KARAMAZOV: PART 4 Epilogue: Discussion Thread

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KARAMAZOV: PART 4 Epilogue: Discussion Thread

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jan 6, 2011, 9:35pm

Ivan Levitan ‘The Vladimirka Road’ 1892

This was the road the convicts walked on their way to Siberia. It’s on this deserted road that Dimitry will make his escape. Dostoevsky himself walked the 190 kilometers of this road in 1849. In chains.

The action of these three chapters takes place five days after the action of the previous book, but it looks forward into the far future: Dimitry’s escape and emigration with Grusha to America; the ‘marriage’ between Ivan and Katerina – or Ivan’s death; and the next generation of Russian youth. The only main character whose destiny is not hinted at or projected, is Alyosha’s, whose destiny remains totally open.

jan 6, 2011, 9:38pm

Ch 1: Plans to save Mitya
In contrast to the public narrator of the previous book, the narrator in this is the private narrator, the one who has access to everything, and who never foregrounds himself. This narrator knows exactly how Katerina Ivanovna is feeling, and also reports Alyosha’s thoughts to us in direct speech.

Ch 2: For a moment the lie became truth
“Listen: you are not ready, and such a cross is not for you. What's more, you don't need such a martyr's cross when you are not ready for it. If you had murdered our father, it would grieve me that you should reject your punishment. But you are innocent, and such a cross is too much for you. You wanted to make yourself another man by suffering. I say, only remember that other man always, all your life and wherever you go; and that will be enough for you. Your refusal of that great cross will only serve to make you feel all your life even greater duty, and that constant feeling will do more to make you a new man, perhaps, than if you went there. For there you would not endure it and would repine, and perhaps at last would say: 'I am quits.' The lawyer was right about that. Such heavy burdens are not for all men. For some they are impossible.”

We saw this theme in some of the quotes Tommy shared with us from Notes from the House of Death. ‘The stings of conscience’ Dimitry will bear all his life, and which were mocked by the devil in 11.9, are punishment enough without the legal punishment decreed by the state.

Ch 3: Ilyshechka’s Funeral. The Speech at the Stone
Dostoevsky ends the novel with Kolya and the children, on a life- and hope-affirming note. The next generation will not make the same mistakes as the generation of the Karamazov brothers.

"Of course... I should like to die for all humanity, and as for disgrace, I don't care about that -- our names may perish. I respect your brother!"

Kolya expresses genuine love for humanity, the love that Ivan was not capable of. Youthful idealism is expressed in the final pages of the novel.

‘And whatever happens to us later in life, if we don't meet for twenty years afterwards, let us always remember how we buried the poor boy at whom we once threw stones, do you remember, by the bridge?...Let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us, for the time we were loving that poor boy, better perhaps than we are.’

The importance of childhood memories is the main theme of Alyosha’s final speech to the boys. It is not social rules or conventions or laws that provide the moral basis for goodness, that provide an antidote to the poison of dissociation, but childhood memories of unity of feeling which act on the individual soul and on a social level:

‘You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.’

‘From this day forth, I have a place in my heart for you all, and I beg you to keep a place in your hearts for me!’

Dostoevsky’s ideal of brotherhood.


And on that note, my commentary ends. Thank you all for your kind attention.


jan 6, 2011, 9:46pm

Now can I get out my Joseph Frank and compare his notes to yours?

jan 6, 2011, 10:06pm

Is there any point in discussing Dostoevsky's connection to the Free and Acepted Masons? I don't think he was one but was influenced by a mystical Mason or two. Mozart was a practicing Mason the last seven years of his life. Not the Cagliostro type, more out of the enlightened tradition of Adam Weishaupt, et al. Academics avoid mention of this sort of thing like the plague. I think everything we can know about an author, or musician, is helpful.

jan 6, 2011, 10:35pm

Shouldn't we throw a party for our Murr, after all the work he did for us ?
Where are the wodka, the kippers, the dancers ?

Redigeret: jan 6, 2011, 10:37pm

>3 absurdeist: Yes! especially about the narrator! What does Frank say about that?

>4 Porius: Freemasonry was a huge influence in Russia, especially during the reign of Catherine. From it developed the philosophical study groups of Moscow University, the pre-revolutionary circles of the aristocrats which resulted in the Decembrist Coup of 1825, and ultimately the Petrashevsky circle.

Masonry in Russia was the prime mover of early Westernism, linked to important early Westernisers such as Novikov and Schwarz, Radishchev and evenKaramzin
Billington devotes a lot of space to it in The Icon and the Axe, and so does Walicki in A History of Russian Thought.

By Dostoevsky's time, Masonry was a marginal influence, however, and D was not a Mason, as far as I can make out. In fact, his Orthodoxy would have made him an ideological enemy of Masonry.

jan 6, 2011, 11:14pm

You know which book Frank preferred ? The Magic Mountain by Mann.
LOL, it is true !

jan 7, 2011, 2:51am

D. owned five books by Alexandr Nikolayevich Aksakov on spiritism:

Spiritism and Science
Essays in Research on Spiritism
The Rationalism of Swedenborg
The Gospel according to Swedenborg
Heaven and Hell by Swedenborg, translated by Aksakov

How did this influence his writing? I know next to nothing about Swedenborg, and I have a feeling I want to keep it that way.

jan 7, 2011, 6:05am

Thanks yet again, Murr, and indeed congratulations on what was really a very impressive achievement - right down to that very moving painting of the Vladimirka Road.

jan 7, 2011, 6:07am

Oh wait, I just noticed that Ivan Levitan painted it and not you. Well, never mind, still a magnificent performance.

jan 7, 2011, 8:13am

thankee sir.

jan 7, 2011, 12:17pm

Tomcat, this has been a greater experience than my up-until-now best experience in a graduate literature seminar (it was on Mario Vargas Llosa). Your commentary and the erudition of other readers have enriched my reading of this book to the point that I really have no words. Thanks.

jan 7, 2011, 12:48pm

6> I'll pull out my Frank this weekend and see what we can find re. his analysis of the narrator(s) in BK. Separate thread for that, you think?

jan 7, 2011, 1:51pm

Doesn't the book make you want to write a sequel?

jan 8, 2011, 8:47am

that will be your assignment, slick!

jan 8, 2011, 8:53am

Can't belief this threads finished. There is a hole in my life.
Now with Chatwin digested, I am back with the brothers

Redigeret: jan 8, 2011, 9:22am

We not finished mac. Anything you have to say will be warmly received and hotly discussed.

just because my commentary is finished doesn't mean the discussion has. We can talk about any post on any thread until we run out of wodka. And then we just get more wodka.

I WANT to hear what you have to say, m'sieur.

jan 21, 2011, 9:32am

Just getting here....I love the painting in the first post!

Redigeret: jan 21, 2011, 9:46am

Well this thread was as quick. A lot was wrapped up in Book 12, and there's not much left here (not like Crime and Punishment, with the curious epilogue, IMO; and, somewhere in there was that dream...that still wows me whenever I think about it.)

I was thinking we should have a thread devoted to our summary thoughts. But 1.) I'm very late on suggesting this 2.) I Murr's thoughts were very nicely wrapped up in Book 12. Feels complete 3.) It's too damn complex for me, personally, to give final thoughts. I'm about ready to throw in the towel on a review, and I haven't started writing one yet.

Still - would be interesting to see some of our post-read thoughts...

apr 16, 2014, 8:41am

I've been reading all the threads here about The Brothers Karamazov, but no one mentions this, which seems very important (PART 4 Epilogue Chapter 3):

Alyosha went into the room. In a blue coffin decorated with white lace, his hands folded and his eyes closed, lay Ilyusha. The features of his emaciated face were hardly changed at all, and, strangely, there was almost no smell from the corpse.

I know this is an old thread, but if someone would say a word or two about this or point me on some book where I can read it about it, I would really appreciate it.


apr 16, 2014, 5:10pm

Hi am the janitor...
Nobody hardly comes over here anymore.

But i'll post your questions on some other threads.
Maybe i'll get you an answer. Check again in 24 hours


apr 16, 2014, 5:26pm


That IS interesting, in contrast to what happened, embarrassingly, with Zosima's corpse (stank to high heaven).

I don't know what Dostoevsky was driving at with this (Murr probably does). Is the child always closer to heaven than an adult, even when that adult is reputedly a saint?

Does the rotting of the saint's body just prove how little the body matters (Dostoevsky going against the usual pieties of conventional religion)?

apr 16, 2014, 5:35pm

I'm with Lola, it's an obvious contrast to Zosima's stinking corpse, where the expectation of a saintlike sweetness of bodily odour was so high. Certainly seems to sanctify the child a bit, but I don't remember my reading well enough to see any chance sto make some deeper comparisons between Ilyusha and Zosima and their two deaths.

apr 16, 2014, 5:42pm

Wow, I forget the plots so fast. I had forgotten about Zosima being the one that stank and had conflated the two in my head.

apr 16, 2014, 5:50pm

Since Zosima was based on a real person, I wonder whether that detail was real as well, or fictional. I'd google but I doubt there's a quick answer.

I wouldn't put it past Dostoevsky to introduce deliberately an enigma, to make one stumble and keep asking, perhaps out of sheer perversity. Why does he mention Zosima's stench at all? It would seem disrespectful, and yet we know how highly he thought of the model and this character.

apr 16, 2014, 6:04pm

Maybe he was just trying to show that superstition is based on selective interpretation and not reality? Showing the cognitive biases inherent in folk wisdoms that are too pat (saints miraculously not decomposing, etc)?

apr 16, 2014, 6:10pm

Yes, I like that--sort of what I meant by going against conventional religion.

Now I'm sure somebody somewhere discussed this...

apr 17, 2014, 1:08am

This Book is dominated by the story of Zosima's corpse, which shocks the monks and townspeople by corrupting very quickly. In medieval times (and the Orthodox Church in the Russia of Dostoevsky's time had survived mostly unchanged since medieval times), people believed that the inner goodness or evil of a being or substance could be judged partly by its smell. It was believed that many saints' bodies miraculously did not corrupt or give off a bad smell after death, and that sometimes they even gave off a heavenly fragrance. The lack of corruption and the heavenly smell were signs of the person's holiness and of their favor with God.

Hence it was a serious matter that Zosima's body smelled bad, and could be taken by some as a sign that he was not holy and in favor with God. The physical reality of corruption was at odds with religious faith. However, this story illustrates an important theme of the novel: that faith is not and cannot be validated by miracles, but is a choice made from one's free will.

apr 17, 2014, 10:03am

Excellent conclusion, I'll take that.

apr 17, 2014, 10:18am

P.S. Oh, what about Ilyusha tho'? Saintly without sainthood, simply as an innocent sufferer? (Dostoevsky loved his child martyrs.)

apr 17, 2014, 10:41am

I'll take your conclusion as well janitor. Thank you for your answers.

apr 17, 2014, 11:58am

Don't mention it

Yo Lola, long time no see !

Redigeret: apr 17, 2014, 12:32pm

Yo, janitor! Come fix my cable.

Um... ;)

Redigeret: apr 17, 2014, 4:16pm

If we weren't separated by 5912,19 km, I would pop in for a quick fix :)