Study Guide

The Brothers Karamazov Book 5, Chapter 4

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Book 5, Chapter 4


  • Ivan continues to explain his refusal to accept the world that God created by citing the suffering of the most innocent of human beings: small children. He lists for Alyosha examples of horrendous child abuse: a Turk killing a Bulgarian child before its mother; a Swiss named Richard who had a miserable childhood and grew up to kill a man, but eagerly awaited his hanging because he'd meet God, or so he's told; parents who flog their daughter mercilessly, and the public outcry that the parents were even brought before a court; parents who made their daughter sleep in an outhouse all night; and a general who, furious that a kid hurt his dog, ordered his hounds to hunt the kid down and tear him apart.
  • After these horrendous examples, Ivan concludes that he could not accept a world founded on the suffering of just one child, and asks Alyosha if he could either. Alyosha agrees, but he then suggests that the world is founded on the suffering of an innocent who did have the right to forgive all wrongs – Jesus Christ.
  • Ivan rejects Alyosha's reply and tells Alyosha that he'd like to share a little poem with him, which – get this – he hasn't written, but has memorized.

The Brothers Karamazov Book 5, Chapter 4 Study Group

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