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The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov


by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Katerina Ivanovna Verkhovtsev

Character Analysis

The daughter of a high-ranking general, Katerina is proud, wealthy, intelligent, and beautiful – but terrible with men. She is engaged to Dmitri, who lent her the money to redeem her father's good name. Despite Dmitri's affair with Grushenka and his theft of her money, Katerina stubbornly refuses to dump him, even helping fund his defense at the trial. This behavior is all the more puzzling since she is really in love with his brother Ivan, who is also in love with her. But neither of these proud characters is willing to act on this love.

No wonder, then, that Katerina is so often given to hysterical fits in the novel. So how does someone as smart as Katerina screw up so badly in her relationships? Like so many of the characters, Katerina seems to have a real problem with pride. She doesn't stay with Dmitri because of her love for him; she stays because she wants him to worship her, to remain indebted to her, as his savior. It's a way to reverse the humiliating fact that she had to beg him for money to help her father. Similarly, with Ivan, Katerina strings him along, enjoying his attention while insisting on standing by his brother. It's only when Ivan is on the verge of being prosecuted himself that Katerina, in a hysterical rage, produces a letter that seals Dmitri's conviction for his father's murder.

It's only after embarrassing herself at Dmitri's trial that Katerina learns the tough lesson of humility. At that point she is finally prepared to care for the man she loves and make amends with the man she helped wrongfully convict.