Dmitry Fyodorovich

Dmitry Fyodorovich Karamazov is Russia.

I don’t feel the longueurs, or the intense embarrassment, that I felt reading Proust. The Karamazov Brothers zips along like the troika rushing forward, and the idiocies of the characters are too extreme. Spoilers, of course, including one from the end of the book which you will learn if you read the chapter headings; but knowing where the plot is going may increase your enjoyment of the novel.

A spoiler of how I felt at the end: the onlookers speculate that Dmitry may have got off with it, but the jury bring in a Guilty verdict, and Dmitry is sentenced to hard labour in the Siberian mines. It reminds me of The Government Inspector, which I saw when at University, which proceeds farcically until at the very end The Government Inspector arrives. The day of reckoning is at hand, and no further denial is possible.

As the prosecutor observes, A Karamazov always lives just for the moment. Certainly Fyodor and Dmitry. At the monastery they fight, though reconciliation would benefit both. They have no filial or familial love, then. I could argue that Dmitry is devastated by his father’s death, but in the shock of learning about it he is more relieved that he has not killed the servant Grigory. His emotions follow each other at great pace, as stimuli come to his attention.

He has a great passion for his honour. Katerina Ivanovna entrusts him with three thousand roubles, which he blows on a one night party for Grushenka, his beloved, foolishly tipping ten rouble notes when fifty kopeck pieces would have done. So everyone says; but he retained 1500 roubles, in a purse sewn about his neck. It symbolises his honour for him. He can at any time return it to Katya, and be clearly a scoundrel but not a thief. The prosecutor asks, why should he not deplete this sum? Surely he could take it out, a hundred roubles at a time, imagining that the remainder could just as well be returned, salvaging his honour. Or why does he imagine he can squander 1500 roubles of someone else’s money and not be a thief?

His concept of honour brings him humiliation, as when he pawns his guns for ten roubles. When covered in Grigory’s blood, he is unaware of the effect this might have on Grushenka’s servants or the clerk Perkhotin. He only wants to chase after Grushenka. He is completely internally focused, on his own feelings rather than reality or what others might feel or think.

He is capable of self-sacrificing love. Grushenka’s first lover, a Pole, returns to her. Dmitry follows, not to try to take her by force but to see her one last time, submitting to her decision to prefer that man. That humility wins her heart, though Dostoevsky gleefully mocks the Poles with racist jokes as Englishmen used to mock the Irish, and their dishonour and folly repels her.

Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenets portrait of Mikhail Lermontov

7 thoughts on “Dmitry Fyodorovich

  1. Very interesting, thank you. I wonder why people enjoy such complex lives..? I know why they do, and I’m glad my life is simple in comparison.

    To burn and die for love is all very well, like Marianne, but there is lots of room to enjoy life, like Elinor would.

    XXXX 🙂

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    • Would you mind reading that first paragraph again? Is that really what you meant?

      I must re-read Sense and Sensibility. I read it as Elinor sane and realistic, Marianne impulsive and self-destructive, but perhaps Austen was more subtle, with both of them wrong. Though I now have War and Peace on my pile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read War and Peace, and recommend it. It fits neatly into a long summer vacation 😉

    Not sure if you think I mean what you thought I might mean, so just edit my comment, if you like. Excuse my lack of clarity – such a lot to think about, these days!

    XXXX 😀

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