Study Guide

The Brothers Karamazov Book 12, Chapter 1

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Book 12, Chapter 1

The Fatal Day

  • The chapter opens at 10 in the morning the next day, in the courtroom just before Dmitri's trial begins.
  • The narrator tells us that the trial has attracted such nationwide attention that the court has made the unprecedented arrangement of setting up a row of chairs for dignitaries by the judges. Women seem in general to favor the romantic Dmitri, whose love triangle with Grushenka and Katerina seems to have struck a chord, and men seem to favor punishing him.
  • The famous lawyer Fetyukovich has been brought in to defend Dmitri, while the prosecutor Kirillovich will present the case against him.
  • Into the packed courtroom arrives the presiding judge, a second judge, then an honorary justice of the peace, followed immediately by Kirillovich. The jurors are already settled in, although the narrator seems to frown on their composition: four low-ranking officials, two merchants, and six local peasants and townsmen.
  • The presiding judge announces the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, and Dmitri appears, followed by his lawyer. A list of witnesses is read, including four who are unable to appear: Miusov, who is in Paris; Madame Khokhlakov and Maximov, who are ill; and finally Smerdyakov, who killed himself the night before.
  • It's the first that Dmitri, and the general public, have heard of Smerdyakov's death. Dmitri shouts, "The dog died like a dog!" for which the judge quickly reprimands him.
  • The judge asks Dmitri how he'll plead, and Dmitri theatrically professes his innocence. The judge again orders Dmitri to cool it.
  • The judge orders the trial to begin. The witnesses are led away to their seating area, after being lectured by the priest and the presiding judge.

The Brothers Karamazov Book 12, Chapter 1 Study Group

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