Study Guide

The Brothers Karamazov Quotes

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    "Besides, I can't bear it that some man, even with a lofty heart and the highest mind, should start from the ideal of the Madonna and end with the ideal of Sodom [...] No, man is broad, even too broad." (3.4.29)

    In a typical moment of muddled but surprising eloquence, Dmitri articulates one of the main points of the novel: without spiritual guidance, man's tremendous imagination can't differentiate between good ("the ideal of the Madonna") and evil ("the ideal of Sodom").

    [Alyosha's] mind, too, was splintered and scattered, as it were, while he himself felt at the same time that he was afraid to bring the scattered together and draw a general idea from all the tormenting contradictions he had lived through that day. (3.10.1)

    Here Dostoevsky paints a particularly sophisticated portrait of what happens when we think. Without an "idea" to make sense of everything that happened, Alyosha can't organize his thoughts: all he has is a muddle.

    "For those who renounce Christianity and rebel against it are in their essence of the same image of the same Christ, and such they remain, for until now neither their wisdom nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create another, higher image of man and his dignity than the image shown of old by Christ. And whatever their attempts, the results have been only monstrosities [...]" (4.1.54)

    The skeptic, despite his rejection of Christianity, still needs an idea. This thirst for an idea is inescapably human according to Dostoevsky; you can't argue it away. But without the divine imprint, any idea that the skeptic comes up with necessarily falls short in a grotesque way.

    Lise was greatly moved by his story. Alyosha managed to paint an image of "Ilyushechka" for her with ardent feeling, and when he finished describing in great detail the scene of the wretched man trampling on the money, Lise clasped her hands [...] (5.1.7)

    Alyosha doesn't speak much, but when he does he's able to provide an image of goodness that can move his readers (in this case, Lise) and bring out the best in them. His image is so compelling that Lise feels deep concern for a poor boy she doesn't know.

    "[...] Well, then, what are [typical Russian boys] going to argue about, seizing this moment in the tavern? About none other than the universal questions: is there a God, is there immortality? And those who do not believe in God, well, they will talk about socialism and anarchism, about transforming the whole of mankind according to a new order, but it's the same damned thing, the questions are all the same, only from the other end [...]" (5.3.56)

    The irony of Ivan's complaint here is that later on we'll meet the young Kolya, who parrots Ivan's ideas but ultimately abandons them when he meets Alyosha.

    "[...] I have a Euclidean mind, an earthly mind, and therefore it is not for us to resolve things that are not of this world [...]" (5.3.64)

    This is Ivan's way of putting Dmitri's assertion that man is "too broad" (see Quote #1 above). Ivan insists that he is earthbound, and can't – or refuses to –grasp ideas that transcend the earthly realm, such as religion.

    "It is this world of God's, created by God, that I do not accept and cannot agree to accept [...]. Let the parallel lines meet even before my own eyes. I shall look and say, yes, they meet, and still I will not accept it. That is my essence, Alyosha, that is my thesis." (5.3.64)

    As a further elaboration of his assertion that he has only an earthly mind (see Quote #6), Ivan believes he would even refuse to believe a miracle (parallel lines meeting) if he should see it.

    Ivan laughed, "If you're so spoiled by modern realism and can't stand anything fantastic – if you want it to be qui pro quo, let it be." (5.5.3)

    Despite his claim to be completely earthbound, Ivan is the one who indulges in fantastic speculation, while the religious Alyosha is described as a modern realist.

    "The dread and intelligent spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and non-being [...] the great spirit spoke with you in the wilderness [...] By the questions alone, simply by the miracle of their appearance, one can see that one is dealing with a mind not human and transient but eternal and absolute. For in these three questions all of subsequent human history is as if brought together in a single whole and foretold; three images are revealed that will take in all the insoluble historical contradictions of human nature over all the earth [...]" (5.5.10)

    The problem with the Grand Inquisitor's assertion here is that we only know about the devil's three temptations through the Bible (there is no separate devil's Bible that gives his side of events). The Bible has to make the devil's temptations sound, well, tempting; otherwise, the importance of Christ's rejection of them would be completely lost. Think, for example, how different the story would have been if the devil offered Christ a cupcake.

    "Freedom, free reason, and science will lead them into such a maze, and confront them with such miracles and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, unruly and ferocious, will exterminate themselves; others, unruly but feeble, will exterminate each other; and the remaining third, feeble and wretched, will crawl to our feet and cry out to us: 'Yes, you were right.'" (5.5.11)

    Ivan's Grand Inquisitor is filled with ironies. Here, he says that without religion man will be led to a self-destructive frenzy – just as Ivan will later in the novel.

    "Our people believe tirelessly in the truth, acknowledge God, weep tenderly. Not so their betters. These, following science, want to make a just order for themselves by reason alone, but without Christ now, not as before, and they have already proclaimed that there is no crime, there is no sin. And in their own terms, that is correct: for if you have no God, what crime is there to speak of? [...] Salvation will come from the people, from their faith and their humility." (6.3.f)

    This is probably Zosima's clearest critique of Enlightenment thinking, which is portrayed here as a Western European invention, alien to the spirit of the Russian people. Zosima views rationalism as sheer intellectual arrogance. He argues that only the humble Russian people, who accept the place of religion in their lives and in world history, will be able to create a just society.

    "Imagine: it's all there in the nerves, in the head, there are these nerves in the brain (devil take them!)...there are little sorts of tails, these nerves have little tails, well, and when they start trembling there [...] an image appears, as it were [...] and that's why I contemplate, and then think...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." (11.4.26 )

    Dmitri here restates what he learned from the intellectual Rakitin about how the mind works from a purely scientific or neurological point of view. The ridiculousness of Dmitri's understanding again supports the novel's view that truly great ideas don't spring from random chemicals firing in your brain, but from religious inspiration.

    "You are a lie, you are my illness, you are a ghost [...] You are the embodiment of myself, but of just one side of me...of my thoughts and feelings, but only the most loathsome and stupid of them. [...]" (11.9.10)

    At this late point in the novel, Ivan begins to recognize how his skepticism is really the product of the worst parts of himself, as his attack on his own devil shows.

    "There are things that are even worse, even more ruinous in such cases [...] if we are, for example, possessed by a certain, so to speak, artistic game, by the need for artistic production, so to speak, the creation of a novel, especially seeing the wealth of psychological gifts with which God has endowed our abilities [...] psychology, gentlemen, though a profound thing, is still a stick with two ends [...] Psychology prompts novels even from the most serious people." (2.10.3)

    The novel has a thing against psychology as a scientific explanation for human behavior. The defense attorney Fetyukovich demonstrates how the prosecutor Kirillovich is led to the mistaken conclusion that Dmitri is the real murderer through his appeal to psychology.

  • Religion

    In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his faith, he must also allow for miracles. (1.5.1)

    The narrator here comes out with one of his few explicit comments on the novel. Here he confidently explains why Alyosha can be realistic about the world and still be religious. In fact, religion gives Alyosha an insight into human truths that others do not have. This, by the way, is a response to the Grand Inquisitor's notion that miracle is a way to deceive men into religion.

    "No matter, he is holy, in his heart there is the secret of renewal for all, the power that finally establish the truth on earth." (1.5.4)

    Alyosha believes fervently in his elder's teachings, but there is also an irony here in that, in his excessive admiration for his elder, Alyosha is setting him up as a substitute for Christ. The falsity of this admiration is demonstrated when Alyosha experiences doubt at his elder's dead body's decomposition – not the miracle he was hoping for.

    "For people are created for happiness, and he who is completely happy can at once be deemed worthy of saying to himself: 'I have fulfilled God's commandment on this earth.' [...]" (2.4.22)

    The elder Zosima explains that Christianity helps us understand that we are essentially happy beings; we just have to realize this in order for our sufferings to be eliminated.

    "It is not the Church that turns into the state, you see. That is Rome and its dream. That is the third temptation of the devil! But, on the contrary, the state turns into the Church, it rises up to the Church and becomes the Church over all the earth." (2.5.31)

    Father Paissy draws a distinction between Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Catholicism – "Rome" – corrupts Christianity in seeking to use religion to establish political power (such as the Holy Roman Empire). Russian Orthodoxy ("the Church") seeks the complete opposite – to sublimate the state (political institutions or nations, like Russia for example) into a higher, spiritual order. This is a response to the Grand Inquisitor's idea that the Church ought to establish a political authority on earth.

    "[D]o not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we do not want to know it, and if we did want to know it, tomorrow there would be paradise the world over." (6.1.a)

    A central premise of the novel is that once we recognize that paradise is here on earth, we can approach life with joy and happiness, no matter how much suffering is lobbed our way.

    "But what is great here is this very mystery – that the passing earthly image and eternal truth here touched each other. In the face of earthly truth, the enacting of eternal truth is accomplished." (6.1.b)

    Zosima's discussion of Job's story is a response to Ivan's Grand Inquisitor, who believes that mystery can only be used to enslave man's mind. Zosima insists that the mysteriousness of the Bible's stories comes from the encounter of an earthly mind with divine will.

    "Do you think that a simple man will not understand? Try reading to him [...] and you will pierce his heart with these simple tales. [...] Only the people and their future spiritual power will convert our atheists, who have severed themselves from their own land." (6.1.b)

    Zosima's theory of reading the Bible here may also apply to what Dostoevsky is trying to do as a novelist. Both believe that stories of religious truth can appeal to all readers, no matter their background or level of education.

    "My young brother asked forgiveness of the birds: it seems senseless, yet it is right, for all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in one place and it echoes at the other end of the world." (6.3.g)

    The elder Zosima in his teaching here seems to head toward pantheism, or the belief that God is inseparable from nature. He advocates kissing the ground as a form of prayer, and other characters such as Alyosha and Dmitri have moments of clarity when they are communing with nature.

    "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, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. [...] God took seeds from other worlds and sowed them on this earth, and raised up his garden; and everything that could sprout sprouted, but it lives and grows only through its sense of being in touch with other mysterious worlds; if this sense is weakened or destroyed in you, that which has grown up in you dies. Then you become indifferent to life, and even come to hate it." (6.3.g)

    This passage explains the significance of the epigraph to the entire novel. (For a detailed discussion, see "What's Up With the Epigraph?"). The novel is in some sense a test of what kind of life is possible from the perspective of two opposing world views – faith and skepticism. Only faith "sprouts" a happy life.

    "Love to throw yourself down on the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth and love it, tirelessly, insatiably, love all men, love all things, seek this rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy, and love those tears. Do not be ashamed of this ecstasy, treasure it, for it is a gift from God, a great gift, and it is not given to many, but to those who are chosen." (6.3.h)

    Zosima's exhortation to "[k]iss the earth" links up his religious views with the love of the Russian land.

    "It's impossible for a convict to be without God, even more impossible than for a non-convict! And then from the depths of the earth, we, the men underground, will start singing a tragic hymn to God, in whom there is joy!" (11.8.36)

    Dmitri here practices Zosima's philosophy that all you have to do is recognize that your life is a paradise for it to become one (see Quote #7). Dmitri's image of the convicts' hymn shows how even a convict can praise God.

    [Alyosha] was beginning to understand Ivan's illness: "The torments of a proud decision, a deep conscience!" God, in who he did not want to believe, and his truth were overcoming his heart, which still did not want to submit. (11.10.37)

    Alyosha here recognizes the enormous suffering Ivan experiences because of his unwillingness to recognize the truth of religious doctrine.

    "[...] let us never forget how good we once felt here, all together, united by such good and kind feelings as made us, too, for the time that we loved the poor boy. [...] And even if only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation." (Epilogue.3.49)

    Out in the world, no longer a monk, Alyosha starts to echo Zosima's philosophy as he exhorts the children to hold on to the memory of the funeral, a time when they were at their very Christian best.

  • Fate and Free Will

    "What, then, is an elder? An elder is one who takes your soul, your will into his soul and into his will [...] A man who dooms himself to this trial, this terrible school of life, does so voluntarily, in the hope that after the long trial he will achieve self-conquest, self-mastery to such a degree that he will, finally, through a whole life's obedience, attain to perfect freedom." (1.5.3)

    Zosima explains how, paradoxically, it is only through complete submission to someone else (the elder) that a monk can attain true freedom: freedom from material needs.

    "Not only that, but then nothing would be immoral any longer, everything would be permitted, even anthropophagy." (2.6.8)

    Here Miusov restates Ivan's argument that without their religious belief in immortality (or their souls), men would reject all morality and be completely free to do whatever they wished. Of course the ironic consequence of this freedom is anthropophagy, or cannibalism, an irony Ivan doesn't seem to be aware of.

    "[...] and the unworthy one will disappear down his back lane – his dirty back lane, his beloved, his befitting back lane, and there, in filth and stench, will perish of his own free will, and revel in it." (3.4.9)

    Dmitri shows here how man's free will can be perverted by his sensual needs.

    "[The Grand Inquisitor] lays it to his and his colleagues' credit that they have finally overcome freedom, and have done so in order to make people happy. [...] Man was made a rebel; can rebels be happy? " (5.5.5)

    Ivan restates the Grand Inquisitor's belief that man is made terribly unhappy by the burden of free will; thus the Grand Inquisitor seeks to set up a society with a strong authority (like himself) that tells men what to do. This type of society is based on the Grand Inquisitor's belief that men are essentially "rebels": they use their free will only to defy authority, as opposed to any greater aim. Ironically, Ivan himself is being rebellious with his own blasphemy; Alyosha calls him out as a rebel a few pages earlier (5.4.22).

    "[...] man has no more tormenting care than to find someone to whom he can hand over as quickly as possible that gift of freedom with which the miserable creature is born [...]."(5.5.11)

    According to Ivan's Grand Inquisitor, man can't stand having free will because the burden of choice – and the responsibility that comes with choice – is just too much. (For example, if you choose to steal, then you are responsible for your theft.) Man would far prefer to have someone else tell him what to do – no choice, no responsibility. (To go back to our earlier example, if somebody in a position of authority tells you to steal, then it's not your fault – you were just following orders.)

    "There are three powers, only three powers on earth, capable of conquering and holding captive forever the conscience of these feeble rebels, for their own happiness – these powers are miracle, mystery, and authority." (5.5.11)

    According to Ivan's Grand Inquisitor, the Church (here the Roman Catholic Church, not the Russian Orthodox Church) deprives men of their free will through engaging their belief in miracles; disabling their critical thinking processes through mystery; and controlling their actions through authority.

    "[...] the enlightened world of today [...] has proclaimed freedom, especially of late, but what do we see in this freedom of theirs: only slavery and suicide! For the world says: 'You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them' – this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom." (6.3.e)

    Zosima attacks another notion of freedom, this time the idea of freedom inherited from the Enlightenment, which asserted that all men were born free and equal. Zosima points out that inequalities still exist in society (between the rich and the poor), and Enlightenment philosophy is no solace to the poor, who don't feel any more free than in the days of serfdom.

    "Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at, yet they alone constitute the way to real and true freedom: I cut away my superfluous and unnecessary needs, through obedience I humble and chasten my vain and proud will, and thereby, with God's help, attain freedom of spirit, and with that, spiritual rejoicing!" (6.3.e)

    Zosima explains here that in giving up one's will to the rigors of monastic life, one will actually become even more free because one is free of delusions and material desires. One can finally experience true joy.

    "[...] since God and immortality do not exist in any case, even if this period should never come, the new man is allowed to become a man-god, though it be he alone in the whole world, and of course, in this new rank, to jump lightheartedly over any former moral obstacle of the former slave-man, if need be. There is no law for God! Where God stands – there is the place of God! Where I stand, there at once will be the foremost place . . .'everything is permitted,' and that's that! It's all very nice, only if one wants to swindle, why, I wonder, should one also need the sanction of truth? But such is the modern little Russian man: without such a sanction, he doesn't even dare to swindle, so much does he love the truth . . ." (11.9.95)

    At this late point, the novel completes its ironic characterization of Ivan's skepticism. The devil here parrots Ivan's views back to himself. Ivan's notion of a "new man," who sets his own morality – "everything is permitted" – is shown to be ridiculous through the contrast between the grandiose aspirations of the "new man" and the very humble and shabby appearance of the devil himself.

    "Who could say which of them was to blame or calculate who owed what to whom, with all that muddled Karamazovism, in which no one could either define or understand himself?" The whole tragedy of the crime on trial [Rakitin] portrayed as resulting from the ingrained habits of serfdom and a Russia immersed in disorder and suffering from a lack of proper institutions. (12.2.37)

    Rakitin takes the view of social determinism: we have no free will because our social condition determines how we act. Basically, society makes us do what we do, and we have no control over it. Specifically Rakitin ascribes Fyodor's murder to the fall of serfdom and the weakening of aristocratic power in Russian society. (See "Setting" for more historical details.)

    [The Moscow doctor] spoke at length and cleverly about 'mania' and the 'fit of passion' and concluded from all the assembled data that the defendant, before his arrest, as much as several days before, was undoubtedly suffering from a morbid fit of passion, and if he did commit the crime, even consciously, it was also almost involuntarily, being totally unable to fight the morbid moral fixation that possessed him. (12.3.2)

    The Moscow doctor here takes the stand of psychological determinism: our psychology makes us do what we do, and we have no control over the matter. It's a kind of insanity defense for Dmitri: he was crazy when he committed the murder so cannot be held responsible for what he did. (Of course, Dmitri didn't kill his father.)

  • Judgment and Justice

    "What has just been said is also true, that if, indeed, the judgment of the Church came, and in its full force – that is, if the whole of society turned into the Church alone – then not only would the judgment of the Church influence the reformation of the criminal as it can never influence it now, but perhaps crimes themselves would indeed diminish at an incredible rate." (2.5.26)

    Zosima suggests that without the moral guidance provided by religion, criminals have no incentive to give up a life of crime.

    "They hope to make a just order for themselves, but, having rejected Christ, they will end by drenching the earth with blood, for blood calls to blood, and he who draws the sword will perish by the sword." (6.3.g)

    Zosima cites Matthew 26:52 to explain why it will be impossible to create a just society on earth without religious influence. Without religion, man has no morals and no notion of universal love, without which he has no incentive to stop killing his fellow man.

    "Remember especially that you cannot be the judge of anyone. For there can be no judge of a criminal on earth until the judge knows that he, too, is a criminal, exactly the same as the one who stands before him." (6.3.h)

    The other problem with the judicial system, according to Zosima, is that it falsely assumes that the judge is somehow a better human being than the criminal. Zosima stresses again a fundamental equality between all human beings that goes beyond even the democratic notion of equality, which still establishes a hierarchy between criminals and non-criminals. Put another way, it's possible to exclude somebody from a secular democratic society if he breaks the laws of that society. Zosima's notion of Christian community is so broad that nobody can be excluded, no matter what law they may break, because everybody is an equal before God.

    So that indeed the thought may well enter one's head, as it entered mine, for example, as soon as I took a look at them: "What can such people possibly grasp of such a case?" (12.1.5)

    The narrator expresses his skepticism that the unimpressive bunch who make up Dmitri's jury can come to a valid conclusion about his innocence or guilt. The jury ends up confirming the narrator's low expectations by mistakenly convicting Dmitri.

    "[...] what is most important is that a great number of our Russian, our national, criminal cases bear witness precisely to something universal, to some general malaise that has taken root among us, and with which, as with universal evil, it is already difficult to contend. [...] For now we are either horrified or pretend that we are horrified, while, on the contrary, relishing the spectacle, like lovers of strong eccentric sensations that stir our cynical and lazy idleness [like Karamazovs], or, finally, like little children waving the frightening ghosts away." (12.6.1)

    The prosecutor Kirillovich views the sensational appeal of the Karamazov trial as an indication that the murder speaks to some deep disorder at the core of Russian society.

    "Let us lay aside psychology, gentlemen, let us lay aside medicine, let us lay aside even logic itself, let us turn just to the facts, simply to the facts alone, and let us see what the facts will tell us [...]." (12.8.3)

    Kirillovich is just interpreting the facts – or so he claims. Of course, he is totally wrong: his ambition and desire to successfully prosecute a famous case leads him to misread the evidence as proof of Dmitri's guilt.

    What swayed them above all was the totality of facts. (12.9.2)

    The novel is again ironic about the word "fact." There's no such thing as a fact, just interpretations of facts. If you're motivated by ambition (like the prosecutor) or influenced by psychological, medical, or philosophical theories (like Rakitin or the Moscow doctor), you're liable to misread the facts. Only a religious person like Alyosha believes rightly in Dmitri's innocence from the get-go.

    "Here, above all, the triumphant novelist can be brought up short and demolished by details, those very details in which reality is always rich, and which are always neglected by such unfortunate and unwilling authors, as if they were utterly insignificant and unnecessary trifles, if indeed they even occur to them. Oh, they cannot be bothered with that at the moment, their mind creates only the grandiose whole – and then someone dares suggest such a trifle to them!" (12.9.3)

    Kirillovich prides himself on his attention to detail, and thus his realism; unlike novelists, he only deals in facts. The irony is that everything in his speech is fiction, since he has read every detail through the biased lens of his desire to prosecute Dmitri.

    "[...] the overwhelming totality of the facts is against the defendant, and at the same time there is not one fact that will stand up to criticism, if it is considered separately, on its own!" (12.10.1)

    Fetyukovich effectively challenges Kirillovich on the point of fact. He notes here that the "facts" on which Kirillovich bases his prosecution are actually just the products of fantasy on the part of the prosecutor and the witnesses. Fetyukovich does a particularly effective job pointing out that nobody ever saw or counted the 3,000 roubles everyone claims Dmitri spent on his first trip to Mokroye – which, if you were reading the novel carefully, should be no surprise to you.

    "There are souls that in their narrowness blame the whole world. But overwhelm such a soul with mercy, give it love, and it will curse what it has done, for there are so many germs of good in it [...] the Russian courts exist not only for punishment but also for the salvation of the ruined man!" (12.13.5)

    Fetyukovich echoes Zosima's theory of criminal justice presented in Quote #1 about the importance of moral salvation for the criminal. His logical and accurate representation of the events leading up to Fyodor's murder grounds Zosima's religious teachings, so to speak, in real life.

  • Suffering

    "Because I'm a Karamazov. Because 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." (3.3.29)

    At this early point in the novel, Dmitri can only appreciate his "humiliations" in a sensuous or artistic way – whatever a muddled person like Dmitri means by "beautiful." But much later in the novel, this appreciation for the beauty in his suffering will open the way for his acceptance of suffering as a path to redemption.

    Alyosha realized at the first sight of [Katerina], at the first words, that the whole tragedy of her situation with respect to the man she loved so much was no secret to her, that she, perhaps, knew everything already, decidedly everything. (3.10.10)

    Much of the suffering that characters such as Katerina endure comes from their refusal to acknowledge the truth about themselves out of their own pride.

    The word "strain," just uttered by Madame Khokhlakov, made [Alyosha] almost jump, because precisely that night, half-awake at dawn, probably in response to a dream, he had suddenly said, "Strain, strain!" (4.5.1)

    The word "strain" is interesting; the Russian nadryvat' has been translated in some editions as "rupture." These characters are literally "straining" under their false notions of who they are (and who other people think they are), to the point of rupture or breaking. In female characters such as Madame Khokhlakov and Katerina, this rupture tends to take the form of hysterical fits.

    [Katerina] spoke with a sort of strain, in a sort of pale, forced ecstasy [...] "I will be his god, to whom he shall pray – that at least, he owes me for his betrayal." [4.5.10)

    Quote #3 from earlier in the chapter has prepared the reader to see this passage as an instance in which Katerina's desire to be a "god" is shown as ridiculous.

    "And if the suffering of children goes to make up the sum of suffering needed to buy truth, then I assert beforehand that the whole of truth is not worth such a price." (5.4.21)

    Ivan poses suffering as a theological problem here: if sweet innocent children suffer, how can there be a just God? This sounds a false note, though – Ivan doesn't really seem to care about suffering children.

    But at the moment he could no longer reason [...] his soul was troubled, troubled to the point of suffering. (8.6.2)

    Personal suffering leads Dmitri to lose his ability to think rationally.

    "I was a fool, a fool to torment myself for five years! And I didn't torment myself because of him at all, I tormented myself out of spite!" (8.7.182)

    Grushenka recognizes at this point that her real suffering was self-imposed; she alone is responsible for holding onto an idealized image of her loser Polish boyfriend for so long. In short, she should have gotten over it a whole lot sooner.

    "You can revive and resurrect the frozen heart in this convict, you can look after him for years, and finally bring up from the cave into the light a soul that is lofty now, a suffering consciousness, you can revive an angel, resurrect a hero! And there are many of them, there are hundreds and we're all guilty for them! Why did I have a dream about a 'wee one' at such a moment? 'Why is the wee one poor?' It was a prophecy to me at that moment! [...] All people are 'wee ones.'" (11.4.36)

    Dmitri often refers to resurrection during the experience of his trial and subsequent conviction. The language draws a parallel between Dmitri and Jesus, where suffering redeems not only the individual but the whole of mankind (thus Dmitri's reference to the "wee ones").

    "Before it was just her infernal curves that fretted me, but now I've taken her whole soul into my soul, and through her I've become a man!"(11.4.51)

    Another shift in Dmitri's sensibility in the second half of the novel is marked by his sincere love for Grushenka, which has replaced the purely physical lust he felt for her earlier.

    "On the other hand, what about my conscience? I'll be running away from suffering! [...] To run away from crucifixion!" (11.4.57)

    As in Quote #8, Dmitri continues to draw parallels between himself and Jesus, here by describing his ordeal as a kind of "crucifixion."

    [Ivan and Katerina] were some sort of enemies in love with each other. (11.7.60)

    Unlike Dmitri and Grushenka, Ivan and Katerina are still stuck in a love-hate relationship. Neither of them are able to let go of their pride and are consequently doomed to hurt each other and themselves.

    And as he entered his room, something icy suddenly touched his heart, like a recollection, or, rather, a reminder, of something loathsome and tormenting that was precisely in that room now. [...] Apparently something there, some object, irritated him, troubled him, tormented him. (11.8.148)

    One consequence of Ivan's intellectual pride is that he becomes a religious skeptic. But this skepticism causes him such enormous suffering that he eventually goes mad. In this quote, he encounters the devil.

  • Guilt and Blame

    "But when he knows that he is not only worse than all those in the world, but is also guilty before all people, on behalf of all and for all, for all human sins, the world's and each person's, only then will the goal of our unity be achieved. [...] Only then will our hearts be moved to a love that is infinite, universal, and knows no satiety." (4.1.2)

    The elder Zosima's notion of universal love is a tough one to grasp because it involves recognizing that you're no better than anyone else, not even equal to anyone else, but "worse than all those in the world." Only when you accept that can you truly love.

    "No, I was the cause of it all, I am terribly to blame!" the inconsolable Alyosha repeated in a burst of agonizing shame for his escapade, and even covered his face with his hands in shame. (4.5.46)

    Alyosha's outburst of shame is spontaneous but also a bit perplexing, since all he did was tell Ivan and Katerina about their true feelings for one another. To blame himself for their tiff is a bit much, but it goes along with Zosima's notion of love in Quote #1.

    "[...] make yourself responsible for all the sins of men [...] by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan's pride and murmuring against God." (6.3.g)

    As in Quote #1, Zosima insists on the notion of being personally responsible for everyone else's sins. To do otherwise would be to disrupt the unity of all mankind in the love of God through a kind of Satanic pride.

    What this beating on the chest, on that spot, meant, and what he intended to signify by it – so far was a secret that no one else in the world knew, which he had not revealed then even to Alyosha, but for him that secret concealed more than shame, it concealed ruin and suicide, for so he had determined if he were unable to obtain the 3,000 to pay back Katerina Ivanovna and thereby lift from his chest, "from that place on his chest," the shame he carried there, which weighed so heavily on his conscience. (8.3.67)

    Dmitri's shame at stealing Katerina's money to entertain another woman is spontaneous and sincere. It suggests that he's not all bad, despite his violent tendencies.

    "It's me, me, the cursed one, I am guilty!" she cried in a heartrending howl. (9.3.4)

    Grushenka is driven by her love for Dmitri to feel shame for the way she prodded and goaded him into a jealous rage. It's only when she feels love that she is capable of feeling remorse.

    And he also feels a tenderness such as he has never known before urging 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. [...] And his whole heart blazed up and turned toward some sort of light, and he wanted to live and live. (9.8.45)

    After being arrested for a crime he didn't commit, Dmitri has a vision that opens him up to love for all mankind, even these fictional peasants in his dream. This vision of love emerges from the seeds of shame we saw in Quote #4 above.

    Oh, perhaps this strained love would have grown into real love, perhaps Katya wished for nothing else, but Mitya insulted her to the depths of her soul with his betrayal, and her soul did not forgive [...] naturally, as soon as she had spoken it out, the tension broke, and shame overwhelmed her. Hysterics began again. (12.5.47)

    Katerina doesn't recognize how her betrayal of Dmitri at his trial stems from her wounded pride that he left her for another woman. When she finally realizes this, in this quote, she is overwhelmed with shame. The benefit of this is that she gains a greater knowledge of herself.

    "I alone am guilty!" Never before had Katya made such confessions to Alyosha, and he felt that she had then reached precisely that degree of unbearable suffering when a proud heart painfully shatters its own pride and falls, overcome by grief. (Epilogue.1.5)

    Along with the greater insight she gains into herself (see Quote #7 above), Katerina also loses her overbearing pride when she experiences guilt over her actions.

    "[...] still you are guilty of everything, sir, because you knew about the murder, and you told me to kill him, sir, and knowing everything, you left. Therefore I want to prove it to your face tonight that in all this the chief murderer is you alone, sir, and I'm just not the real chief one, though I did kill him. It's you who are the most lawful murderer!" (11.8.93)

    Smerdyakov's assertion here that Ivan is responsible for Fyodor's murder is a twisted version of Zosima's belief that we are guilty for everyone's sins. Here Smerdyakov is refusing to take responsibility for the murder and putting all the blame on Ivan.

    [...] from the very first moments of the trial a certain peculiar characteristic of this "case" stood out clearly and was noticed by everyone – namely, the remarkable strength of the prosecution as compared with the means available to the defense [...] the debate would take place only for the sake of form, and that the criminal was guilty, clearly guilty, utterly guilty. (12.2.1)

    The narrator's ironic tone comes through even in translation with the repetition of the word "guilty." Saying guilty three times suggests that the narrator just isn't sure, so he has to keep repeating himself. The state's version of guilt (determined by a trial by jury) is shown to be flawed: the actual murderer, Smerdyakov, goes free while Dmitri is condemned.

  • Isolation

    "Here is a willow, there is a handkerchief, a shirt, I can make a rope right now, plus suspenders, and – no longer burden the earth, or dishonor it with my vile presence! And then I heard you coming – Lord, just as if something suddenly flew down on me: ah, so there is a man that I love" (3.11.8)

    Dmitri does not commit suicide because at the sight of his brother Alyosha he no longer feels alone.

    Why had the elder sent him "into the world"? Here was quiet, here was holiness, and there – confusion, and a darkness in which one immediately got lost and went astray. (3.11.25)

    Alyosha doesn't seem to understand Zosima's point about a monk's solitude (see Quote #5 below). Monks, according to Zosima, aren't supposed to use their isolation in a monastery as a way to escape earthly troubles; they're supposed to use it to think about and pray for the suffering of the world at large. In contrast, Alyosha wants to use the monastery as an escape from his zany family.

    "[...] if, indeed, I hold out for the sticky little leaves, I shall love them only remembering you." (5.5.26)

    Just as Alyosha's brotherly love rescues Dmitri from suicide in Quote #1, it also holds out a glimmer of hope for cynical Ivan.

    "[...] every once in a while, if only individually, a man must suddenly set an example, and draw the soul from its isolation an act of brotherly communion." (6.2.d)

    Mikhail, Zosima's "mysterious visitor," here celebrates brotherly love as a force that can unite and heal a fractured society. This suggests that Alyosha's care for his brothers may have a significance beyond fraternal devotion.

    "Which of the two is capable of serving a great idea – the isolated rich man or one who is liberated from the tyranny of things and habits? The monk is reproached for his isolation. [...] We shall see, however, who is more zealous in loving his brothers." (6.3.e)

    Zosima points out the irony that those who are living it up in the world are in fact the most isolated because they are driven by selfish needs. Monks, who are isolated from the world, are more in tune with the rest of humanity because they are not driven by selfish needs and can devote themselves wholly to the love of mankind.

    "'What is hell?' [...] 'The suffering of being no longer able to love.'" (6.3.i)

    Zosima views Russian Orthodoxy as based on universal love. Hell would mean isolation from this universal love, which would cause immense despair. In the novel, characters do seem to suffer the most when they feel the most unloved – think, for example, of all those twisted love triangles.

    "Woe to those who have destroyed themselves on earth, woe to the suicides! I think there can be no one unhappier than they." (6.3.i)

    The consequence of isolation from the profound bonds of love that Zosima believes unite all mankind is suicide. Smerdyakov's suicide testifies to this condition (see Quote #11 below).

    "But what comes of this right to increase one's needs. For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; for the poor, envy and murder, for they have been given rights, but have not yet been shown any way of satisfying their needs. We are assured that the world is becoming more and more united, is being formed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts through the air. Alas, do not believe in such a union of people." (6.3.e)

    Zosima warns against viewing modern progress as somehow creating a global community or network (sounds kind of like a Microsoft ad). Despite modern advances, Dostoevsky is writing in the context of a deepening divide between rich and poor.

    [Dmitri's] scattered thoughts suddenly came together, his sensations merged, and the result of it all was light. A terrible, awful light! "If I'm going to shoot myself, what better time than now?" swept through his mind. [...] So now all he had to do was live, but...but he could not live, he could not, oh, damnation! (8.8.36)

    Taking a break from the Mokroye festivities, Dmitri finds himself alone on a porch and contemplates suicide yet again (see Quote #1 above). At this point in the novel, we've read all of Zosima's teachings (some of us, anyway, right?), so we can now read his confusion as further proof that isolation leads to suicide.

    And so [Ivan] was sitting there now, almost aware of being delirious, and, as I have already said, peering persistently at some object on the sofa against the opposite wall. (11.9.1)

    The devil appears to Ivan when he's sitting alone in his room. This passage recalls Zosima's definition of hell as the consequence of isolation from the bonds of love that unite humanity (see Quote #6 above).

    There was a note on the table: "I exterminate my life by my own will and liking, so as not to blame anybody." (11.10.1)

    Not only does Smerdyakov die alone; his suicide note suggests that he wants to isolate himself from all human consideration, even in death.

  • Family

    [Dmitri] was stunned, suspected a lie or a trick, was almost beside himself, and, as it were, lost all reason. This very circumstance led to the catastrophe. (1.2.2)

    Dmitri is so offended and wounded by his father's betrayal that he almost loses his mind. This brings up the question of whether the murder of his father was justified, as his defense attorney will argue much later in the novel.

    But Dmitri raised both hands and suddenly seized the old man by the two surviving wisps of hair on his temples, pulled, and smashed him against the floor. (3.9.18)

    The complete lack of any family feelings is shown here as Dmitri violently lashes out against his own father.

    "Viper will eat viper, and it would serve them both right!" (3.9.37)

    Ivan here rejects any responsibility for the deteriorating relationship between Dmitri and his father, and by extension rejects any family obligation whatsoever.

    If so, what sort of peace could there be? On the contrary, weren't there only new pretexts for hatred and enmity in their family? (4.5.1)

    Alyosha here wonders how much worse his family situation can get. Words such as "enmity" highlight the complete absence of love in the family.

    "We were sitting, holding each other, and sobbing. 'Papa,' he said, 'dear papa!' 'Ilyusha,' I said, 'dear Ilyusha!' [...] No, sir, I will not whip my boy for your satisfaction, sir!" (4.7.13)

    In contrast to the Karamazovs, Captain Snegiryov and his son Ilyusha are fiercely loyal to each other.

    "My brothers are destroying themselves," [Alyosha] went on, "my father, too. And they're destroying others with them. This is the 'earthy force of the Karamazovs,' as Father Paissy put it the other day – earthy and violent, raw. [...] Maybe I don't even believe in God." (5.1.76)

    Even Alyosha doesn't feel exempt from the "Karamazov" force; he too thinks he may have inherited his father's malicious tendencies. On the other hand, he describes the Karamazov force as "earthy," which suggests that it grounds and humbles him, preventing him from taking on a moral high ground. It's interesting to note that Alyosha's other father figure, the elder Zosima, seems to be the polar opposite of Fyodor: he is moral, while Fyodor is corrupt; he advocates love, while Fyodor encourages enmity and disgust. But both Zosima and Fyodor die within hours of each other, and both exhort Alyosha to leave the monastery. Coincidence?

    "Am I my brother Dmitri's keeper or something?" Ivan snapped irritably, but suddenly smiled, somehow bitterly. "Cain's answer to God about his murdered brother, eh?" (5.3.32)

    Ivan here seems to be unaware that he is echoing Smerdyakov's own citation of the line from the Bible (5.2.34). The fact that both characters cite from this famous biblical scene, where one brother kills another over an inheritance, and the fact that Smerdyakov may or may not be a Karamazov brother, further emphasizes how brotherly ties have become virtually nonexistent.

    "[Man] is weak and mean. What matters that he now rebels everywhere against our power, and takes pride in this rebellion? The pride of a child and a schoolboy! They are little children, who rebel in class and drive out the teacher. But there will also come an end to the children's delight." (5.5.11)

    By comparing all humankind to children, Ivan's Grand Inquisitor suggests a parallel between the Karamazovs' conflict and the struggles of humanity at large.

    Terrible, furious anger suddenly boiled up in Mitya's heart: "There he was, his rival, his tormentor, the tormentor of his life!" It was a surge of that same sudden, vengeful, and furious anger of which he had spoken, as if in anticipation [...] in response to Alyosha's question, "How can you say you will kill father?" (8.4.11)

    Dmitri's anger pushes him to consider killing his own father. Interestingly, Dmitri attacks three "father figures" – Grigory, Fyodor, and Captain Snegiryov – but never kills them. Given all that anger, it makes you wonder what stopped him from going all the way.

    "In the end, he sees nothing in life apart from sensual pleasure, and thus he teaches his children. Of the spiritual sort of fatherly duties – none at all. [...] Let us recall, however, that he is a father, and one of our modern-day fathers." (12.6.4)

    The prosecutor Kirillovich suggests that Fyodor was such an appalling father that he brought on his own murder. But it seems here that he is also sounding an alarm to society at large when he suggests that Fyodor's horrible fathering is a modern epidemic.

    "We [Russians] are of a broad Karamazovian nature – and this is what I'm driving at – capable of containing all possible opposites and of contemplating both abysses at once, the abyss above us, an abyss of lofty ideals, and the abyss beneath us, an abyss of the lowest and foulest degradation." (12.6.5)

    The prosecutor seems to state the whole premise of the novel here – that the Karamazovs represent all Russians. This is odd because he clearly seems to believe Dmitri is guilty. Perhaps by having an antagonist voice the novel's premise, Dostoevsky is highlighting how irrefutably superior and total his own novelistic vision is?

    "Love for a father that is not justified by the father is an absurdity, an impossibility. [...] I speak not only to fathers here, but to all fathers I cry out: 'Fathers, provoke not your children!' [...] Otherwise we are not fathers but enemies of our children, and they are not our children but our enemies, and we ourselves made them our enemies!" (12.13.1)

    By generalizing the Karamazov conflict to the larger society, Fetyukovich seems to be suggesting that social conflicts begin in the home, with really awful parents (specifically fathers) who are unable to give their children the moral guidance that would shape them into mature and reasonable adults.