of the Norton Critical Edition of BK and am reading Dostoevsky's letters that they've included. They are making me remember how much D hated the socialist movement in Russia. And, I'm realizing that the Grand Inquisitor may actually be his symbol for that movement. Read the following excerpt from a letter to the publisher of the Russian Herald which was printing it in installments and see what you think: Two days ago I sent to the office of the Russian Herald the continuation of the Karamazovs for the June issue (the ending of the fifth book, Pro and Contra). In it is concluded what is said by "a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies." A contemporary nay-sayer, one of the most vehement, openly declares himself in favor of the devil's counsel and maintains that it insures mankind's happiness more that Christ. It is an omen, and a striking one for Russian, stupid socialism (but terrible, because our youth is in it): bread, the tower of Babel (that is, the future reign of socialism)and the total enslavement of the freedom of conscience--that is what the desperate nay-sayer and atheist comes to. The difference lies in that our socialists (and you know very well that it is not merely the underground nihilists) are conscious Jesuits and liars who do not admit that their ideal is the ideal of coercing human consciousness and reducing humanity to a herd of cattle, while my socialist (Ivan Karamazov) is a sincere man, who admits openly that he agrees with the 'Grand Inquisitor's' view of humanity and that Christ's faith (seemingly) raised man much higher than he is. The question is brought to a head: 'Do you despise humanity or respect it, you, its future saviors?' And, they give the impression of doing all this in the name of love for humanity. 'Christ's law is difficult and abstract, unbearable for weak men' and in place of the law of Freedom and Enlightenment, they bring them the law of chains and enslavement by bread. I had forgotten that in the temptations, Satan had advised Jesus to feed the people before expecting them to be able to develop their spirituality. Jesus then replied with that famous line, saying that "Man does not live by bread alone." Dostoevsky seems to be saying that socialism has adopted Satan's argument, underestimating mankind. Barb
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (205 of 206), Read 12 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, September 24, 2001 07:39 AM Barb thanks for that excerpt -- I will be looking for the Norton edition when I revisit this one which I am positive I will do before too terribly long. I absolutely crawled thru this book -- comparatively speaking. But I rolled the text around my mouth and mind like some of that wine up there in Ernie's neck of the woods -- and I loved this first completed experience of any of the Russians (aside from Lolita here a while ago). I think what it really is -- this is the first reading that I truly accomplished on my own -- I started well after everyone else -- and I truly felt I was on my own as far as reading. I am especially glad that it worked out that way -- somehow I had more of a connection with the book than I had anticipated and think that the lengthened time spent working my own way through it may be a key to that. At any rate -- I loved this book -- and will not be so shy of starting another Dostoevsky or Tolstoy down the road -- which I believe will be to my advantage. Dottie
Topic: August: The Brothers Karamazov (206 of 206), Read 10 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, September 24, 2001 01:56 PM Barb, Thanks for that excerpt from D's letters. It really makes the whole GI chapter so much easier to understand. It is not really a religious parable at all, unless you consider socialism a "secular religion." And congratulations for finishing! With a book this long and involved, that's an accomplishment. Ann

 
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky

 
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