Smerdyakov

Pavel Fyodorovich Smerdyakov is the devil.

After this became clear to me, I returned to the scene where he woos Marya Kondratyevna, who later supports him. He sings to her, in an affected, cloying falsetto, a sweet tenor: beautiful and seductive, and foul at the same time. He dominates her, contradicting her, giving definite, destructive opinions- poetry is a lot of rubbish- which she finds so intelligent. His rage and self-pity do not put her off. He toys with her, threatening to leave.

Like Christ, everything he says proceeds from his individual nature. None of it can be believed, but convincing Ivan that he wanted his father dead is his most audacious, yet typical, lie. I know such lies. I can torture myself with imagined wicked motivations for any act-

things ill done, and done to others’ harm
which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.

Ivan is enraged at Smerdyakov, hitting him and kicking him: Smerdyakov does not resist, increasing Ivan’s self-loathing and frustration. Christ did not resist his persecutors, and might win them over to his love; the devil does not resist, to inflame their hate. Ivan is so clever, the successful writer from Moscow, and so rational, creating the famous story of The Grand Inquisitor; yet he has no way of resisting the Devil. He does not have Alyosha’s faith in himself, and in humanity.

Smerdyakov implies truth only to ensnare his victims.

When Alyosha speaks to him in the garden, Alyosha speaks frankly and fully, and Smerdyakov dodges questions and falsely claims good motives which you know are untrue but hard to refute- “I come here out of normal neighbourly friendliness.” Alyosha’s generosity embraces him: neither can affect the other.

Fyodor, Russia, raped the village idiot, who spawned the devil: like Christ, he is the child of a maiden. Smerdyakov’s last act, destroying himself, is done to create the maximum malicious damage: again like Christ he follows his purpose to death.

I found the sculpture, Expulsion from Paradise by Ivan Korzhev, here.

Ivan Korzhev, Izgnanie.

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