April 29, 2010
Dear Mr. Dostoevsky,
What, are you kidding me?! I read almost 800 pages of dialogue, description, mystery and intrigue, and you leave me not knowing for certain who killed Fyodor Karamazov?!
Sure I have an idea, but that’s all it is: my supposition. Is there any conclusive proof? Are we to decide for ourselves who the murderer was? I’d always heard the three brothers planned and then killed their father. And, if we take the words of the Bible that if we so much as think ill of someone we have as good as murdered them, then this is true. But, I do not believe for a minute that Dmitri actually took the brass pestle and killed his father with it. Although, he was willing to suffer, and bear the accusation, as he said:
You can revive and resurrect the frozen heart in this convict, you can look after him for years, and finally bring up from the cave into the light a soul that is lofty now, a suffering consciousness, you can revive an angel resurrect a hero! And there are many of them, there are hundreds, and we’re all guilty for them! Why did I have a dream about a ‘wee one’ at such a moment? ‘Why is the wee one poor?’ It was a prophecy to me at that moment! It’s for the ‘wee one’ that I will go. Because everyone is guilty for everyone else. All people are ‘wee ones.’ And I’ll go for all of them, because there must be someone who will go for all of them. I didn’t kill father, but I must go. I accept! All of this came to me here…within these peeling walls…It’s impossible for a convict to be without God, even more impossible than for a non-convict! and then from the depths of the earth, we, the men underground, will start singing a tragic hymn to God, in whom there is joy! Hail to God and his joy! I love him!” (p. 591-592)
I admire how you made a debased character, the biggest scoundrel of all the Karamazov sons, to be the one who in the end finds redemption through his belief and acceptance. “I accept the torment of accusation and of my disgrace before all, I want to suffer and be purified by suffering! And perhaps I will be purified, eh, gentlemen? But hear me, all the same, for the last time: I am not guilty of my father’s blood. I accept punishment not because I killed him, but because I wanted to kill him, and might well have killed him…” (p. 509)
I was puzzled at first, Mr. Dostoevsky, why you ended your novel with the tale of Ilyushka’s death; here is a poor boy, another victim of circumstances, whose role with his father is in direct contrast with that of Dmitri and his father:
- Ilyushka’s father loves him to pieces, grieves and cares for him beyond all measure; Fyodor cares not one whit about any of his three sons, letting Grigory bring them up the best his manservant can.
- In Ilyushka’s case, it is the boy who dies; with the Karamazovs, it is the father.
- Yet both sons, Ilyushka and Dmitri, are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Ilyushka cannot overcome his sickness, Dmitri cannot overrule his sentence; they both suffer willingly for what has been their lot in life.
- Alyosha reminds us all at the end that something good can come from the innocent child’s death.
Perhaps we will even become wicked later on, will even be unable to resist a bad action, will laugh at people’s tears and at those who say, as Kolya exclaimed today: ‘I want to suffer for all people’-perhaps we will scoff wickedly at such people. And yet, no matter how wicked we may be-and God preserve us from it-as soon as we remember how we buried Ilyusha, how we loved him in his last days, and how we’ve been talking just now, so much as friends, so together, by this stone, the most cruel and jeering man among us, if we should become so, will still not dare laugh within himself at how kind and good he was at this present moment! Moreover, perhaps just this memory alone will keep him from great evil, and he will think better of it and say: ‘Yes, I was kind, brave and honest then.’ (p. 775)
I liked how you used this novel, Mr. Dostoevsky, to work through the grief you bore at your own son’s death, the questions you pondered about faith and God, and the way you wanted to leave a message to your Russian people. Through these instances, you have left messages for us, that fundamentally we are saved through our ability to love. Even when we may suffer terribly due to injustice or our own infallibility.