The Brothers Karamazov laments the profound isolation of the individual in 19th-century Russian society. The culprits? The waning influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decay of traditional social relations, the impoverishment of the peasantry after the end of serfdom, and the spread of modern, liberal "Western" notions of rationalism, socialism, and individualism. (See "Setting" and "In a Nutshell" for more on this.) All of these forces collude in giving the individual the promise of greater independence and wealth – a promise they can't keep. Instead, the individual is set adrift from society, which leads many characters in the novel to contemplate – and commit – suicide.
In Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, pride and self-consciousness drive many characters into a solitude that is ultimately self-destructive.
Dostoevsky's novel contains many instances where brotherly love saves characters from their own self-isolating tendencies.