Dmitri and Fyodor: On Love, Capriciousness and the Brother Karamazov

Karamazov

I have been reading The Brothers Karamazov since September. I took a break from it in October when life got too hectic for any thing long. But I’m back at it again and 600 pages away from finishing it. The moment I decided to read this novel, I have made up my mind to savor it and read it with the eyes of a student, painstakingly copying quotes, and making note of scenes as well as my reaction to the novel.

As I have reached page 176 and finished the whole of Part 1, I mull over the characters of Dmitri Karamzov and his father Fyodor Pavlovich. I think of them, their actions and the idea of love. As I finished book three of Part 1, I initially thought how so much better a person Dmitri was to his father, while both indulge in the capriciousness of life in almost a very impulsive manner one can see the struggle within Dmitri. It is this tension within him, that fragility so present in his interactions that made me feel, his are actions that were born out of pain while his fathers are those of pure darkness of heart. Yet, as book 3 comes to a close, I came to look at these characters and the questions of ‘how do we love?’ and decided that maybe even the most seemingly depraved humans seek love and know love.

No one is born without a genuine need to be loved. All babies need the nurturing presence of a mother or an adult to live and survive in this world, but not all of us are given to homes that are capable of giving unconditional love, hence some of us grow up in harsher environments that require a harsher approach in order to survive. In this process of figuring out the way to live, we begin to question people, and become distrustful of the world. We begin to see the world as dark and respond to it with equal darkness. And so may be this is what the Elder Zosima saw in Fyodor when he tells him:

“Above all, do not lie to yourself. A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others. Not respecting anyone, he ceases to love and having no love, he gives himself up to passions and coarse pleasures, in order to occupy and amuse himself, and in his vices reaches complete bestiality, and it all comes from lying continually to others and to himself.”
-Elder to Fyodor Pavlovic, p.44

Maybe, this too is the truth that is being lived by Dmitri. The only difference between Mitya and his father is that the latter has reached the end of the cycle, while Mitya still sees loves and still loves but seem to question if he deserves to love and be loved by people he perceives to be better and holier than him.

I am far from the end of the book, but I am completely taken and moved by the characters. 176 pages in and I am already too emotionally involved, so much so when I am almost done with it. I could have waited to the very end before writing anything, but I find this a better approach to reading such a novel, to look at the pieces and slowly the wholeness in order to completely savor and understand its meaning.

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