The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov
Overview
Main Characters
Motifs
The four sons of sociopath Fyodor Karamazov cope wi is murder in a novel that wrestles with faith and doubt—and presents a compelling argument for both. Although Ivan inspires the murder and Smerdyakov carries it out, it is Dmitri who pays for the crime. Alyosha gets involved by trying to save the innocent parties.
Ivan Karamazov
Fyodor's son
Rational man of science; struggles to understand suffering
Elder Zosima
Alyosha's teacher
Enlightened Russian monk; compassionate
Grushenka
Manipulates Fyodor and Dmitri
Desirable woman; torments men as vengeance
Fyodor Karamazov
Father to Ivan, Alyosha, Dmitri, and Pavel
Self-centered, cruel father; determined to fulfill his desires
Katerina
Dmitri's fiancée
Beautiful, loyal woman; secretly in love with Ivan
Alyosha Karamazov
Fyodor's son
Faithful, well-loved man; understands others
Dmitri Karamazov
Fyodor's son
Violent, passionate man; quick to lose his temper
Pavel Smerdyakov
Fyodor's illegitimate son
Sneaky, envious murderer; works as a servant
Onion
The onion and its saving power represent grace, available to the pure of heart.
The Grand Inquisitor
The poem about the inquisition of Christ says that the Devil wants people to choose fleeting security just as the church does.
Children
Children represent humanity's innocence before falling into sin.
Themes
Numbering
Faith & Doubt
Practicing faith leads to a wholesome, meaningful life, while doubt leads to despair and immorality.
Suffering
Physical and mental suffering create purification, which leads to redemption.
Forgiveness
Faith-based forgiveness leads to self-transformation and stands against evil.
3
Age at which Dostoevsky's son Alyosha died, inspiring the character Alyosha
1849
Year Dostoevsky is sentenced to death—but saved at the last minute
3
Years Dostoevsky spent writing the novel
10
Years Dostoevsky spent in exile
Author
FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY 1821-81
One of the greatest Russ an novelists, Dostoevsky explored the ugly side of the psyche and gave voice to humanity's desires to both destroy and transcend. The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky's final novel, explores the author's lifelong preoccupations with God, faith, doubt, sin, and redemption.
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