The Brothers Karamazov: Part 2

For the world says, “You have needs, therefore satisfy them, for you have the same rights as the noblest and richest men. Do not be afraid to satisfy them, but even increase them”–this is the current teaching of the world. And in this they see freedom. But what comes of this right to increase one’s needs? For the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide, for the poor, envy and murder, for they have been given rights, but have not yet been shown any way of satisfying their needs. (p. 313)

In the beginning of this section, we find that Dmitri has not only insulted his fiance, Katerina, but he has also insulted a certain captain named Snegiryov by dragging him out of an establishment with his whiskers. Snegiryov’s son, Ilyusha, bit Alexei’s finger to the bone in revenge, simply because Alexei was a Karamazov.

When Katerina learned of the embarrassment Snegiryov endured at the hand of Dmitri, she sent Alexei off with two hundred roubles to try to comfort the family. But, there was no way that Snegiryov, destitute as he and his family was, could accept it; he ground the crisp bills into the dirt with the heel of his boot after displaying incredible longing for them and what they could provide.

After this bit of plot, the rest of Part 2 consists mainly of thought-provoking ideas portrayed through Ivan as well as the elder, Zosimov. Ivan seems to be questioning everything.

“I must make an admission,” Ivan began. “I never could understand how it’s possible to love one’s neighbors. In my opinion, it is precisely one’s neighbors that one cannot possible love. Perhaps if they weren’t so nigh…It’s still possible to love one’s neighbor abstractly, and even occasionally from a distance, but hardly ever up close.” (p. 236-7)

He also voices his great discontent with God in the chapter titled Rebellion:

And it is my duty, if only as an honest man, to return it as far ahead of time as possible. Which is what I am doing. It’s not that I don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket.”

“That is rebellion,” Alyosha said softly, dropping his eyes.

“Rebellion? I don’t like hearing such a word from you,” Ivan said with feeling. (p. 245)

But, in Ivan’s “poem”, The Grand Inquisitor, he continues with his rebellion. He maintains that what man wants from God is miracles, yet what God wants is faith:

But you did not know that as soon as man rejects miracles, he will at once reject God as well, for man seeks not so much God as miracles. And since man cannot bear to be left without miracles, he will go and create new miracles for himself, his own miracles this time, and will bow down to the miracles of quacks or women’s magic, though he be rebellious, heretical and godless a hundred times over. You did not come down from the cross when they shouted to you, mocking and reviling you: “Come down from the cross and we will believe that it is you.” You did not come down because, again, you did not want to enslave man by a miracle and thirsted for faith that is free, not miraculous. You thirsted for love that is free, and not for the servile raptures of a slave before a power that has left him permanently terrified. But here, too, you overestimated mankind, for, of course, they are slaves though they were created rebels.” (p. 256)

Rather than faith, Ivan maintains that the stronger force is the Karamazov nature:

“There is a force that will endure everything,” said Ivan, this time with a cold smirk.

“What force?”

“The Karamazov force…the force of the Karamazov baseness.”

“To drown in depravity, to stifle your soul with corruption, is that it?”

“That, too, perhaps…only until my thirtieth year maybe I’ll escape it, and then…”

“How will you escape it? By means of what? With your thoughts, it’s impossible.”

“Again, in Karamazov fashion.” (p. 263)

Contrast this ideology with Zosimov’s last words, summarized for us by Alexei:

“Yet the Lord will save Russia, as he has saved her many times before. Salvation will come from the people, from their faith and their humility. Fathers and teachers, watch over the faith of the people-and this is no dream: all my life I have been struck by the true and gracious dignity in our great people. ” (p. 316)

When I compare this statement with Ivan’s, I find that the Karamazovs (in general) appear to refute Zosimov’s belief in Russia’s people. In fact, we are presented with this very disturbing fact in Part 2: if Fyodor Pavlovich should die, many people may benefit financially. Dmitri knows that his father has three thousand roubles sealed in a big envelope, tied with a ribbon and addressed to Grushenka (also known as Agrafena Alexandrovna).

“Besides, he considers that same three thousand, sir, as if it was his own, and he told me so himself: ‘My father,’ he said,’still owes me exactly three thousand.’ And on top of all that, Ivan Fyodorovich, consider also a certain pure truth, sir: It’s almost a sure thing, one must say, sir, that Agrafena Alexandrovna, if only she wants to, could definitely get him to marry her, I meant the master himself, Fyodor Pavolvich, sir, if only she wants to-well, and maybe she’ll want to sir…And she’s quite clever in her mind, sir. Why should she marry such a pauper as Dmitri Fyodorovich, sir? And so, taking that, now consider for yourself, Ivan Fyodorovich, that then there will be nothing at all left either for Dmitri Fyodorovich, that then there will be nothing at all left either for Dmitri Fyodorovich, or even for you , sir, along with your brother Alexei Fyodorovich, after your father’s death, not a rouble sir, because Agrafena Alexandrovna will marry him in order to get it all down in her name and transfer whatever capital there is to herself, sir. But if your father was to die now, while none of this has happened, sir, then each one of you would get a sure forty thousand all at once, even Dmitri Fyodorovich, whom he hates so much, because he hasn’t made his will, sir…” (p. 273)

Like the very voice of Satan, here Smerdyakov plants the seeds of doubt and greed into Ivan’s mind. If his father was to die, the three sons would greatly benefit; miracle, faith, or salvation be damned.

Find other posts on Part 2 here:








28 thoughts on “The Brothers Karamazov: Part 2”

  1. That scene with Snegiryov was so interesting to me, and seems to showcase a true 'Russian' of the type that the Elder loves, and that Ivan doesn't believe in. What a contrast between the two lengthy sections of philosophy that these two characters present in this section!


  2. I thought that Ivan would never shut up, and truthfully, I wasn't all that interested in what he said. I'd rather learn about a character by what he does than what he says, for the most part. Snegiryov interests me very much, as does his dear son Ilyusha…and the smarmy Smerdyakov. This is a bizarre connection, but I can't help thinking of Smeagol in Lord of the Rings when I think of Smerdyakov. Weird, huh?


  3. Haha, yes a bit Smeagol-like. He certainly seems to have all kinds of things up his sleeves…!I found what Ivan had to say interesting, but I'll be more curious to see if his actions speak as loud as his words…


  4. Ugh…this is the second part and I still can't get past the opening pages. It seems my heart and head just aren't in it which makes me sad when I read lines like the one you highlighted from The Grand Inquisitor (they are slaves though they were created rebels…how great is that). I will still be reading everyone's thoughts as they read along.


  5. Books PSmith, some of my favorite people are not lovers of Russian literature! I think it's a genre that appeals to you, basically, or doesn't. I personally enjoy the heaviness, if you want to call it that, the deep introspection, the dark moods, the chill of the antique rooms. But, then again, winter is my favorite season, so it stands to reason that I adore Russia. ;)I surely don't want anyone to read The Brothers Karamazov in pure torture; if it's not suiting you, I think the best thing to do would be to just read the thoughts participants post and save it for a better day. Part 2 was particularly oblique, and um, boring, so you really have to work through that bit to get to Part 3 which I found marvelous.


  6. Ivan is defined by his ideas, apparently, but I find him almost as much of a hothead as his brother Dmitri. One can really see why Alyosha is everyone's favorite: rational, loving, considerate, peace-maker…just whom I'd want for my younger brother.(I'm in Part 4 now, and I still don't know who committed the murder of Fyodor! Dostoeyvsky wouldn't leave us hanging, would he?)


  7. Mixed feelings about those contrasting sections here in the second part. Seem to slow the reading of course but the interjections are so deliberately means by which the author speaks that they seem just a little awkward. Especially with Ivan's "poetry" which I found vaguely disturbing. Enjoying more than I imagined. Nearly finished.Still collecting my thoughts and will post later tomorrow. The teaching thing this week is very intense. Know you understand.


  8. Have you got a few hours to talk about the teaching this week?! My principal asked how it was going, after I addressed the PTA and Open House, but before I lead the staff development on writing today, and I said, "Is there any more stuff we can pile on this week?" Then, I realized I may sound bitter so I shut up, but really, it's a hectic time of year.I'm so looking forward to your thoughts, and I'm really happy you're enjoying it more than you thought. Me, too! Although, Part 2 was really almost annoying in its tediousness…I liked the action-packed suspense in Parts 3 and 4.I really hope you week smoothes out to calmer waters soon.


  9. Amateur Reader, my guess is that Dostoeyvsky knew who committed the murder when Smerdyakov first told Dmitri who would benefit from the death of their father. (The very last quote in this post.) But, I still have to think about your questions, and I'm not quite finished with the book…I can't wait to talk when I am! And, I don't mean that Dmitri committed it!


  10. While I found Part One absolutely soul killing :), Part Two was so much better, and I am already continuing my reading for next week.It's odd that you mention not enjoying Ivan's monologue because I thought it was so telling. He is so young and naive, yet has such incredible depths. Naive, yes. However, there is also a certain honesty in Ivan that I really like. I posted my thoughts here:


  11. I appreciate Ivan's honesty, too. He's so cerebral, though, and I'm so emotional based. Plus, I have more faith than he, which can't be explained intellectually, only spiritually. That's probably why he isn't my favorite character. Still, Part 2 gives us so much meat! I know I'll need to read it again someday. Amateur Reader mentioned something about whole books written just on the part with The Grand Inquistor; I know I shouldn't pass it over lightly.It's interesting in Part 4 when Ivan has a conversation with the Devil…


  12. I can totally see books being written about that part. There is so much in this book, it's unbelievable. It's funny, too, how much things intertwine: teaching, life, fun. It always fascinates me how I can use what I read.


  13. I'm so far behind! I can't wait to read everyone's posts and the discussions, but I want to have actually read the stuff first. Hopefully I'll have some reading time tomorrow. I almost done with Part 1.


  14. Nancy, I love all your photographs, all your headers! This one is especially wonderful with the mood you captured…your kitty is laying exactly how I wish I was right now.


  15. I didn't find Part II at all tedious. It's different; it's certainly not narrative; but all those deep thoughts take you deep into the characters, especially the character of Alyosha, lovable Alyosha. Yes, Ivan's tirade is disturbing, but we have Alyosha's reaction to guide us in what should be our own. Dostoevsky is shaping us to be readers of THIS story. Thanks for hosting, Bellezza!


  16. Julia, I love you how said, "We have Alyosha's reaction to guide us…" Indeed! Isn't he the most wonderful character next to Zosimov? I'm so glad you're reading this with me!


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