The Brothers Karamazov: Part 3

“Be so good, madame, as to listen for only half a minute, and I shall explain everything in two words,” Perkhotin answered firmly. “Today, at five o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Karamazov (Dmitri) borrowed ten roubles from me as a friend, and I know for certain that he had no money, yet this same day, at nine o’clock, he walked into my rooms holding out for all to see a wad of hundred-rouble bills, approximately two or even three thousand roubles. His hands and face were all covered with blood, and it appeared as if he were mad. To my question as to where he got so much money, he replied with precision that he had just received it from you, and that you had loaned him the sum of three-thousand roubles to go, he said to the gold mines…”

Madame Khokhlakov’s face suddenly acquired a look of extraordinary and morbid excitement.

“Oh, God!” He’s murdered his old father!” she cried out, clasping her hands. “I gave him no money, none! Oh, run, run…! Not a word more! Save the old man, run to his father, run!” (p. 448)

If I accused Part 2 to be largely devoid of plot, Part 3 more than makes up for it. The pace is almost frenetic, as we go from the death of Alyosha’s cherished elder, Zosimov, to the death of the brothers’ father, Fyodor Pavlovich. Dmitri makes a mad dash to obtain money and catch up with his love, Grushenka. Breathlessly, we follow him as he leaves Katerina’s house, taking a brass pestle in his hand, and hides in the bushes outside of his father’s home certain that Grushenka is there. When he discovers she is not, he is overcome with hatred for his father.

Mitya watched from the side, and did not move. The whole of the old man’s profile, which he found so loathsome, the whole of his drooping Adam’s apple, his hooked nose, smiling in sweet expectation, his lips-all was brightly lit from the left by the slanting light of the lamp shining from the room. Terrible, furious anger suddenly boiled up in Mitya’s heart: “There he was his rival, his tormentor, the tormentor of his life!” it was a surge of that same sudden, vengeful, and furious anger of which he had spoken, as if in anticipation, to Alyosha during their conversation in the gazebo four days earlier, in response to Alyosha’s question. “How can you say you will kill father?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he had said then. “Maybe I won’t kill him, and maybe I will. I’m afraid that his face at that moment will suddenly become hateful to me. I hate his Adam’s apple, his nose, his eyes, his shameless sneer. I feel a personal loathing. I’m afraid of that, I may not be able to help myself…”

The personal loathing was increasing unbearable. Mitya was beside himself, and suddenly he snatched the brass pestle from his pocket…”

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .      .     .     .    (p. 392-3)

What has Dmitri done? We know not, as we follow him blindly to the official Pyotr Ilyich Perkhotin’s, where he buys back the pistols he had given for ten roubles, and orders an extravagant basket of sweets, fruit, pate and champagne to follow his troika to where Grushenka has apparently met with her former lover, Kalganov. It’s like a soap opera in its drama, and the best mystery you’ve ever read, and yet the horror of it strikes my very heart.

Through Mitya we discover what it is to be on trial. When his clothes are stripped from him, for material evidence, he feels completely debased. When the questions come at him unceasingly, he must force himself to reveal his intentions no matter how private they may be. And, as a reader, I am completely unsure as to who actually did kill Fyodor. Was it Dmitri? He claims he did not. Was it Smerdykov? He was lying on the point of death after a night filled with seizures from his “falling sickness”. Was it another brother, or another villain whose goals we know little about?

The suspense is killing me. I know not whom to trust. Could it really be true that Mitya is innocent of killing his father?

“Write it down? You want to write it down? Well, write it down then, I consent, I give my full consent, gentlemen…Only, you see…Wait, wait, write it down like this: ‘Of violence-guilty; of inflicting a savage beating on a poor old man-guilty. And then, within himself, too, inside, in the bottom of his heart, he is guilty-but there’s no need to write that down,” he turned suddenly to the clerk, “that is my private life, gentlemen, that doesn’t concern you now, the bottom of my heart, I mean…But the murder of his old father-not guilty! It’s a wild idea! It’s an utterly wild idea…! I’ll prove it to you and you’ll be convinced immediately. You’ll laugh, gentlemen, you’ll roar with laughter at your own suspicion…!” (p. 460)

Which brings to mind this question, “If we’re not guilty of killing someone physically, are we guilty if we kill them in our hearts? (Matthew 5: 21-22)

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21 thoughts on “The Brothers Karamazov: Part 3”

  1. Was it Smerdykov? He was lying on the point of death after a night filled with seizures from his “falling sickness”.Ah, but was he? After all, he told Ivan in Part II that that's exactly what would keep him in bed, unable to stop Dmitri from using the signals dishonestly…It's funny, one of the things in my post for today is that I think the book makes for a strange mystery, because I am totally certain Dmitri did not kill his father, and, though I didn't mention it, I am almost equally certain Smerdyakov did.


  2. To push the (precisely relevant) quotation a bi further: If, as Zosima claims, we are all guilty of everyone's sins, are all of the characters then guilty of Dmitri's crime, whatever it was? Is Dmitri guilty of everyone else's crime, regardless of what he actually did?


  3. "The pace is almost frenetic." Oh, yes! Moves so quickly that the whole of it can be digested in a day. Love how you play book temptress here in this post, drawing us in and through the action, and depositing us at the question.And then there are Amateur Reader's questions above (who has added great insights and comments to our shared read). I do feel this is shared guilt in Dostoevsky's view. But more on that next week when we wrap up.


  4. I was not totally convinced, but I was at least 70/30 in favor of Dmitri not committing the crime. Smerdyakov has always bothered me in his 'smarminess'. Indeed, this book is a wonderful mystery! I can't wait to discuss Part 4 with you; it's just as good as Part 3. Okay, maybe better. 😉


  5. I think it would be a worthy summer project, and I hope these posts give you a bit of a foundation without giving too much away. Thanks for still reading what we have to say!


  6. I just had to keep going after I finished Part 3. I've finished the novel, now, and I want to be careful in what I leave in the way of comments so as not to spoil it for anyone, but yes, I agree with you: I couldn't wait to see what would happen next either!


  7. I have a hard time buying that I'm guilty for everyone's sins; I have enough of my own to bear! But, I do think that we have a sinful nature, and in that we share any guilt which is to be had. I can sympathize greatly with Dmitri's desire to be the 'fall guy' in that I see him wanting to make things better, or at least assuage his own blame in beating Grigory, hating his father, or any other sin he may have committed.


  8. Like a student, I shiver with delight when you say that you enjoy how I took you through the novel and deposited you at the question in the end. What a girl of affirmation I am, and I'm glad to play the part of book temptress as well!Amateur Reader has posed several exciting questions of his own, and been a wonderful asset to the shared read…I only wish we could all be in the living room together discussing face to face. Both of my book clubs refuse to read something so Russian, something so thick, and I crave the conversation over these kinds of novels.It will be lovely to have the wrap up post next week when we don't have to worry about leaving any spoilers for one another. As to those who haven't read it yet, they may have to exercise caution when visiting!


  9. Lagging far behind as I am, you make me want to rush even faster to catch up. You're not "spoiling" either, but you are illuminating. The questions you ask really help.


  10. I could really feel Dimitri's vulnerability when he had to remove all of his clothes, and I thought the bit about him hated how his feet looked and how the one toenail curved under more than the other was a brilliant detail. I don't feel like it was Dmitri who did it, but I have mixed feelings about him because he wanted to. What should we be judged by, are intentions or our actions? What exactly did he grab the pestle for?It would be great to have a discussion on this book in person, but, like you, I don't know of anyone willing to try in my neck of the woods!


  11. Allie, the action continues through Part 4 with nary a let up; it's so exciting I can't wait to discuss the end next Thursday. I'm glad you feel as I did about Part 3.


  12. It's a fine balance, between help and spoiling the plot! But, anything I can do to ease your way into this work. I think what's most helpful, to me anyway, is everyone's posts and comments. 🙂


  13. I didn't feel it was Dmitri,either, and lest I spoil the ending I can say no more about that here. You're wondering the same thing I am, though, is it fair to judge us be our intentions or our actions? I suppose if we had the answer to that we could solve the judicial system worldwide! I guess I feel that our intentions are just as wrong as our actions, it's with them that we first need to exercise self-discipline. Although, stopping oneself from what one longs to do certainly requires moral strength.


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